It is tough enough to find the perfect gift for your own college kid or 20-something. It is even more challenging when the giftee is a beau: your son's daughter's significant other.
Suddenly there's subtext. There are entire categories of gifts that tread a fine line. Nearly anything for the bedroom or bathroom is weird. Perfume and lotions are too personal. Do 20-somethings even use stationery these days?
Is the gift too personal? Not personal enough? After all, this person could be the next addition to your family, so you have to make a good impression.
So What Will Make a Great Gift?
There are plenty of wonderful and thoughtful gifts that will delight your millennial's sweetheart. It could be something as simple as a soft wool scarf or Blue Bottle Coffee gear. Any gift that actually benefits your kid and not their sweetheart—an espresso machine for your coffee-loving son's tea-drinking girlfriend, for example—is not a great idea.
Think of universal gifts that will not offend, but sure to delight almost anyone. The following pages are filled with gift ideas to help you get started.
Gifts for Chilly Weather
Cashmere is never a bad gift. Give them something in a rich, solid color and it may become a staple of their winter wardrobe. A scarf would work for masculine and feminine partners alike, and the latter group may even love a lightweight print. Those are perfect for warmer climate wear, too.
Vegan Boyfriend or Girlfriend?
Back away from the wool, angora, pashmina and cashmere. Instead, opt for a soft cotton version instead.
If you are not sure of their dietary preference or attitude toward animal goods, err on the side of caution and go with cotton!
Gifts for Athletes
Everyone loves a good workout. Athletes may enjoy new trainers or even merchandise from their favorite professional team. Yoga enthusiasts could be in need of a new mat, but also wouldn't mind a gift card to Lululemon either.
Be Aware of Your Audience
No one likes to have the spotlight on their weight, and a gym-related gift could carry that connotation in the wrong circumstances. Additionally, not all fitness gurus are the same: someone who goes to the gym just to use the treadmill and play basketball probably wouldn't need a new set of weights.
Gifts for the Caffeinated
Living through your early twenties means drinking copious amounts of terrible java. A really nice coffee—and the tools to turn beans into aromatic brew—would make a terrific gift. Pair a pound or two of small-batch-roasted coffee with other caffeine-related gear.
A French press with a grinder or latte milk frother is a perfect combination. Include a fun coffee book that has information on growing, roasting and cooking with coffee.
Don't Forget the Tea and Hot Chocolate
Pod coffee makers are also great for other hot beverages, especially tea and hot chocolate. Give a mini version of a Keurig, along with some fun teas, such as peppermint or lemon ginger, and hot chocolate.
Gifts for the Eagle-Eyed
Does your son or daughter's partner have a creative hobby? Art supplies would be a practical gift; it could be tough to know which materials and brands they prefer, so a gift card could work just as well. When looking to make an impression but left in doubt, go for nostalgia.
Everything is digital for most 20 somethings, from greeting cards to photographs. Go retro with a Polaroid mini camera and lots of film. The novelty of printing a photo right when it's taken will inspire fun snaps and lots of laughs for everyone. They may still rely on their smartphones for most photos, but the instant gratification of a print will be fun for special events.
Gifts for Gamers
Classics like Scrabble, Monopoly and Backgammon will always be fun, but getting ahead of the crowd with the newest boards games is a great way to give the gift of play. Games like Blokus, Quirkle and Sequence are all very popular with young adults and may not already be in their closets.
If you really want to impress the gamer in your life, find out which video game console they prefer. Then get them a gift card to the corresponding digital storefront (e.g. if they play a PS4, they use the PlayStation Store). This is where players can purchase old titles or expansions to their favorite games.
Gifts for Foodies
Anthony Bourdain is the subversive and magnetic host of "Parts Unknown" on CNN. His cookbook Appetites is just as outrageous as he is, and the recipes are fantastic. Pick up a few of the dry ingredients needed for some of the recipes and you'll have a great gift - and maybe an invitation to dinner.
Does the young adult you're buying for love to bake? Get the Zingerman's Bakehouse cookbook and a bundt pan or muffin tin and wait for the deliciousness to happen.
Cooking can be time consuming for young adults who are on the go. Pick up an Instapot and get a cookbook with recipes to go with it. Quick and easy meals are always on young adults' list of things to do.
Immersion blenders and food processors may delight the culinarily-creative, but you'd better watch "Father of the Bride" first, particularly the scene in which a blender sends the bride-to-be into hysterical tears over implied gender roles.
For Amateur Mixologists
Got a mixology maven? One who's legal drinking age? Think bitters, bar equipment, artisanal spirits and anything else from this list of 21st birthday presents.
For beer lovers, there are beer of the month clubs, and for wine lovers there are similar companies. Every month when their delivery arrives, they'll think of you. Cheers!