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Gift lists for the hard-to-shop-fors in your life.

Normally, people are hard to shop for when you don't really know what they like. In the world of relationships, people are hard to shop for when you don't really know how much they like you.

That's why the gifts you buy for your squeezes -- and the other people who love them -- must be handled with care. You want to say neither too little ("Sorry about the plain paper bag; who knew the "Guzzle 'n' Go doesn't gift wrap!?") nor too much (a mortgage). Here's how to get it just right.

Gifts for Your New Squeeze

"We just started dating!" 5 Non-Commanding Presents

Desired message: "I picked up a little something sweet, warm, or fuzzy chocolate, mittens, dice to say, 'Hey there, I think you're kinda sweet, warm, and fuzzy."

  1. Richart Design et Chocolat. Even a $10 box of these gorgeous goodies makes an average choco-gift go up to 11.
  2. Our Dumb Century. No one can find this book unfunny (if they do, consider this a litmus test).
  3. Harry Potter. Five-minutes-ago for a kid (see below), delightful happier-time-travel for a grownup.
  4. Starry Night Pillow. The stars really blink! Part art, part gadget, part..bed.
  5. The Sleepover Duffel. Says "Let's take things to the next level" without saying "I'll need my own drawer."

Gifts for Your Intended In-Laws

"What should I bring?" 5 House Gifts That Will Get You In with the Fam

Desired message: I am thoughtful and classy, but not as thoughtful and classy as you are, of course. Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

  1. Goodies: homemade. Cookies, a zucchini bread, some sort of tapenade (if you have to ask, skip to #2); in plastic or a jar and tied with a bow (bow does not have to be homemade). If you have never cooked before, do not start now; skip to #2.
  2. Goodies: homepackaged. Arrange yummy treats on a plate you can part with; this way your host/ess can serve them without extra fuss.
  3. Flowers: home-vased. Nothing says "almost forgot!" like a bunch of those dyed-weird-colors carnations wrapped in cartoon-character paper. Instead, wash out a jar or recycle the vase from the dead bunch you keep forgetting to toss; bring the flowers table-ready.
  4. Wine: obvious; wine expertly selected to go with dinner or dessert: brilliant. Suss out the courses ahead if you can; summon the aid of the folks at the store.
  5. Photo: their favorite subject. A great one you took of their kid, framed. Next they'll want one of you both.

Gifts for your Cutie's Kid

"Now do you like me?" 5 Killer Gifts to Tempt the Tyke

(Note: Do not attempt to establish street cred by buying Beanie, Pokemon, or Harry Potter items. The kid will already have it, and will think you are lame.)

Desired message: "I'm on your side, but, as I do have my own friends, I'm not actually trying to hang out with you."

  1. Pets. If mom/dad/landlord/allergy won't allow, "adopt" one for them. How about a cow, or a shark?
  2. Door Pass. This voice-recognizing/motion-sensitive alarm warns bedroom-inhabitants of intruders/parents/siblings.
  3. Buff Stuff. Buffy-branded products are too obvious; however, the actual stuff that Buffy wears is practically too cool to be true.
  4. The Brew Your Own Rootbeer Kit. Works the "science project!" loophole in any existing no-soda law.
  5. SuperSonic Ear. This listening device tunes you in to all the fascinating noises of nature. Okay, and of your friends/enemies/siblings. But you didn't super-hear it from me.

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Breakup Girl created by Lynn Harris & Chris Kalb
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