True Confession Time: I am deeply missing my partner this holiday season. Having committed to a long-distance relationship well before the pandemic hit, the events of 2020—which have necessitated us spending far more time apart than together—presented a whole new set of challenges. So, suffice to say that those of you griping about the abundance of time you’ve been spending with your significant other can kindly STFU. The pandemic may have made for some strange bedfellows (“love the one you’re with” has taken on an entirely new meaning), but if you feel like love on lockdown has over-familiarized you with your partner, consider the alternative, count your blessings, and don’t take them for granted. Instead, use all the information and overexposure you’ve experienced over the course of this crazy year to give them something truly special this season.
“I’m the better gift-giver,” The Root’s Stephen Crockett recently told me with characteristic modesty while his wife Leslie was out of earshot, laughingly adding, “I am the better spouse...I basically do everything.”
Of course, Leslie, with whom Stephen has been coupled for a decade and shares two adorable toddlers, saw things a bit...differently. (“Was he in here lying?” she asked when she joined our Zoom call.) But what the couple wholeheartedly agreed upon was that giving gifts—mutual, spontaneous, and thoughtful—are a regular part of their relationship; one that arguably makes them pay closer attention to each other on the daily.
“The gift-gifting thing has taken on a whole ‘nother dimension,” says Stephen. “We are completely about trying to surprise each other with stuff—or you know, get something that the person had mentioned a long time ago, but never brought up again. And so, because of that, I’m always listening for cues...it’s like a fun, trying-to-catch-each-other-with-a-surprise thing.”
“I try to be really thoughtful about it,” said Leslie. “I feel like he buys gifts more often, on an ongoing basis, [whereas] I use holidays, birthdays, etc. to really go big, and so usually, it’s something he won’t buy himself.”
“Mine aren’t [thoughtful],” Stephen laughs, noting that since having children, his focus has shifted to treating Leslie to more “fly mom” accouterments she no longer indulges in (which we find pretty thoughtful, to be honest). “I want you to think ‘I can have that bag and take care of my kids,’ not that something has to be sacrificed in order to take care of yourself in a way that feels loving,” he continued. In recent months, he’s purchased Leslie coveted but relatively affordable luxury bags. “And right now, with the pandemic, if that bag makes you feel good, then let’s get the bag!” he adds.
Obviously, the effects of the pandemic have forced a lot of sacrifices, and not all of us are able to splurge this year (and if a four-page-letter full of your love and appreciation is all you can afford this year, remember that it’ll last forever). But if you have the means to treat your special someone to something special this year, Stephen has helped us curate a range of gifts to let them know that when it comes to love, in the immortal words of Luther Vandross, all this time spent together is “never too much.”
“When it comes to women there are really only two teams: Beyhive or Rihanna Navy,” Stephen surmised. “Your spouse is probably one of them and luckily they both have product lines that hit all price points. You don’t have to break the bank getting them something from Savage x Fenty,” he continues, “and who are we kidding—the Beyhive isn’t going to be mad if they get intimates from Rihanna’s collection and Rihanna’s Navy won’t ship you out for grabbing these dope Adidas x Ivy Park Ultra Boosts.”
It’s hard to go wrong with jewelry, and the pure golden offerings from the husband-and-wife team at Auvere include options for him, her, and them. And if all these months on lockdown have convinced you that they are, in fact, the one, did we mention that they make wedding rings, too?
That said, if you’re suddenly inspired to make a lasting commitment this holiday, it’s not too late to break out of the box with an engagement ring as remarkable and unique as she is. Jeweler Valerie Madison offers traditional settings (and custom options) but the standouts are her “alternative” engagement rings...perfect for an incomparable love.
“If your wife is anything like mine she loves bags. All bags. She’s not even a super fancy bag lover, she’s just a bag lover,” said Stephen. “One way that I found to make her happy and not to break the bank is fly-ass bags from dope designers on the come-up, because there is one thing my wife loves more than bags and that’s a good story.” With bags that hit the zeitgeist in 2020 but still remain accessible to luxury lovers, Telfar and Brandon Blackwood are two Black designers to watch; both have wisely moved to a preorder format (meaning they won’t get here by Christmas unless you’re shopping the consignment market), but by joining their mailing lists, you can give your S.O. something more to look forward to in 2021.
