A Gender Neutral Valentine’s Gift Guide For 2018

It’s that time again! Time to celebrate and express the love, companionship, mutual respect and sexual chemistry that goes along with having a significant other. I’ve thought a lot about Valentine’s Day over the years and I’ve realised that just like with weddings and engagements, my problem isn’t with the thing itself, it’s how unbearably performative and consumerist they are. How we love doesn’t have to be controlled by outside forces; and what other people think and expect should never be a part of how you express your love for each other.

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But there simply isn’t very much inspiration out there for people who don’t want to browse through ‘for her’ and ‘for him’ gift guides which rarely feature anything your wonderful, unique partner would actually like. The decision to put something in a gendered gift guide is limited by the necessity that the things are masculine or feminine, and I think that’s a terrible way to choose a gift for your lover. So I thought I would try to help by providing some ideas for you to express your love with a thoughtful, unique and gender free gift! Throughout this guide, I’ve suggested a mix of luxury brands and smaller independent brands, so you can choose what kind of ‘special’ you want your gift to be!

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© Tartan Blanket Company 2018

A cosy blanket for snuggling under. I think these Tartan Blanket Company blankets are just absolutely delightful, and you can even get ones made out of 30% recycled fabric, which is awesome! They come in every colour type imaginable too so whatever your, and/or your lover’s home looks like you can find something that will be perfect!

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© Bloomtown UK

A massage oil or bar. Who doesn’t love a massage from their significant other? A luxurious oil, together with the promise that you’ll both get plenty of use out of it, is the perfect gift. There are so many different choices when it comes to scents and textures, but I think Bloomtown Botanicals has to be up there with the best. Their massage oils come in a variety of scents so you can pick one you know you’ll both love. One of my personal favourite massage oils is Aesop Geranium Leaf Hydrating Body Treatment which smells floral and heady without being too ‘pink’. It also leaves the skin phenomenally soft. If you want something with less packaging though, try a massage bar instead. Lush are definitely the masters of the massage bar, so check them out!

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© Life of Spice

Fancy herbs and spices. If your lover loves to cook, this is a great gift for them. Life of Spice make the most amazing herb and spices, both single and mixes and they’re available in sets too. I love the little tins they come in as well, very practical and cool looking.

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© Thought

Some really nice socks. Everyone talks about how socks are a super boring gift but seriously, have you put new socks on recently? It’s the BEST. Especially if they’re fancy, not a multipack from H&M. I don’t know about you but I wear my socks until they resemble a string vest because for some reason, buying myself new socks is an adult chore I’ve just never gotten into. Socks are a great gift, and I love the brand Thought for their sustainable selection which includes bamboo, wool and cotton. There’s a tonne of designs to choose from too!

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© Rustic Retro Furniture

A Bath Caddy. Does your love enjoy long soaks in the bath? A bath caddy is the perfect gift for anyone who likes to read in the bath too as there’s space for a book, candle and drink. They aren’t as expensive as I expected either, and this one from Etsy is really affordable, and has amaaaaazing reviews!

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© Emina Botanic Boutique 2018

Bath Salts. If you read my blog you should know there was no way I would ever not recommend buying someone a nice bath product. And if your love doesn’t have access to a bath, or doesn’t like them, what about a gorgeous body scrub? Soothed muscles and soft skin are a great gift to give someone you love. One of the best body scrubs to give as a gift is Aesop’s Geranium Leaf Scrub which contains pumice and bamboo suspended in a thick, geranium scented gel. It’s absolutely beautiful and very luxurious. If you’re looking for a luxurious bath oil, go for Olverum – it’s one of the oldest bath products in the world and has an absolutely stunning rosemary scent. If you’d like something by a small-maker, Emina Botanic Boutique does a gorgeous range of bath salts, as well as a Grapefruit Body Scrub. Or if your lover likes to exercise, what about this post-workout relaxation kit from Golden Rooster Balms? I also love the look of these Himalayan Bath Salts, it has jasmine and green tea in it! Can you imagine how soothing that must be? I think I might just treat myself to that one…

 

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An amazing cookbook. Another one for people who love to cook, or someone who wants to cook more from scratch. I cannot recommend Anna Jones highly enough, her recipes are beyond delicious and very nutritious in a ‘taste comes first’ kind of way. She uses ingredients and combinations that may seem unfamiliar at first, but will quickly become staples in your home because of how easy to make, and utterly delicious they are. I have all three of her books, A Modern Way to Cook, A Modern Way to Eat and The Modern Cook’s Year and any of the three is a great choice.

