A Gender Neutral Valentine’s Gift Guide For 2018

It’s that time again! 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 sweet. 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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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 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!

A Gender Neutral Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Whether your loved one is a nonbinary honey like me, or agender, genderqueer, questioning, non-conformist, or you’re simply trying to move away from the raging cisheteronormativity of Valentine’s Day, this gift guide will provide you with inspiration and ideas on how to celebrate your wonderful human (or humans), for who they are, without making it about binary gender.

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You don’t have to fall under the rainbow umbrella to read this – it’s for everyone, and actually it was my completely cishet (but very progressive) parents who inspired this blog post. Growing up, the Valentine’s Gift that always stuck with me was one my dad gave to my mum, that couldn’t be less gendered if it was deliberate. It was in about 2006, and he had spent ages hunting down a (seriously rare) black and white, non-edited version of Night of the Living Dead on DVD. She loved that film when it came out, but over the years it had been edited in some really dodgy ways, and she just wanted to watch the original. You wouldn’t find that on any ‘Gifts for Her’ edit.

I know that Valentine’s Day is a tricky one for a lot of reasons. It’s tacky, it’s overmarketed, it’s impersonal, wasteful and it’s grotesquely cisheteronormative. The London Eye used to put on a special Valentine’s Day event, and a friend of mine took her girlfriend one year. Should be a perfectly romantic date, right? Unfortunately, several of the activities included in this event were ‘him vs her’ games, that all the ticket-buying couples were supposed to play as a group. So my friend and her girlfriend were faced with the outrageous choice of either being excluded from half of the event, or for one of them to take on a ‘man’ role. Unnecessary, offensive, exclusionary and just plain rude.

I don’t think Valentine’s Day is going anywhere, and I always find that embracing things on my own terms makes me much happier than rejecting things outright. This gift guide is my attempt at trying to help us all find ways of celebrating our loved ones, in ways that honour them, and our relationships to them.

Of course, when you take away gender from Valentine’s Day gifting, it opens things out into a whole world of possibilities – you really have to know the person you’re buying for, instead of opting for a teddy bear with a red heart on it. And yeah, it’s 2022 folks, we should know all about their interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes. I saw a really sad TikTok video the other day by a woman who worked at a Pandora jewellery shop, and she said that the only queue they ever had that was bigger than the one of men the day before Valentine’s Day, was the queue of women the day after, returning their unwanted gifts. We should know our partners better than that. We should be their biggest fan. This guide should serve as a jumping off point, an inspirational peruse to get your creativity going. It’s not supposed to be a generic shopping list, because only you can know what your loved one will love.

(Please note – affiliate links in this blog post are marked with an asterisk*)

A personalised luxe candle

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If your partner works from home at a desk, this is a lovely gift to give them to add a luxurious yet personal touch to their workspace. My inspiration behind this was that in the evenings James often does work for his masters degree, so he misses out on all the candles and wax melts we have in the living room because there’s obviously no space on his desk. So an amber jar candle burning on his desk while he studies was perfect, but one that doubles as a reminder of how loved he is was even better. Earl of East offer this service on their amazing scented candle selection and I’d really recommend it. We particularly love the fragrances Atlas Cedar and Jardin de la Lune, but you seriously can’t go wrong.

An amazing cookbook*

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A cookbook is always a welcome addition to a kitchen. I cannot recommend Anna Jones* highly enough, her recipes are beyond delicious and very nutritious, but 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. We have all four of her books, but A Modern Way to Cook* and A Modern Way to Eat* are my favourites – the meals look so complex and refined, but they’re always really easy. I also very highly recommend recommend Bazaar* by Sabrina Ghayour*, which is a book of the most vibrantly flavourful vegetarian recipes you’ll ever find. Everything we’ve made from there has been outrageously delicious – the butternut squash pastries are our staple lunch for when we go out on adventures, and the pul biber, olive and broccoli spaghetti has been quite simply life changing.

Premium bed linen*

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It’s often hard for people to choose nice bedding for themselves, which is why I think it makes such a thoughtful gift for your partner, especially if they’re the kind to usually forego home luxuries. It’s an understandable thing to try and save money on, as it’s difficult to believe that the quality of premium bedding could really be that different to the usual stuff – but oh my, it really is. I personally find that La Redoute* do the best bedding I’ve ever purchased – it isn’t wildly expensive but it feels lovely and keeps its shape and colour so well, and the heavily patterned styles don’t take on a waxy quality like other brands I’ve used. I think this Palmeira* style I’ve posted above is a really gorgeous choice, but please note when you’re shopping on La Redoute that the pillows are sold separately (they sell several different sizes of pillow so makes sense, but I did totally miss it the first time I shopped on there). 

