You Need Help: Charm Your New Gal Pal With The Perfect Gift

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Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.

Q: What’s a good gift for your new gal pal when you’re really broke?

A: Oh, what a fun problem to have! You think someone is cute, and they think you’re cute, and you want to make them happy but preferably without being an awkward overeager weirdo. I feel you. Maybe it’s your new gal pal’s birthday, maybe they’re really into fall, maybe you want to give them a gift for no reason at all. Regardless, it’s a new enough relationship or flirtation or whatever other cute configuration of humans that you have to make sure your gift doesn’t seem extravagant, but that demonstrates a great deal of thought and personal attention.

It’s hard to give specific advice without knowing what your gal pal is into, but let’s dream about it.


There’s that old meme about buying someone a book at a bookstore instead of a drink at a bar, and I don’t know where people are buying $17 drinks (NYC is a myth, etc), but I’m really into the principle of this idea.

You could get your new gal pal a queer book, like Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts — read Ali’s wonderful Q&A with the author if you haven’t already realized this is one of the best books of the year.

You could get them some fiction. Offer them a challenging author who enraptures you and share a world with them. If I were in your position right this minute, I would buy my person On Beauty by Zadie Smith and then take them out to coffee so we could crawl inside its language and ideas together and wander for a while.


Or, if you really want to seal the deal, buy your gal some poetry. Whether it’s the chapbook of a local poet, Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair or something really gay like Eileen Myles, nothing says “I love how I can’t breathe when I’m around you” like giving someone poems.

Cute Queer Shit

It is impossible to go wrong with a gift that reminds your new pal just how much fun you have being really gay together. May I please direct you to the Autostraddle merchandise store?

You could also get them a kickass Sally Ride patch, a male tears mug or some radical queer art like that of Favianna Rodriguez.


Experiential Gifts

Sometimes with a new partner, your best gift is to go out into the world and do something awesome together. I wrote recently about how to have a great first date, which can easily apply to 5th or 10th or 20th dates. Take your date to a concert, a museum or for a fancy picnic in the park. You get to show them how much you care AND spend quality time together. And the risk of the gift seeming like *too much* is low, because you’re spending the same amount of money on yourself as on your date. In this category I will also add cheesy, adorable things like making your date a craft, writing them a poem or singing them a song on your acoustic guitar while they try not to cry over how cute and perfect you are.

What kinds of gifts do you like to buy for or receive from new partners? What makes you swoon? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Adrian is a writer, a Texan and a Presbyterian pastor. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They have a dog named after Alison Bechdel. Follow Adrian on Twitter @adrianwhitetx.

Adrian has written 153 articles for us.


  1. If you are not too young to know what this is MAKE HER A MIX TAPE and write cover notes about what the songs mean to you

    • My friend once took a cheap flash drive and filled it with songs and then put it in a cassette tape box with the handwritten part with the names of the songs on the front, and then gave it to a girl. CUTEST SHIT EVER.

    • I made my gal pal a mix tape when we were first dating and it’s still on her nightstand :’) Highly support this idea

    • The first girl I ever hooked up with made me a “mix tape” cd but got really excited to share all the music she enjoyed with me and it ended up being “mix tapes #1-4” which I thought was extremely adorable.

  2. My girlfriend gave me a hand knit sweater and a book she made full of love poems that she had typed out on her typewriter. The sweater is the warmest thing I own by far and the book is something that is impossible to read without crying (as I am a sap). But this was the best present that I think I have ever received. It cost a lot of effort I’m sure, but not much money.

    • This is adorable and lovely. Not only is your girlfriend wonderful for making you such intensely thoughtful gifts, but you are wonderful for appreciating them! As a knitter and writer, I can definitely say these are some hardcore signs of devoted love.

      There’s actually a knitting superstition about never knitting a sweater for a partner–and the reason is that, after all that time and effort (and probably money!–yarn is surprisingly expensive!), the knitter might well be devastated if their gift doesn’t get wear-time.

      I gave a crush a crocheted hat for Christmas. She never, ever wore it. A couple of years later when we dated, she confessed that she’d accidentally destroyed it in the wash right after I gave it to her, but she kept it tucked in a drawer because she liked me too.

  3. One time I went on a date that had been post-poned by a cold, so I picked up a plushy cold molecule. That went well.

  4. My new gal pal got me a flogger for my bday. I totally wasn’t expecting a present but we had lots of fun using it! ;)

  5. I had a friend cook a low budget, but fancy meal for their gf(could be tough if you don’t know what they exactly like or their allergies are). But, cooking a mean can be romantic and fun.

