Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Gift Giving Guide 2014

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 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 significant other at the time.  It was 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 Telefloral.

Men that I work with occasionally  come to me with "what should I get my wife 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 to deer camp 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 expensve) 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.

Again, don't just grab something because you are at the drugstore and it's cheap, like this one which appears to come with a free cat toy. Last minute drugstore gifts simply say "hey, I forgot to buy you something".

Partner and I were at a Walgreens getting my Tetnus booster 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 an AK47 for $5 may be great little surprise for a road trip snack or a door stop but it doesn't say "romantic gift". Quality and elegant presentation is the key here.

Bet the carpet in the living room was the only thing that saw any action that Christmas.

Stuffed toys.  OK, I do have several plush microbes from Think Geek but if someone ever bought me a giant stuffed sock monkey for Valentines Day, I'd be riffling the cupboard very quickly for that bottle of cheap hooch or the car keys.
Books can be good, but pick a book that is similar to the type of books she has on her shelf. If she's into Bodice Rippers involving pirates and lusty maidens, this probably wouldn't be the book for her
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.

Now remember, avoid tools unless your spouse or lover loves to build things as a hobby. For myself, some great gifts I have received involved tools or gadgets but I am not the norm.
NOT the Stairway to Heaven

Avoid buying anything like these things pictured below. Even the most practical woman does not want an extension cord, duct tape or a paintbrush for Valentine's Day, Christmas or your anniversary.
But, if your woman is the type that likes tools and such, go for it. How do you know? She will give you subtle clues, such as:

(1) constantly "borrowing" your Colt and most of the remaining ammo for "girls day out"
(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 Barbi or baby cradle is less than apparent
Men  also often make the mistake thinking they have to buy a gift that "does something". Blend, dice, chop, (bad) reduce cellulite (really bad). Do not fall for this. Think of something that signals your undying passion. This is NOT a toaster (adding a note, I think you're HOT, doesn't make up for it). If you don't know the hobbies of the woman you are attempting to impress, your safest bet is to buy something that doesn't do anything. If it just lies there in a small box in a coma and sparkles or smells good, most women will be happy.

Avoid things you see on TV. If it says thighbuster, thighsmasher or thighrehabilitator, RUN, do not walk away from your TV now (see 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. 

 But wait!
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 cammo 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.
Tired of boring yard gnomes? How about the Zombie of Montclaire Moors, climbing out of your mulch to munch you. This sort of lawn ornament tells your neighbor you're either a really fun person or are under psychiatric care.

The best part? It's portable. Think of the fun you can have with it, take to a playground, a salad bar, your best friends 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 (espcially 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 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. Helens ashtray.


  1. Have a great Valentine's! Great post there and practical as well.

  2. Sound wisdom Brigid. I learned this lesson the hard way. Toaster oven for Christmas. I was young and foolish.

  3. All seem to be excellent gift options.

  4. Dammit, you have a Mt St Helens ashtray! I wanted one of those in the worst way...

  5. I know better than to be drinking when I start reading your posts. But the description of the young men bolting from aircraft systems...

    Right, no more checking Brigid's blog when I'm on the treadmill. Doubling over in laughter when going backwards is... disconcerting to onlookers. Startled the husband, and the cat.

  6. Last year I got my wife a pearl ring for V day. This year we didn't spend money on each other. We made sure sam came before us.
    Stay safe and Happy V Day to you my friend. Hug to Barkley.

  7. Oh you are too much! Hoppe's does smell good, I will have pour some of that in one of her old bottles, that will be a surprise!
    I got here chocolates and she got me chocolates so it was a good day.

  8. Trader Joes had really nice flowers today. If you live in Florida, I suggest Publix, where I always stopped on the way home on Valentines Day.

    Man? Woman? Facebook lists 58 categories. You're so behind the times. :)

    (Disclaimer: I think feeding the Facebook beast is the second worst decision we've made collectively as a society in the last 10 years. I'm not a fan.)