Some really nice socks*

Everyone always gets down on socks like they’re a bad gift – but I’ve never ever seen anyone unhappy to receive a thoughtfully chosen, well made selection of socks. I bought my partner loads of them this year for Christmas, in colours that he likes to wear (natural colours like mossy green, browns and burgundy) and he told me that he smiles every time he puts them on in the morning. I actually think that’s pretty romantic. Thought Clothing* have an amazing variety of bamboo socks* which I would highly recommend – they have an almost endless selection of outrageously creative, brilliant patterns, as well as fantastic block coloured basics, all sustainably made and super high quality. Of course, you have to make sure to watch out for the sizing – they follow the usual men’s and women’s sizing, but they have a section where you can view all of the patterned socks* together – be sure to avoid buying too large or too small socks if you browse on there!

A Massage Gun*

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If your loved one is stressed, busy and tense, you might already have thought of buying them a voucher to get a massage. I have thought of doing this many times before, because I want to help my hardworking partner care for himself. But the thing is – a massage appointment takes more than just the time you’re getting the massage. Plus, with covid, it’s even more complicated. And then there’s the fact that you can’t just have one massage to experience the full benefits, and when you start booking multiple appointments, it gets expensive really fast. It would be lovely to have regular massages but it’s just not something many of us have the time or budget for. A massage gun* is LITERALLY the perfect alternative. Your partner can use it whenever they’re feeling tense, after exercise or a bad night’s sleep, and there are a variety of attachments to target specific muscle groups. HoMedics sell a great one here*, and they also sell it in white here*.

Fun, ethical dungarees

James and I both LOVE our Lucy & Yak dungarees. They fit so comfortably, and are made of such high quality, organic and sustainably sourced material. I think these would make an absolutely brilliant gift for any loved one. They’re available in so many different styles, like amazingly bold prints, natural earthy tones, funky pastels and classic black and denims, so you can definitely find something perfectly suited to their unique personality. Size-wise, they go from a UK 32 to a 4, and have short, regular and long versions. They also offer a really comprehensive size chart so if your partner usually wears clothes from the men’s section, you can take a pair of their trousers and a top, measure them, and work out from there what size to get for them (when James got his obviously he just measured his actual body, this method is just for if you’re trying to surprise them).

A mushroom growing kit*

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I thought up a load nonsense mushroom puns for this suggestion, but let’s keep it simple instead – if your loved one likes mushrooms, this is the perfect gift. It’s so much fun to watch, and so satisfying to harvest, cook and eat homegrown mushrooms. I can’t actually eat mushrooms but I have to be honest, this Grow Your Own Mushroom Kit* is so cool that even I wouldn’t mind having one just to watch it grow!

Personalised map wall art

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This personalised map poster is a seriously adorable and really clever idea from Desenio. You type in two different locations, which will then appear as this style of map on each side of the heart – then you can toggle the maps within the heart to get to the perfect spot. If you want a more detailed map, just enter a more general area (the above ones were fairly specific). Then you add your chosen text. The two locations in this example are the place we met and the place we got married. How sweet is that?! Here’s the page to shop this amazing gift, and it’s available in two other colourways as well.

A Himalayan salt lamp*

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To be honest, I don’t really buy into any of the supposed health benefits of salt lamps. I do however, believe that they’re the best source of relaxing lighting ever created. We have two in our living room and they bathe the space in this wonderfully natural glow, it’s like candlelight but brighter. If your loved one doesn’t have one already, get them one, I seriously cannot recommend them enough. Ours were gifts from family but I had a browse and found this listing for Himalayan Salt Lamps on Etsy* which has amazing reviews, great prices and wide selection of sizes!

A board game for two

A cosy evening together, playing a board game, perhaps with some snacks on the go and a few candles lit. To me, that sounds like a heavenly way to spend a little bit of time with my partner. This game Patchwork is fun and relaxing, but requires just enough concentration to keep it interesting, and Fungi is an adorable strategy game of mushroom foraging. Simple and sweet, a perfect evening together.

Home fragrance products

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Perfect for snuggling up on the sofa, scented candles and wax melts are an excellent way to create a cosy atmosphere in your home together. Almost everyone has a scent profile that they enjoy. If you aren’t sure what kind of home fragrance your loved one might like, think about if you’ve ever noticed them saying how much they like the smell of a perfume, or a specific flower, or perhaps a specific situation – for example a forest in the rain, or the smell of the seaside. Use these snippets of info (if you have them) to search for associated fragrance notes, and then have a look for some fragrance products that contain those notes. I have a blog post with some of my favourite home fragrance brands in it, so you might be able to find some good scents in there!

A handmade card

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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. They felt that these holidays were emotionally exploitative consumerist rubbish, so I wasn’t allowed to spend any money on them. But if I wanted to, I was allowed to make them a card. This was no skin off my nose, I relished any opportunity to dive into my stack of coloured paper and glitter glue. I think my magnum opus was probably a mother’s day card when I was about 6 or 7. 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, if you’re a creative type, this is such a lovely way to show your loved one how much they mean to you – but if you aren’t, there are some amazing options for handcrafted cards on Etsy*, like this adorable folding fox card*.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and perhaps been inspired on how best to indulge your special someone this February 14th!