  6. I talked about my love for the cthulhu mythos and also horror/ things with tentacles in general with my now gf on our first date. If her metioning that she did her thesis on the roles of women in horror games hadn’t won over my little queer geek heart, then the hand-crocheted tentacle monster she made for me and brought along to our second date certainly would have.

    • The first present I gave my ex was an ironic “moon shrine” in an Altoids tin, because she made fun of me for being more woo-woo than her. Even though it was meant as a joke gift, I got really into it, and it became really intricate and beautiful. (One of those things where, after they dump you for their bf, you kinda wish you could ask to have it back!)

      • Oh! and the first gift my first boyfriend gave me was a mix tape of all the most political Billy Bragg songs and an envelope full of ALL HIS HAIR. When he said he was cutting off his shoulder-length hair I asked if I could have a lock and he took it too far. It was kind of scary but also hilarious and cute.

  7. My girlfriend took me on a surprise sunset cruise and had crackers, cheese and fizzy drink. When we got back to her house she had put little candles along the walk way and cooked us pasta. For the first time. She didn’t know how to do it so it was sloppy and watery but also perfect because it was thoughtful. Then the evening progressed and she showed me books that meant a lot to her and a little bit of kissy kissy.

    I took her to a childhood bbq place I used to love which was near a duck pond and had resident kangaroo families. She was really impressed that I knew how to bbq until I got there and put all the food out and got the matches and was like NOW WHAT??? How do I light a wood? Was I meant to bring a wood? *walks around in the bush looking for twigs*

    She took over that time. Even fails are endearing!

    • Oh! Then after she cooked the bbq I took her on a walk up to a lighthouse and we walked along the head land and explored. Epic.

  8. Regarding the book-buying: at least in my mind, used bookstores have so much character and romantic charm… and (unless it’s an antique or rare volume) their prices are much closer to those of drinks at a bar!

  9. I also went to a shopping complex after it closed and cut about five giant flowers out of the garden and tied them with a ribbon. Dating Aladdin style. We were both poor students haha

  10. If you have talent in the kitchen you can always make a meal and head out for a picnic. It doesn’t even have to be fancy! =)

    I remember when Christine and I first started dating, I wrote the lyrics to the songs that reminded me of her in a notebook. I also put those songs on a CD. And made a cover for the CD holder. She and I used to go around the park in the Philippines and we had a good time eating some street food and bbq. We would sit a certain bench in front of the lake and have small conversations. We recently did that when I was in the Philippines in February/January. It’s the kind of stuff you really remember.

  11. first present i gave my gf was a lanyard that said “how’s your cervix? talk to me.”

    (it was a public health initiative thing)

  12. Food.
    Be it something you made or bought and put a bow or something on it, Something you know she finds delicious or is a favourite.

    Like cupcake with a note or card that says something sweet about her, or a pack her favorite lunch to go with a note a favourite bit of candy in budget if you’re super busy people who don’t get as many hours together even though you live together.
    Many options with food.

  13. i love this because i’m totally a small gift type of person and i’m also v broke all the time…these are perfect. i also second cooking for someone…people are really into me when i cook for them.

  14. I give lots and lots of flowers to every woman I know. Daisies and daffodils from other people’s yards mostly :} if she’s just a friend she gets a sarcastic smile and if she’s the current woman of my dreams she might get a kiss on the cheek. Cute, thoughtful, and cheap!

  15. My first Christmas present to my partner was a diy-ed queer colouring book that I made by taping paper to computer monitor and tracing over pictures. There were some inside jokes, some pretty colouring pages and some mostly blank pages with cues to draw in something to complete a scenario. I also drew a vulva-shaped maze. Then I hole punched it and tied it with ribbon. The next year they gave me the colouring book back, completely filled in!

  16. Food for sure!! I made an oatmeal bar that tastes like cookie dough and told her about it and she joking said I should save her some. I totally did save a piece, put it in a box with a cute note, then wrapped a bow around it then gave it to her at the end of our third date. It went over really well!

  17. My favourite gifts are by far day trips. Try to find a place that’s new / cool within a couple hours’ drive of where you live, pack a picnic basket / backpack (nothing fancy, sandwiches, cookies / cake & a flask of tea) and head out. What you visit can be almost anything, the excitement of being together in a new place exploring is really the best thing.

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