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Valentine's Day dos and don'ts for guys

MEMO
TO: Gentlemen, brothers, members of the Y-chromosome club
FROM: Your conscience
SUBJ: Valentine's Day

Put down the remote, step away from the recliner and listen up: I've got good news, and I've got bad news.

First, the bad news: It's almost Valentine's Day again.

Remember last year? And the year before that?

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. Bad news.

Now the good news ...

Well, I was just messin' with you, there really isn't any good news. After all, it's Valentine's Day we're talking here. The dreaded 2-1-4. The one holiday you are absolutely guaranteed to blow it every year.

Face it: You're a guy; it's your heritage. Romance and gifts? Love and money? How much to spend? On what? It's a classic mismatch, like street racing Bobby Labonte or playing one-on-one with Shaq. Nolo contest-o.

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That's why I'm here for you, dude. I know you've got the short-term memory of that guy in Memento. You need a little reminder, that's all. A little snapshot of your sorry Valentine past so you don't make the same mistake this year.

Who knows, maybe you'll even pick out something she actually likes.

Yeah, I'm just messin' with you again.

Desinted for the doghouse
OK, let's review the things that don't work:

Kitchen stuff: If it can even remotely be used in the kitchen, forget about it. I don't care how much it costs or if it has a designer's name on it -- it just ain't saying amore, capisce? You already learned this with the bagel cutter, the Fry Baby and the bread maker. Here's how she does the math: Kitchen = work + work < romantic.

Bathroom stuff: I know the bathroom sometimes seems like her mysterious inner sanctum. She's in there doing things. Girl things. And, being a guy, you're genetically predisposed to mentally group mysterious stuff together: bathrooms, romance, Michael Bolton, etc. Trust me here, if it has any use in a bathroom, it is not only useless as a Valentine's gift, but unlike kitchen stuff, probably stands a good chance of offending her, too. What's cheaper than bubble bath? Don't let her think it's you. Again.

Food stuff: This is what I like to call the 9 ½ Weeks rule: Food is only remotely sexy when placed in direct comparison to Mickey Rourke. Despite this universal truth, guys continue to do their Valentine's shopping in the produce section and wonder why they wake up on the couch. Here's how she'll read it: raw food = pathetic and possibly perverted; shelf food = pathetic and cheap; prepared food = desperate and cheap; your own gourmet cooking = yeah, right, that always cracks me up! Food -- don't go there.

Guy stuff: You know what I'm talking about here, gifts that you give her that you really want. OK, sure, go ahead and tell yourself that she'll love it, that you'll enjoy it together. She's not having any of that. Ever. How can you tell if you're slipping down the delusional path toward guy-gifting? It usually happens when you're fed up with shopping, you're flat out of ideas and you're starting to feel like maybe you deserve a little reward for trying to be a sensitive love god. This category includes all CDs, videos (especially 9 ½ Weeks), software, sports equipment, concert tickets, sports tickets, gift certificates of any kind, and anything that comes with instructions.

Clothes: You're not that desperate, are you? Let's break this down. There's the technical problem: you don't understand women's clothes. They button on the wrong side, the sizes are incomprehensible (Petite? Plus?) and they come in a baffling array of colors not present in nature. As a result, whatever you pick she'll hate. Where's the love in that? Then there's the ripple effect of giving clothes: Do you like this on me? Is this how you see me? Have you had your eyes checked lately? And that all-time no-winner, Does this make me look fat? And finally, because you know you are the weaker sex, there is always that potential to slip into guy stuff mode by wandering into the lingerie section. Trust me, if women hate receiving clothes from their love god, they really hate receiving lingerie, which they regard as swimsuits without the slimming effect.

What a woman wants
I know what you're thinking right now: b-double-e-double-r-u-n. But stay with me here -- we can salvage this mess.

Let's review: You can't give her anything useful, edible or that might even remotely interest you. By process of elimination, that leaves the Holy Trinity of Valentine's Day offerings: flowers, jewelry and chocolate (OK, chocolate is edible but you don't see it at many Super Bowl parties and it's lousy with beer).

That's it: flowers, jewelry, chocolate. You know it; she knows it. There's the rub.

And because these are the only three acceptable ways to show her you do pay attention to the halftime commercials, they in themselves fall one yard shy of a touchdown (this sports metaphor brought to you as a mental health break by the Male Alliteration Association).

Give any of these alone or in combination and you're likely to receive in return that smile she uses to get you to smell if the cheese is still good (see also: last year).

What a woman wants, what a woman needs is a simple gesture of intimacy from you, the tiniest something that lets her know these chocolates, these flowers, these metallic thingies are but tokens of your deepest feelings for her.

How do you express your innermost feelings? How should I know, I'm your conscience, not David Blaine.

The point is, it's not the thought that counts, it's the feeling behind it.

If you take time to put a little of yourself into her Valentine's Day gift, there's the tiniest chance you won't have to duck it coming back at you.

We now return to your regularly scheduled program.

Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor based in Florida.

-- Updated: Jan. 27, 2005

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See Also
A guys guide to Valentine's Day
What she really wants on Valentine's Days
The cost of Valentine's Day
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