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© James Barker Draws

A cactus, succulent or houseplant. What could be more romantic on Valentine’s Day than adopting  a baby together? Just kidding. But still, everyone needs more plants in their life (unless you’re me and you live in a literal jungle already, in which case, what about a cute little plant themed embroidery gift? Or a leaf print shopping bag?) If they live in a small flat, what about a little selection of succulents from Plant Parcel, or a pretty little Pilea from Geo-Fleur? Or if they have a bit more space, a beautiful Monstera Deliciosa?

I hope these suggestions have helped inspire you! Happy Valentine’s Day when it comes!

 

 

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A Gender Neutral Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

So for the first time in my 25 years I’m actually not single on Valentine’s Day. Normally all those ‘Love is in the air’ email marketing campaigns would go straight in the junk folder, but I’ve actually been opening them this year, and unsurprisingly found some hefty heteronormativity and cisnormativity. I really think stands in the way of romance. Know what my dad got for my mum a few years back? He hunted down a (not widely available back then) black and white non-edited version of Night of the Living Dead on DVD. She loved that film when it came out, and hated the way it’d been edited over the years. You wouldn’t find that on an ASOS ‘Gifts for her’ edit.

Maybe you’re in a new relationship or suck at buying gifts, but don’t want to fall back on chocolate and roses or aftershave, because you’re a bit more enlightened. Or maybe you’d just like to enjoy a bit of seasonal romance without the ludicrous obsession with giving men basic skincare products as gifts. Good for you! Hope this helps.

1. Printed Instagram photos

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I love this idea, it’s seriously romantic. There are lots of options for printing too – posters, books, mini pictures, framed photos. You could even get creative and take photos that will surprise your partner – cutting out big letters that spell out a message and taking Instagram photos of them perhaps? These in the photo are £8.99, and prices vary depending on what you want.

2. A recipe book to use together

Books are great gifts because you can write a thoughtful (romantic) message inside it. Buy a cookbook and write inside the front cover how one of the recipes reminded you of them, or that meal they ordered on your first date. Write how you can’t wait to spend Saturday afternoons making food with them, or why that particular book jumped out at you as the perfect one for them. The one featured above is written by a couple and contains lots of stuff about their adorable daughter, so maybe don’t buy this one for them if its early days and you don’t want to freak them out…

3. Something for the kitchen

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Following on from 2, if you’ve already got an amateur chef in your life, get them a cool, funky, different thing to go in their kitchen. I absolutely love this spice rack, a great option for people who use lots of spices, buy them in big bags and spend forever trying to keep them organised and clean whilst avoiding spills. This spice rack is ridiculously adorable, and unique. Just like your other half, I’m sure.

4. Body Oil

You know why. I featured this REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Oil because I genuinely think it’s the best body oil around, but it’s fairly pricey. If you’re on a budget but still want to enjoy sexy massage time with your partner, Lush make amazing massage bars for around £5 that will go down a treat. My favourite is Tender is the Night, which has the most incredible jasmine scent.

5. Something for their house

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Whether your partner is living in a pokey flat in East London with 4 other people, or owns their own house somewhere grown up (or you live together!), I think Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to buy them something for their home that you, or they would never buy normally. A nice shower curtain is something I always think would be lovely to have, but a completely unnecessary extravagance when Primark sells them for a fiver. ModCloth has some adorable ones, and Society6 also has a wide selection. Here are a few other examples of housey stuff that would make great, completely unnecceary but thoughtful gifts:

I love this matching toilet brush, soap dispenser and toothbrush holder. Can you imagine how much this would brighten up a morning?

