Valentine's Day is just two weeks away, and though I've already got my gift purchased for my husband and Abby has a present for a friend of her, there's still a lot of folks that haven't shopped yet.
Many men don't like to buy gifts, thinking of it only when certain occasions arise, like realizing their anniversary was last month. I was in a ground school class for recurrent training on a jet at a civilian training center, my classmates for that particular session being a bunch of Marines. The instructor was going over the systems of the aircraft we all flew when one of the admin people brought in a bouquet of colorful spring flowers to the room. For me. It was from my Dad, which was sweet as I didn't have a boyfriend at the time. It was on February 14th. There was a collective "oh *#%@" whereupon about a dozen strapping young men ran for the break room to get on the phone the call Teleflora.
A stuffie! Just what I wanted Mom!
Men that I work with occasionally come to me with "what should I get my wife/partner for our anniversary/birthday/etc?" For Sweetest Day I suggest going to the liquor store for a bottle of Bitters, but other occasions are more complicated.
Some women do like lingerie. But lingerie is a minefield. Buy it too small and she'll think she's fat. Buy it too big, she'll think YOU think she's fat.
Gentlemen, not an area you wish to go, either way.
Avoid flannel. Sure it's warm, and great if the power is out. But it's not romantic unless you live in an igloo. There's a reason my tartan flannels I wear sometimes are known as "Scottish Birth Control".
Fragrance? That's a deeply personal gift.
I wear something called Elixir of Love No. 1, which is from a very old American toiletries company or this complex, yet not expensive, essential oil scent from Ambre Blends in Indy (click on name for link) with which I'm often asked: "what is that scent you are wearing?" Either that or Hoppe's No. 9. Many women want much more sophisticated scents (i.e. very expensive) while some still love to wear the inexpensive fragrances they wore when they were young. Do you remember what fragrance she was wearing when you met her? I guarantee if she really loves you, she remembers. Find out.
Partner and I were at a Walgreens getting my Tetnus booster after I'd got a nasty gouge on something metal, when we felt we were being watched. It was a row of these 3 foot tall, brightly colored furry stuffed hearts with big eyes and creepy smiles and feet, standing on top of one of the aisles. I had a vision of waking up on Valentine's day with two of those in the hall like the spooky ghost twins in "The Shining". I didn't have a camera, but I wandered over to get a closer look. They were all perched on top of the condom section. That's just a mental picture I didn't want to have. Off to the candy section while we waited.
For chocolate is almost always well received.
It's hard to go wrong with chocolate. But the huge red block of chocolates that's as big as a carry-on bag for $5 may be a great little surprise for a road trip snack or a doorstop but it doesn't say "romantic gift". Quality and elegant presentation is the key here.
Stuffed toys. OK, I do have several plush microbes from Think Geek but if someone ever bought me a giant stuffed sock monkey for Valentine's Day, I'd be riffling the cupboard very quickly for that bottle of cheap hooch or the car keys.
Not just medium ships, or large ships, but HUGE ships. Who knew they were such a menace as you go out and about each day.
NOT the Stairway to Heaven
(1) constantly "borrowing" your cordless drill to work on craft or remodeling projects
(2) pumping up the kids "Super Soaker" with an industrial air compressor
(3) using a 48-inch pipe wrench to open a stubborn jar of sauerkraut
(4) in family photos, her glee with her Barbie or a baby cradle is less than apparent
Avoid things you see on TV. If it says thighbuster, thighsmasher or thighrehabilitator, RUN, do not walk away from your TV now (see the rule about lingerie). Even if it comes with a free Cap Snaffler. Dad wasn't immune to the TV gift thing. I once got a Car Duster® from him. That might be fine in the city but I lived out in the country. I promptly took my truck out four-wheeling, got it completely covered with two inches of mud then posed, covered with mud myself, holding the Car Duster® in my hand next to it. He got the point. Still, he bought my Mom an ashtray shaped like Mt. St. Helens where the smoke would come out of the top of the little ceramic volcano. NOT a big hit.
