Sue knows that Bob is going to give her a present — a really romantic present. After hours (or days) of giddy anticipation and increasingly extravagant guesses, she arrives at Bob's apartment for the big moment. With a big smile, Bob walks over to his dresser and pulls out one of the drawers, but when Sue moves closer in to peer into the drawer it's completely and totally empty. The big gift was nothing? Is this some kind of joke? A cruel kiss-off?
Nope — Bob's gift is the drawer.
Used for showing the escalation of a relationship with characters who so far have been emotionally guarded or whose previous relationships have all been strictly casual, but who now want to show their lover that they're ready to let them into their lives. Often carries the implication of exclusivity, if it did not exist already. May also mark the slide from Friends with Benefits into an actual relationship.
It's a move with repercussions. Not only does offering a drawer allow Sue the practical expedient of leaving clothes at Bob's place indefinitely, but the gift of a drawer also carries symbolic resonance, since dresser drawers (especially the sock drawer) are not only for the keeping of one's most personal garments, but are also proverbially places where people stash away secret valuables and important mementos — a solid, protective, intimate space to store things of sentimental meaning. Plus, a drawer opens up — just like Bob is doing. Cute, huh?
The drawer can signify a shift into a long-term relationship. Leaving a toothbrush says the lover is sleeping over for the time being, but giving a drawer implies shared space and time and the prospect of a future together — and a permanent end to the walk of shame. On the flip side, could also mean that the carefully compartmentalized space of a dresser drawer is the only part of Bob's life he's ready to open up to Sue.
If the intimacy upgrade is unwanted, it might lead to the awkwardness of an unwanted gift.
- Happens in 50/50 (2011), when Adam offers his girlfriend a drawer at the beginning of the movie.
- Arrow. In "Burned", Laurel Lance comes home and busts her boyfriend Tommy Merlyn drawing up a list of Reasons Why I Deserve A Drawer.
- Burn Notice: A close variant in "Bloodlines". After Fiona is forced to move out of her house, one of the criteria for a new place is that there has to be room for her souvenir snowglobe collection. At the end of the episode, Michael offers her a board of lumber as a present, which is to be a shelf for the snowglobes in his loft. He finally spits it out after some fumbling: "I want you to move in."
- Castle (2009): Halfway through their first season as a (secret) couple, Castle and Beckett exchange romantic Valentine's Day gifts. After Castle's goes awry (he accidentally slips his gift, a pair of beautiful earrings, into Beckett's boss's blazer instead of hers, leading to a wacky misunderstanding), we get the big reveal of Beckett's gift: a drawer. Of course, this being Castle, it takes him a minute to get it, and he feels all around the inside for his promised romantic present.
- In Friends, Chandler, who was always trying to fend off Janice in their earlier encounters, now has feelings for her but paralyzed by his fear of commitment. When Joey tells him to face his fears, he goes all in, and the gift of a drawer is only the first in a series of increasingly over-the-top commitment-filled gestures that backfire badly. In this case, it's literally the gift of a drawer — he gives her some contact paper and then hands her the actual drawer itself.
Chandler: Well, wait, there's more. See, the contact paper is to go into your brand new drawer. [gives her a drawer] See, the drawer actually goes in my dresser.
Janice: Oh, you didn't have to do this.
Chandler: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because you're my girlfriend, and that's what girlfriends should, should get.
Janice: Well, I gotta buy a vowel. Because, oh my Gawd! Who would've thought that someday, Chandler Bing would buy me a drawer?
- In House, Chase flags the meaning of not having been given a drawer in his season 5 sleepover relationship with Cameron.
Chase: You know why we spend nights at my house? Because when we spend nights at yours—I can tell you don't want me there.Cameron: Why would I keep inviting you over if I didn't want you there?Chase: You always kick me out every morning. You never offered me a drawer, never cleared out your closet for me. I was just a visitor.
- As a sign he is ready to be more serious with Carol Hathaway, Dr. Ross actually asks for a drawer on ER.
Hathaway: Oh, Doug, not another serious conversation.Ross: You used to say we didn't communicate.Hathaway: I know, but now you're communicating a little too much.Ross: This is important. Can I have a drawer?Hathaway: What?Ross: A drawer. Something you keep your clothes in — something that I can put my clothes in.Hathaway: You never wanted a drawer before.
- After regular visits involving his hauling his stuff to her place in a big backpack, Sydney gives Vaughn a drawer toward the end of season 2 on Alias, a gesture that makes Vaughn very happy and Weiss a little envious.
Weiss: Do you know how spoiled you are? You know, a drawer! I wish I had a girlfriend to say 'Hey, do you want a drawer?'
Vaughn: I'll give you a drawer at my place.
Weiss: I don't want a drawer at your place.
- On the American Queer as Folk, Brian—a player who's been resisting real relationships for years—confirms his offer for Justin to move in by mutely pulling out an emptied dresser drawer.
- On Samantha Who?, Sam seeks to get her foot in the door with handsome lad Kevin by suggesting the gift of a drawer, since he happens to have one that's already empty.
- Roxie gives Chad a drawer on the shortlived series Eastwick — though it's not clear if she still has a drawer for her ex-husband as well.
- On Gilmore Girls, Luke not only offers Rachel a drawer but throws in keys as well.
- Rebecca gets Josh a drawer at her place on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Being Rebecca, she goes overboard, making it light up and play "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin every time it's opened. This ends up being too much for Josh, who thinks she's being too intense too soon.
- Mentioned on Pushing Daisies. Vivian comes to her P.I. acquaintaince Emerson Cod for help finding her disappeared beau, Dwight Dixon. Emerson, who has his own reasons for declining the request, asks a number of questions about how intimate their relationship is (including whether or not Dwight has given her a sock drawer) and suggests that Dwight has merely ghosted her rather than disappeared.
- On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this trope becomes a Brick Joke in season 24. When Amanda mentions that Carisi is coming over to her place, Fin expresses surprise that they aren't living together yet, as they've been dating for more than a year. Amanda says he has a drawer. At their wedding reception a few episodes later, Fin asks if Carisi has graduated to something more than a drawer, and Carisi jokes they are "still negotiating."
- Back in 2007 on the Howard Stern Show, Robin joked that Howard gave Beth a drawer at his place and not too long after that she left her apartment after burning it down.