I’ve known a few men who really “get” women. Generally these are guys with several older sisters who beat the right behavior into them early and often. But most men, bless their hearts, walk around pretty much clueless as to what’s going on with the opposite sex. And for these poor boys, Valentine’s Day is a mine field they don’t remember wandering into, but every year there they are, stuck in the middle with things likely to blow up if they move in any direction. Except in this mine field staying still is the most dangerous decision of all.
Here’s the first challenge, remembering it. Never mind that Hallmark, perfume companies and jewelers have been throwing hints like confetti through all the sports channels. Never mind the little gel hearts the women in their lives stuck on the bathroom mirror. They don’t even notice the double lane of red heart-shaped candy boxes lining every grocery and drug store they walk into. Their eyes glaze over and slide past these things like they’re looking away from an accident on the freeway.
So Valentine’s Day can be a surprise. Sometimes this means that on the 14th or whichever date comes closest they may be totally unprepared when their girl gives them a stuffed teddy with a heart-shaped balloon stuck to its paw. (Who thinks this is an acceptable gift to give someone anyway? Where can you put it if you’re older than seven?)
Here are some of the things NOT to say: “Oh is it Valentine’s Day again?” “I didn’t know we were exchanging gifts” or “Honey I’ve just been so busy this week.” Believe it or not, the “I forgot” line is better than any of those. If you really want to get out of the doghouse, just say, “Your gift is coming” and then get on the phone to every florist in town and see if anyone can shoehorn your delivery in before midnight on the 14th. It will probably be possible, but it will definitely cost you.
Valentines can also be a milestone in the relationship dance. The right choice can escalate or deflate romance. For example if she gets you that stupid bear-with-heart-balloon and you give her a Hallmark Shoebox card, this is not an equal exchange. She’s taken the “heart” step and you are still wallowing in relationship humor. You will not come out well from this encounter.
It’s not necessarily wise to make the big leap to expensive jewelry however. Someone who is happy with that offering may want to be your wallet’s Valentine. A folky necklace or bracelet made by fair trade tribeswomen in some country you know is over there somehow is a good gift. Be sure to attach the little description of how you’re building schools and digging wells for fresh water with your purchase. Of course this can be another minefield if you’re not paying attention. If she only wears little silver and gold chain things, a chunky wooden hand-painted number will not drive her wild.
And gag gifts are a mistake. No need to go into details here – just trust me on this one.
Also avoid poems you’ve written yourself or a drawing you made of your love from a photograph unless you regularly make money doing these things. The concept of “It’s the thought that counts” doesn’t work on this day except maybe with your mom. You really need to pull your wallet out and give it a spin to make her happy. After all, she is going to have to show your gift to her girlfriends and you don’t want her to come out badly from that encounter.
So what to get? Flowers are always a good choice but avoid the red roses trap. In the first place they are insanely expensive and have been shipped in from Bogota or some such place and will last approximately one hour for every dollar you spent on them. In the second place they are totally a cliché and not even appropriate unless you really want to tell your girl it’s true love which could be really weird if you’ve only been dating for a month.
You could do a fancy dinner and a movie. Plan on holding her hand – always a nice touch. But DO NOT take her to see “Fifty Shades of Gray.” In spite of the marketing sicko that decided the film needed to be released on Valentine’s Day, the book is nasty, badly-written and NOT erotic and the film is just as dreadful. And for all of the guys out there who haven’t read it – which is most of you I’m sure – here’s news. It’s about a guy who’s into S&M and the world’s stupidest female who puts up with it because he’s hot and wealthy even though she really just wants a regular guy who wants to cuddle. On what strange planet is this book supposed to be sexy? Oh yeah, ours.
If you’re smart and savvy enough to be one of those guys who actually listens, she may have given you a few hints such as sighing over something in a magazine, store or television ad. For you, Valentine’s Day is pretty easy and you probably don’t need to read this.
For the rest of you, be safe guys. Say it with flowers. Some nice arrangement from a florist delivered to her workplace with a thoughtful card if you really want to impress. (Understand that for many women who are normally very nice, the “I’ve got a boyfriend who is thoughtful and you don’t” concept really makes this day sing.) If you’ve been married for 27 years and have three kids, a bouquet from the grocery store can make her happy because over time her expectations have been seriously lowered for this holiday.
And as for your Valentine’s Day gift from her? Well, if you got it right, you’ll find out tonight.