Number Fifteen: Happy VD!

No, not Happy Venereal Disease (although people who don’t play their cards right today may end up with an extra gift for the holiday). I’m talking about every woman’s favorite holiday and the bane of every man’s existence: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alright, guys, this one is mostly for you, especially the bitter fellas I joked about up above. I know the arguments, and I can’t even fault you for having them – Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday that puts money in the coffers of greeting-card and floral shops by selling overpriced stuff that you could have purchased for half the price a week beforehand, all while somehow making it impossible to say no to the expectations that you’ll buy said items (because every guy knows that if he comes home empty-handed today, he’s gonna be in the doghouse for a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng time). On top of that bitterness, there can be pressure to get the “right” gift, something that will make her happy and give her something to brag about to her girlfriends. And last, if finances are tight, Valentine’s Day can further stretch your wallet, perhaps to the breaking point.

[Am I right, or am I right?!]

Here’s the thing:

We should take advantage of this opportunity to express our love for the special people in our lives. In my case, it’s easy to get swept away by all of the demands on my life — work, kids, household chores, family functions, etc. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. People get busy. All the more reason to have a time set aside on the calendar to hit the pause button, plan a special day, and spread the love.

In my case, I do the cliched thing by ordering flowers every year. My wife *loves* flowers, so she enjoys getting a bouquet in the wintertime. I’m lucky in that I have a local florist that does *amazing* work. I tell them my budget and turn them loose to do whatever they want; they haven’t disappointed us yet.

But that’s just the baseline. It’s a given, and it’s fun to see what gets sent, but for me the excitement is in the gift-giving. And I’m telling you, guys, this is where you can change your whole attitude about the holiday. While it’s likely too late to help you with this year’s shopping, I’m going to share a couple of my secrets as a way to not only help you with next February, but also with other occasions (or, even better, those “just because” moments).

In my opinion, personalization is key. Yes, chocolates or earrings are nice — I do those too sometimes — but the items that make a memory are the ones that are special to her or, even better, the two of you as a couple.

I’ll preface these next sections by stating that I am NOT a paid spokesman for these companies. I just think they offer unique and interesting gift ideas, and I’m happy to give them my recommendation gratis.

For my money, there is no better place to find a special gift than Uncommon Goods. Even better, they have gifts for every budget, from ten dollars to hundreds of dollars. The site acts as a portal for artisans that make custom products. Maybe my favorite gift from the site was a handcrafted metal heart that acts as a note-holder. We keep it on our dresser, and when the mood strikes we’ll write each other little notes and slide them inside the heart. It’s a gift that allows for interaction between the two of us. More so, as Cousin Eddie said, it’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.

[Your words are written in my heart…literally!]

In the same vein, a couple years ago I purchased a journal for us at Barnes and Noble. There is one page for each day of the year, and space for three years’ worth of writing. Each page has one question that we answer together (e.g. “What is the last movie you watched together?”), which makes for a nice keepsake that we can look back on as the years go by.

Humor more your thing? I have you covered! Go to places like Papyrus or Spencer’s, and you can get all kinds of funny presents. A few years back I got a “sex” coupon book with numerous certificates that you can redeem for various favors. Doesn’t get much more “together” than that!

[Get ready, baby…I’m cashing in tonight!]

The most custom gift I’ve ever done for my wife was to build a charm bracelet over time. It’s an inexpensive way to create a piece of jewelry that tells a story by selecting charms that would only apply to her. For instance, she has a baby buggy that I bought her when we found out we were pregnant with our daughter; a piano, because she’s a fantastic player; an Eiffel Tower to remember a trip to Paris that we took together; and on and on. Again, a personalized item full of memories that as a whole became expensive, but could be put together over time for $15-25 per charm.

Not to be outdone, my wife has come up with unique ideas herself, my favorite of which is a book she made for me one year. Each page has a saying she created, along with a corresponding scene with a couple of stick figures acting out her phrase. We’ve pulled it out a few times since then, reading through it and chuckling over the pages.

See what I mean? You don’t need to hold up a Tiffany’s and risk prison time to have a fun Valentine’s Day. The commercialism sucks if you stay on the beaten path and follow the rest of the lemmings off the cliff. But, to quote Robert Frost, if you take “the road less travelled,” you can reclaim this day and enjoy it with your significant other. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, right?

Until we meet again…



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