Cupid shoots and misses.
Another female friend got a shovel for her birthday (wonder if they've found the body yet). And there's my friend from college, whose husband of 15 years bought her brake fluid for Christmas.
Another woman had her husband give her two gift-wrapped boxes, each filled with a plastic storage container from Aldi. I can only imagine what she wished to store in each one.
These type of gifts are not going to get you the reaction you expect.
If you search the internet there's even more in the way of "bad gifts". (bad as in "I named a Madagascar hissing roach after you my love"). Yes, from the Bronx Zoo, a strange and limited Valentine’s Day Offer:
Can’t decide on what to get that special someone for Valentine’s Day? Sometimes the answer is all around us, and right where it’s been for millions of years—like cockroaches!
Naming a Madagascar hissing roach in honor of someone near and dear to your heart shows that you’ve noticed how resilient, resourceful, and loyal that person is. You’re not afraid to say, “Baby, you’re a roach!” WCS’s Bronx Zoo has 58,000 of these brown, iridescent beauties, and most go humbly by “whatchamacallit.” With a $10 donation, you can name one for your sweetie, and send a truly unique certificate of honor.
Bad gifts aren't just from men. We ladies can be just as deadly in the art of bad gift-giving and here are some real delights that both sexes have bestowed upon their loved ones.
Camouflage Toilet Seat.
Throw in the camo Snuggee and you're guaranteed to get a toilet plunger for Christmas next year.
The Razorba War Hammer. At last - a gift that sends that message of undying love - "From the back, with your shirt off, you look like a wookie."
The War Hammer is a plastic handle designed to hold a razor so you can shave hard to reach areas. This product comes in various sizes and colors with detailed instructions for use, as well as this safety note: "Wear thick pants, shorts, or a thick towel and eye protection when using this product."
I do NOT want to know why you would need thick pants.
The best part? It's portable. Think of the fun you can have with it, take to a playground, a salad bar, your best friend's wedding reception.
Why give a hug when you can give the Hug Me pillow. Shaped like a human arm, complete with hand, and attached to half a chest this looks like something left after a nasty accident with a wood chipper or the Razorba War Hammer.
It's just like sleeping with a strong, loving and caring companion, except it has no head or testicles (which means we'll see The Hug Me Pillow running for public office soon).
The fringe visor. Don't hide in the shadows, every day is a risk when at any given moment, a bobcat may attack your head.
Spa Day - Most guys have no desire to have some woman in an antiseptic smock file their fingernails. They'd rather bite them off in frustration as they wait in line at Home Depot on Saturday afternoon.
Seriously though, Pay attention to the things your loved one likes to do to relax (and no, that is not house cleaning). Books, crafts, gardening, computers, photography, shooting sports, etc., and surprise them with something that would allow them to do more of that. But remember, despite the ads, despite the hype, it's not what you give that matters, it's that you took time to think of something to make them smile (especially if you have tools).
Don't fall prey to the ads, and don't feel guilty if your budget doesn't support an expensive jewelry store or a new computer or electronic toy. It's not what you purchase but what you are the rest of the year. Love is not a lover, it is not a gift or a holiday. It's not what you buy or what you say, it's what you demonstrate every day. What is important is the friends and family around you; the patient, trusting support of a life. It is those who wait quietly in the wings while you flounder and fall, being there to gently pick you up, not with unrealistic expectations, but with unconditional love and support for just being you.
Look at the photos of those you hold dear in your home. Look to your friends. Whether you have a significant other or not, love is all around you. It's in the past, in the present, in the future, images of people from which you were born, those you choose to call home, those who you will someday know, there in a book, on a mantle, in a Bible, in the depths of an old mirror. You are surrounded by them, even as you stand alone in a muted, empty room and believe in it, bewitched beneath the broad gravity of man's incredible and abiding hope.
Savor it, even with your Mt. St. Helen's ashtray.