Women aren’t the only ones who love bags, and Status Co. Leather Studio’s full-grain leather bags and accessories are gorgeous handcrafted investments for him, her or them—you can even coordinate. What’s more, the label also offers belts, journals and even home-goods (think Moroccan poufs!) for every other leather lover in your life.
“One thing I give my wife at least once every year is art,” said Stephen. “I usually buy from Black galleries that feature up-and-coming artists or even established artists with affordable pieces. My favorite spot this year is the Chicago-based aRRTicles Gallery, where I picked up a dope (The Root 100 2020 honoree) Hebru Brantley poster...errr...for my wife,” he laughed, adding. “It’s hers, but she’s got to hang it in the house and I get the benefits from it.”
During this pandemic, two main groups have emerged: the “Get Tight, Get Right Gang” and the “Let It Go League.” Frankly, we believe in the best of both worlds—like having a cheat day. But regardless of which crew you belong to, we urge you never to shame your partner (or partners) for their comfort-eating, especially in a moment when we all need comfort (hey, not everyone blows off steam with exercise). So, how about gifting your sweetheart a crate of sweetness from NFL husband-and-wife team Jeff and Marrisa Allen?
If cooking at home is their passion, break the mold of traditional gifts by treating them to a “grown-up” but still very affordable (we’re talking Target and Amazon) set of cookware from this famous-in-her-own-right basketball wife. If the love of your life makes every meal with love, let them know you appreciate them—with a heart on each lid.
“My wife is well into her 30s so she doesn’t like phrases like ‘turn up’ or ‘lit’ to describe how she drinks but when she drinks she totally ‘turns up’ and gets ‘lit,’” joked Stephen. “Because she’s a Howard graduate and Kamala Harris is on her way to the White House she believes herself to be super sophisticated, and nothing says ‘I see you’ like rosé by the McBride Sisters, who just so happen to own the largest African-American-owned wine business in the U.S. Just don’t hand it your wife and say, ‘Happy holidays. Take this to the head.’”
If you’re both wine lovers (or want to be), how about leaning into the romance with an Anniversary of Love trio from Amour Genéve—”amour” is love in French, after all. Distinguishing this label from your everyday varietals is their signature, eponymous wine, which comes by its unconventional but enchanting blue color naturally through a unique fermentation process.
Last time we checked, lockdown isn’t ending anytime soon, so how about making it more luxurious for them? Harlem, N.Y. designer Junny Ann Hibbert makes gorgeous kaftan and kimonos that merge the ease of Japan’s national dress (kimono translates to “thing to wear”) with the cultural richness of African patterns. While her custom creations are an investment, they’re also reversible and unisex (and she makes masks, too)—gift them one to wear at home now; they’ll make it a moment when we’re all back on the scene later.
If there’s anything we’re hoping for more of this holiday season, it’s sleep—how about leveling up the experience for them with a set on bonafide linens? The dense, high-quality weaves from Linoto come in a full spectrum of colors and cross-dyes, making this bedding as gorgeous as it is sumptuous.
Might they fancy a bedtime story? Just because your budget may be low this year doesn’t mean you can’t still bring the heat. If the lockdown has dimmed the spark in your sex life, reading to each other aloud from this classic anthology of erotica—with contributions from Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, Chester Himes, Audre Lorde and many more incredible Black wordsmiths—will definitely get you back in the mood.
If you think they’d enjoy a little...extra with their erotica, this Oakland-based shop has got a full array of sensual goods for their—and your—pleasure. The upside to all this time at home? Plenty of opportunities to experiment with something new...they might be into it.
Speaking of something new, if it’s new skills that turn your lover on, an annual pass to MasterClass is the gift that shows you love them for their mind, too. Luminaries like Samuel Jackson, Sheila E., Alicia Keys, Robin Roberts, RuPaul, Walter Mosley and many more have all contributed content to this ever-growing platform of online classes, and with a current holiday special offering two memberships for the price of one, you can drop yourself a little knowledge, too.
“And if all else fails, you can never go wrong with clothes,” Stephen advised before quickly adding: “Let me take that back, you can totally go wrong with clothes, but you can’t go wrong with anything from Philadelphia Printworks. Owned by Philadelphia printmaker Maryam Pugh, the social justice imprint is fly AF. Get her a Paris Is Burning or an Assata is Welcome Here sweatshirt, and watch how blissful your marriage becomes. And nothing says ‘I love you’ more than a patch that reads, ‘Fuck it up, Sis.’”