Really really nice bedding. This is from Zara Home, and the quality of their bedding is amazing. There’s something wonderful about seeing your partner all sleepy in the morning against the backdrop of some gorgeous, quality sheets. OK, to be fair that’s probably the least important benefit of your partner having nice bedding, but it’s the only one I’m going to put on my blog. I love these others too, but of course it entirely depends on your partner’s taste:

Garden Bed Linen

  Leaves Bed Linen

Printed Bed Linen

An added bonus to all these lovely homely things is that if you end up living together they’ll bring it with them…crafty aren’t I?

6. Something sexy

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Maybe there’s something your partner has mentioned wanting to try. Well, do it. Tell them you’re taking them Valentine’s shopping and head to the nearest sex shop to get them the vibrator they’ve been lusting after forever. Some sexy clothes for you or them? Erotic literature? A whip? I’m not suggesting you slam a bottle of lube on the table for your first anal session because they said they’d like to try it, unless that’s the kind of relationship you have. Work out what they’d like and how they’d like to get it, (e.g. surprise vs non-surprise) and treat them to something that’s going to make you both feel amazing. The photo is of a toy called the TRANSFORMER, which is the world’s first gender neutral sex toy. That’s pretty cool.

7. Take them on a thoughtful date

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Do they like plants? Science? History? Art? Botanical gardens, museums, stately homes, art galleries… take them somewhere interesting and walk around holding their hand before having a cup of tea in the cafe/gift shop while taking a few selfies of your cute selves. This is my boyfriend at Kew Gardens. I highly recommend that as a romantic destination because you’re both guaranteed to feel great in the fresh air, and it’s ridiculously beautiful. But museums and art galleries are usually free, so that’s a good option if you’re completely broke come the 14th.

8. A Spotify playlist

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If you have absolutely no money to spend then some extra time and effort needs to be put in. Make a Spotify playlist of all their favourites, or a mixture of yours and theirs, or even just of songs that remind you of them. That’s sure to brighten their morning commute. Make the playlist, give it a special name and share it with them over Spotify with a sweet message. A millennial mix-tape. There’s a reason it used to work so well in the 80s! Of course if you don’t have Spotify (er, what?) then there are lots of other places you can make a playlist. I just don’t know what any of them are because I barely even use iTunes any more let along anything else…

9. Headphones
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What I’m trying to communicate here is that if your partner doesn’t already have a good pair of headphones, and you can afford it, GET THEM SOME. Headphones are the perfect gift, and will go great with that nice little Spotify playlist you put together for them. One thing I’ll point out though, as someone with big, easily messed up hair, I can’t use my Plattans when I wear it down. If your partner has long or large hair, or they spend a massive amount of time styling trying to tame it, perhaps lean towards a pair of earphones.

10. A handmade card

When I was a kid, if I wanted to give my parents anything for mother or father’s day, it had to be a handmade card. These were purely consumerist holidays, they told me, and I wasn’t to ask the other parent for money to buy them something, or indeed use my own pocket money. If I wanted to show my love and appreciation for them, I had to make them a card. I think my magnum opus was probably a mother’s day when I was about 8 or 9. I made a long thin cone out of paper and stuck it upside down to the front of the card on which I’d written something like ‘Love you mummy’. I went out into the garden, picked some small flowers and tucked them into the cone so it looked like a mini vase. She was pretty impressed with me that year. Anyway, buying a Valentine’s Day card from any big store, no matter how hard Urban Outfitters try to make it look like an indy project off Etsy, is buying into mass produced consumerism too. If you possibly can, make them a card. And if you can’t, get it from an independent artist.

Something you might notice about this list is that none of these things are specific Valentines Day gifts. Seriously, people, use the day as a way of showing the person you love that you love them. But buy into it only in so far as you say ‘I may hate the premise of Valentine’s Day but I sure as hell love you so here’s something that doesn’t have any hearts on it, wasn’t mass produced and sold at a vast markup, and won’t get thrown away the second we move house because it’s literally just a piece of trash’. Quite apart from making us better humans and being better at relationships, it’s better for the planet!