THE HOLIDAYS pose a dilemma for lovers, regardless of whether your romance is new or long-standing. What is an appropriate gift? Will my partner misunderstand my intentions? Is it too early in our relationship to buy a sexy gift? We asked romance columnists Steve and Mia to help guide you through.

Steve: So, Mia, what's the sexiest holiday gift you ever received?

Mia: Lingerie. But it was from a boyfriend that I wasn't into. It weirded me out. How about you?

Steve: No one has ever bought me lingerie.

Mia: I can see why. No sexy gifts at all?

Steve: Woolen socks. But not for my feet.

Mia: Sounds scratchy. Not very romantic.

Steve: It was a huge turn-on for months. But it raises a question: How far along in a relationship should you be before you buy a partner something intimate?

Mia: The general rule of thumb is, you should at least have done the deed before buying your date a thong. Avoid discomfort and stick to jewelry, but don't cheap out. What do you think about setting a price limit ahead of time on what each person spends?

Steve: That could avoid embarrassment, but what if the guy is rich and the woman is poor? Perhaps the solution is to discuss a price range while acknowledging that one partner can afford to spend more.

Mia: If the guy is rich and the woman is poor, then there's nothing really to discuss. He should act like he knows and buy her something blingalicious, and she can get him a nice scarf.

Steve: The toughest gift would be one for someone early in the relationship. If you do too much, you'll look needy and overanxious. If you don't do enough, you'll look miserly and uncaring. I'd say the gift should be nice, but not too personal. Maybe tickets to a play or sporting event. Or a book.

Mia: Humph. Diamonds are always a girl's best friend. If you've known each other only a few months, then fake is OK. But after six months to a year, it should be the real thing. You've got to pull out the stops for Christmas and be romantic. If you can't afford Tiffany's, then go to a discount jeweler. They'll have all kinds of heart necklaces and rings that'll make her swoon. And even better, that stuff will make her friends swoon. That matters because before night hits, her friends will be calling and grilling her about what her man gave her. Give your girl something to brag about.

Steve: My old girlfriends bragged about breaking up with me.

Mia: That's because you were a cheapskate. There's nothing like an iffy relationship and a lousy Christmas gift to make a gal decide to start fresh with a new guy in the new year.

Steve: OK, diamonds it is. Now, how about a stocking stuffer? I'm thinking a DVD, like the new 10th anniversary edition of "Love Actually."

Mia: You're not getting it, Steve. Instead of a 10-year-old movie, a man should fill her stocking with a $25 gift card to Victoria's Secret, chocolate kisses and a split of champagne. You don't have to spend a lot of money. Just use your imagination and don't wait until Christmas Eve.

Steve: But that's what a lot of guys do.

Mia: And those guys may go out with the old year.

Steve: You win. Victoria's Secret, kisses and champagne. There's one good thing about that list.

Mia: What's that?

Steve: You can share.

Steve is a 50-something married man who's been around the block. Mia is a younger, recently married woman with an all-together different attitude. They may not agree, but they have plenty of answers. Contact them at S&M@phillynews.com or S&M c/o Daily News, 801 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.