After two decades, I still don’t know what to give my wife for Valentine’s Day, but I definitely know what not to give.
I have a long history of making bad decisions at gift giving times. Every Valentine’s Day gift sends a message to the woman who receives it, and sometimes not the one intended. I have violated all the following bits of wisdom and suffered the consequences for it each time. Gentlemen, please don’t insist on learning the hard way.
As a service to all men, here are the top eight categories of things NOT to give the woman in your life on Valentine’s Day.
Gift Certificate: Nothing says, “This is exactly how much I think you’re worth” quite like a redeemable coupon. We men think they are wonderful. What better way to efficiently allocate resources than handing over a cash equivalent, so the receiver can pick exactly what he wants as a gift? Well, that is not the way women look at the world.
In the Advanced-Placement Calculus formula of how women view the world, one of the variables in a gift’s perceived value is how much effort you put into acquiring the item.
For example, ordering a new mink coat on Amazon to be delivered to the house is cherished less than if you trapped a raccoon in the back yard, processed the pelt yourself, and hand stitched it into a hat for her.
The more trouble to you go to, the more she will like it.
Clothing: Just don’t. First, there is the obvious sizing issue. Did you know my wife wears a different size bra for every manufacturer? I didn’t, either. The problem with sizes is that if you go too small, she feels fat. If you go too big, she thinks you think she’s fat. There is no way to win that one, so I just stay away from it.
Then there is the matter of personal taste. You will be lucky to get off with simply missing the mark because she prefers satin to silk, even though you thought you did right by going with the more expensive item. You might be able to slide by, if it’s handmade silk cocoons you personally picked while on a business trip to Asia, but that gets into the “level of effort” aspect of gifting.
The bigger risk is not having noticed her preference. Women don’t notice or remember everything. They just find different things worth remembering.
Remembering your wedding anniversary is a requirement. Remembering the date you first met or when you found out she was pregnant will earn you more street cred than you can imagine.
And by “street cred,” I mean “wild, monkey sex.”
That’s a bonus tip from me to you. No charge.
Another tip: Google out what day of the week these important events occurred and commit them to memory. The next time she asks if you remember a date, start the answer with, “It was a Tuesday…” and follow up with the date. Women go gaga over the Forrest Gump routine.
Vacuum: It doesn’t matter how fancy it is or how many attachments that sucker comes with or that it will drag the cat across the carpet from the next room. A vacuum is a terrible gift idea. I, and most men, would giggle like a school girl to receive a new Shop Vac, but that’s not how women think.
You just told her the house isn’t clean enough.
The year I gave my wife a vacuum for Christmas, she didn’t talk to me for a week. Or wash my laundry. Or pack my lunches. The kids had theirs made, but not me. A very hard lesson learned.
Something you might possibly use, too: No big screen plasma TVs. No tickets to Super Bowl. No edible underwear. No Xbox (unless she’s a gamer chick, and that’s still a dangerous proposition).
All she will see is you getting enjoyment out of her gift. Women are generous, giving creatures, but when they receive a gift, they want it to be exclusively for them. It probably has something to do with how much of themselves they give to us every day. At least, that’s how my wife explained it to me, and I believe her.
Anything that belongs in the kitchen: Much like the vacuum, gifting a set of pans sends the message that you don’t think she cooks enough. Or worse yet, her cooking needs improvement that is only possible with new cookware. The only exception I have found is if she specifically requests some super-expensive knife set or bone china pattern. Even then, you are playing with fire and would be best served to move on.
Anything from Bath and Body Works: I’ve seen the look on a woman’s face when she opens a bag containing samples of every bath salt on display in the store. She’s confused until the mingled aroma of jasmine, watermelon, and beaver castor hits her full in the face. Then she gags a little. Clearly, she presumed the little brown paper baggies contained semiprecious gem stones. Oh, how wrong she was. And how wrong you will be to think you can live down sending the message you think she smells bad.
In a twist of marketing irony I’m sure no one foresaw, the initials of that store spell “BBW.” So you get a two-fer on this one. She will immediately leap to the conclusion that you think she smells bad and is fat. The letters are right on the damn bag.
There will be a lot of cold, icy stares and uncomfortable questions at your house this Valentine’s Day for violating this one. Your woman can call herself fat all she likes; you can’t. It’s that simple.
Elliptical: Or any sort of exercise equipment, for that matter. I don’t care how much Suzanne Sommers or Richard Simmons says your Honey-kins will love Sweatin’ to the Oldies or cracking walnuts with her thighs. The best that will happen is she will smile gracefully, make you put it together, use it for a couple of weeks, and then it will sit in the corner unused, except by the cat and the occasional guest as a coat rack.
Any exercise equipment you give her will send the worst message possible; that she is fat and you don’t find her attractive. You will not dig yourself out of that hole for a very long time, gentlemen.
Tennis bracelet: All the jewelry store ads tell us that women love jewelry. It fixes all problems in life, and that is true to a point. However, there is one particular piece of jewelry you should steer clear from; the tennis bracelet.
Somewhere in history, the tennis bracelet got a bad wrap as what philandering men give their wives.
I am under exceedingly clear direction to never give my wife a tennis bracelet. The connection between “tennis bracelet” and “affair” is that strong in her mind.
Even the most trustworthy and faithful man will be placing himself under suspicion when his woman opens that little velvet box to find the dreaded tennis bracelet. You might as well hand her the business card for a divorce lawyer.
On a side note: An unmarried man should never, ever, under any circumstances give any gift in a ring-sized box to his woman. It sets up instant expectations when she sees it. Even if there is an engagement ring in that little blue velvet box, you’re kind of cheaping out anyway by trying to double-dip.
There you have it. Those are my top gifts never to give your wife or girlfriend. Ignore the advice, if you like. It’s your funeral.
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