see all cities »



Everybody loves to receive gifts, including me. In fact, I think that buried deep down inside, I prefer receiving gifts over giving gifts. But of course, it’s not socially acceptable to admit such a thing.

The thing though, is that the only way to ever receive a gift is to give one in the first place. For every gift-gotten, a ‘giver’ had to have been on the other end. As such, I made the decision that this year would see me start giving a little more, spreading a little extra joy, randomly, thoughout the year. The question I had though, was: Who should I give to, and what, exactly, should I give?

I’ll spare the finer details of the brainstorming and elimination processes and instead just let it be known that I decided to focus giving gifts to the men in my life. Yes, that’s right, I decided to start man-gifting. From fathers and brothers, to friends and co-workers, I chose men because quite frankly, we are the most under-gifted category of human beings. Women? Children? Girlfriends? Grandmothers? They’re always receiving gifts – always. Men on the other hand are the forgotten ones. Like wisps of smoke or the last shimmering beam of a setting sun, the gifts we receive are fleeting, precious and rare.

So in consideration of this, I decided to make the men in my life a priority and throughout the year, start surprising them with random gifts. The biggest problem however, is that it’s kind of weird for one man to randomly give another man a gift, unless they’re in a romantic relationship. Traditionally, men are frugal with their emotions and in terms of gift-giving – especially as an act of kindness and friendship – a certain type of awkward masculine intimacy exists. So to avoid this, it’s necessary to get creative.

For my first attempt, I decided to man-gift a friend that lives, coincidentally, in my apartment building. I knew he was a massive hockey fan and that he had been mourning the NHL lockout quite heavily. So after the news broke that the lockout was over, I thought “Bingo!”, this is the perfect opportunity to launch my quest. What better way to man-gift than to unsuspectingly mark the return of his favourite sport with a game-night snack-pack with “Congratulations on your New Arrival: The 2013 NHL Season!!!” written on it. Inside the snack-pack (which by the way, was gifted inside a black box because black is the “manliest” of colours), I included the following:

– six pack of beer
– frozen pizza
– bag of chips
– beef jerky
– pepperoni sticks
– peanuts
– chocolate bar

And how did I deliver this manly man-gift? Not with ribbons and bows or with a grand presentation. Instead it was done with stealth and surprise. I waited until a game-night, crept up to his apartment, placed the box in front of his door, knocked loudly and then sped off down the stairwell. And how did my buddy respond to receiving this unexpected offering? Well, he figured that it must have been me, as we live in the same building and as a such, immediately texted me the following: “Hey, man. Assuming the snacks were from you. Thanks for the gift! Big game tonight. Go Sens!”.

It was, perhaps, a less than fulfilling response but remember, fulfillment isn’t the reason we’re supposed to gift. It’s altruism, right? Besides, if you really think about it, a muted response should probably be the expected outcome of man-gifting, as us men are so rarely the recipients of random acts of kindness that we don’t know how to respond when it occurs. Regardless, for me it felt good; beginning my quest to spread gift-giving to those who need it the most: men.

At present, I’m already planning my next round of man-gifting; in which a muscle car, a bottle of scotch and a shooting range are being considered. Whether to include them all in one gift is the question.


Having lived on both coasts and smack-dab in the middle of the prairies, Mark believes himself to be quite the well-rounded Canadian. That being said, he sure does struggle with appropriate regional diction. Remind him again: Is it pronounced scallop or skahllop?

4 Responses to “Man-gifting”

Shannon Wilson

I am very inspired by your post. I whole-heartedly agree that men need more gifts. Such tender hearts seem to be behind the illusion of the strong male. Being a huge giver myself, and regularly giving to my man has been perplexing to me. I do (not just material things but service type stuff and generally nice/ kind acts) 90% of the giving in our relationship. Somehow, even though I really do give because I want to, it feels good and would seemingly nuture the relationship, it seems to be a sore spot for me. Most of the time I get a ‘just so as not to be rude’ thank you and an undercurrent of resentment. Although the topic of your post is focussed on male to male giving, perhaps you have some insights? Or maybe that is your next post?



Thank you for this article – very interesting. I own a gift store in Old Chelsea and I meet people who ask for gift ideas for men all the time, but we just don’t know what to get you! Beer glasses? Shooter glasses? Necklaces? Once we’ve gotten over the ‘usual stuff’, we’re left with no ideas at all. This is probably one of the reasons why you guys don’t get as many presents as us women because there is always something that we want loll If you could give me creative suggestions of items that you would like to receive, affordable, of course, I would be more than happy to pass along your suggestions to my customers. Thanks in advance for your help!


Mark Johnston

@Shannon: Thanks for the compliment! I’m no expert but I do find the whole concept of “men and giving” a little messy – whether it’s giving-to or receiving-from men. I can’t speak for other men but I know that in regard to my better half, I find myself guilty of sometimes getting a rushed gift. It’s not because I don’t think the world of her, it’s just that I’m bad with time and gift management. I have 264 days to think of a good anniversary gift, for example, but I leave it until the week before and then wind up panicking. lol. My heart is in the right place but sometimes my rational brain leaves hanging. Hopefully I’ll get better with practice while I ‘man-gift’.


Mark Johnston

@Andrée: It’s tough because I struggle with this as well. Gifting for men has become pretty stereotyped. Golf clubs anyone??? I try and gift something that has a relevance to a connection I have with another guy, although it would be the same for a girl as well. For instance, a few years back, my buddy and I were hanging out on a beach in Vancouver when I whipped out a package of habanero peppers. We had a pepper eating contest and nearly died. Had a lot of fun though and got some good photos of us passing out from the heat/pain. So just the other day, I went online and purchased a package of Bhut Jolokia peppers, which are like 100 times hotter than the peppers we ate. They are currently being shipped to him (as a surprise) and it only cost me about $7.00. For Christmas 2011, I bought my brother in law a giant taxidermied tarantula from Thailand. It only cost $15 online and was completely disgusting, but since he’s a biologist, I thought he’d get a kick out of it. So I guess I just try and find one connection point with the friends and family I gift to. Thanks for the comment!


Leave a Reply