If you’re really in love, you shouldn’t have any problem making your feelings known on Valentine’s Day. But you might anyway. Because commerce, advertising, and social panic conspire to bamboozle us into bad choices.
The market is now saturated with “unique” Valentine’s gifts. These are almost always a bad idea. In some cases they should come with warning labels that say, “Use Only in Relationships You Want to Sabotage.”
Perhaps some negative reinforcement will help spare you this fate. Here are 10 Valentine’s Day gifts that you almost certainly should not give your sweetheart this weekend. (We will avoid the totally inappropriate gifts curiously recommended at some places for Valentine’s Day — like the Big Book of Alzheimer’s Activities — and concentrate on products offered as V-Day presents to the general public.)
10. Valentine’s Day Doormat. Prosaic as your lover might be, he or she will not miss (at least subconsciously) the significance of being invited to wipe his or her feet on your heart.
9. Sweets for My Sweetheart Junk Food Basket. If you both weigh over 300 pounds and/or belong to the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, this might go. Otherwise the message is, “I love you just the way you are, tubby,” which will not, however unspoken, be taken kindly.
Same goes for the Chocolate Dipped Oreos.
8. Hobby-Related Valentine’s Gifts. We understand the impulse, but what you’re really saying with golf, fishing, sewing or other hobby gifts is, as a sign of my devotion I release you to your private world of which I can never be a part. In other words, your partner’s deepest desire should be you, but it is instead some leisure activity, and you have accepted that. You might as well buy his-and-her “Doomed” bracelets.
These are only acceptable if you’re terminally ill, and want to help your partner move on.
7. Homemade Valentine’s Gifts. It’s a sad fact that everything in this culture is money, including appropriate expressions of Valentine devotion. So dig deep, steal if you must, but buy something for V-Day. Unless your sweetheart is recently arrived from Haiti or Congo, he or she expects it.
The recommendations of sites like Frugal Dad (boy, what a fun date he must be) sound like creative alternatives, but they are snares. Even if they’re appreciated on Sunday they may, in later moments of conflict, be waved as armament in conjugal battle (“Hey, what about this free backrub coupon? I could really use a backrub after all the shit you give me!”) or reminders of what a cheap bastard you are.
This goes for keychains too. Oddly there are a lot of Valentine’s Day keychains out there. Maybe they’re meant for office Valentine’s Day grab-bags. If given one, your S.O. will probably use it to hold the keys to his or her new home, far from you.
6. “Funny” Valentine’s Gifts. Maybe you’re both such goofballs that you think this will be appreciated. Maybe you assume your special friend is too hip for sentiment. Maybe the rest of the year your mate sneers at candy hearts, Garry Marshall movies, “Baby I Love Your Ways” and other romantic junk. Beware. Valentine’s Day has a way of turning even the hardest hearts into Cinderella snowglobes. This is no time to come home with the romantic equivalent of fake dog poop.
5. Love Message Disc Shooter. Ow! Oh, that’s cute, honey, I love you too.
Ow! I said I love you! Okay?
Ow! It’s not funny anymore! Cut it out!
OW! Okay, fucker, give me that thing….
4.”I’m Sorry” Gifts. If you fucked up, buddy, the traditional remedy is to double the usual dosage of Valentine’s Day — two dozen roses, two bottles of champagne, etc. Do not say you’re sorry for yelling last week, forgetting a birthday, or having sex with somebody else with an explicitly “I’m Sorry” gift like these novelty pillowcases. It will just remind your partner, who was probably ready to forgive and forget for the Day, that he or she has something to be pissed about.
3. Half-Assed Sex Gifts. By all means, if you are blessed with a mutually satisfying sexual union, go ahead and get what you know he or she loves — dildos and vibrators (the exception to the “hobby gift” rule), fetish gear, even a third party.
But unless you have a definite all-clear from your lover on these matters, resist the impulse to buy a “sensual,” “sexy,” or “naughty” gift. No “Aphrodisiac Cookbook“; no “Edible Passion Powder with Feather Tickler”; no massage oils, and certainly no fetish items for beginners like fuzzy handcuffs, “entry level” bondage kits, liquid latex, etc.
The time to express a desire to experiment with your partner should arrive naturally. Valentine’s Day is never that time. Maybe he or she will go for such an invitation to “try something new,” but if he or she doesn’t — if he or she looks at you like you just said, “Surprise, honey, I’m a Furry” — it can be awful. Even if your partner goes along with it at the time against his or her wishes — which may be a turn-on for you, and secretly what you were hoping for in the first place — things will never be the same between you again.
And there is nothing sadder than a T-Shirt for 2 that remains unopened in a drawer — except maybe one that’s been tried once and thrown in the trash because your lover was too embarrassed to give it to the Salvation Army.
1. “Romance By You” Personalized Bodice-Rippers. These people will put your and your loved one’s name in a romance novel. Here is an excerpt from Vampire Kisses, as personalized in a sample:
“Thanks for the rescue,” Britney said. Then with a grin added, “Quick hands.”
“Only when there is need, I assure you.” Vinnie Kosciusko smiled, teeth reflecting bright in the dusty air, those broad shoulders casting a shadow over Britney. He nodded in what might almost have been considered a bow and then turned sideways and was gone. One moment there, the next he’d vanished as though he’d never been…
There’s also Click for Love (“[NAME] is torn between instant chemistry that makes her knees weak and instant messages that speak to her heart!”), and Pirates of Desire (“Slowly and gracefully, she climbed onto his bed, running her hands across his naked chest, relishing the feel of his [BODY TYPE] form beneath her fingers…”).
Don’t get us wrong. We’re all for roleplay. But the impression of one’s own desires into stories just doesn’t work this way. If you somehow matted yourself into Casablanca and gave a DVD of it to your beloved, it wouldn’t be romantic; it would just be narcissistic and weird.
Give one of these books, and eventually (that is, around page 10) your darling is going to get the queasy feeling that this story is so far from your mutual waking reality as to be risible — even pathetic. You want to be the hero of your own romance — not an unsuitable understudy in someone else’s.