  9. Her Gift: First expensive thing I find at Nordstrum's. Include the receipt, as it was destined to go back. But, at all cost DON'T get her a gift certificate: that's just too impersonal. Suffering is required.

    My Gift: If she must, a gift certificate to Sears (Craftsman) or Harbor Freight, please. I've always got a need for another left handed crescent wrench. And let me live for my annual mutterings that St. Valentine got off easy and that Hallmark Card executives should be feed bit by bit to dung beetles.

  10. Keads - you too.

    OldAFSarg - I've a colleague that also learned that if her birthday and your anniversary are the same day, one gift is NOT appropriate for both.

    LL - indeed, and ammo is always nice.

    Brighid - Dad has a secret crush on you. If you want it, it's yours. :-)

    On a Wing - I hope you both have recovered. Thanks for the phone call the other night, sorry if I was zzzzzzzz.

    Rob - Your priorities are spot on.

    Sunnybrook - that's a great idea. Enjoy.

    Roscoe - I don't do Facebook. I blog because I like to write, and don't care if I have 1000 Facebook friends that aren't really friends. The folks here, some come and go, some just stop to say hello, some have become good friends off blog, and one asked me to a tractor show and the rest is history. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. But I can pass on the rest of the whole social media thing.

    All - Big snowstorm hit late this afternoon. After getting a couple out of town team members to the airport (they'd not have made their flights home otherwise waiting for public transport from our meeting) the window for doing anything was closed and I just crept back to the crash pad. Hopefully the highways will clear out in the morning for travel. Not the valentine's I'd planned but it was a good day and Partner is like me, just take care of your folks and be safe.

  11. Avoiding huge ships is not an issue for most people, but becomes important if you're aboard a small boat, whether sharing a harbor with them or doing some blue-water cruising along or across the shipping lanes.

    One gathers that Trimmer's book (I haven't read it or even seen a copy) is meant to give the yachtsman some idea of what watchstanders aboard huge ships can see and what they can do about it, and how they think and act.

    Of course, the title is best known for inspiring mock reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, some of them pretty funny.

    Even a composer found it evocative, though alas only a few movements in the context of an introductory philosophical manifesto are available as a recording, so only those of you who can read music, or are lucky enough to catch a performance, can enjoy the whole thing:

    I was once in a bull session that involved someone who was an experienced racer of small sailboats and a marine architect whose day job is design work on the big stuff. He advised the conservative assumption that they won't see you (especially at night or in foul weather), nor pick the radar reflections out of the clutter no matter what kind of Mongolian Ghost Trap you've hoisted up the mast. There seems to be some action these days in terms of active radar beacons. Still, staying out of their way is prudent... and underestimating the speed and misjudging the course of something that big, making time on the open ocean, is apparently pretty easy.

    Collisions do occasionally happen and the crew of the huge ship might not even notice, such is the hugeosity gradient between even a small freighter and typical pleasure craft. Even a near-miss (or, as safety folk prefer to refer to close calls these days, a near-hit) can swamp a small boat.

  12. Brigid, your Valentines post reminds me of a JC Penney ad from a couple years ago that was too funny! It was along the same lines. Totally safe for at work viewing too.

    Have a good laugh with it.

    Glad you made it back home safe in the bad weather. Make a pot of good soup, and curl up with Barkley and a good book.


  13. Lovely advice. A woman just... isn't a man! After 30 years of making a schmuck of myself, I learned to simply listen once in a while. Each woman is deeply different. But they will all tell you their secrets... uhrm, if a guy can just get through the rest of the wall of sound. It's in there. And worth digging to find.

    Figuring out 'her' wants reminds me of squirrels digging for the food they spent all fall burying.

    Oh, and Happy Valentines Day. Is... that what you were after?

  14. Choose gifts according to where your loved one prefers to shop. My favorite store happens to be Home Depot, and I knew it was love when my new husband had a SKILL saw and a filled toolbox waiting for me under the Christmas tree. My birthday present last year was a Sig. God how I love that man.

  15. Uno Mas -- Not a metric left handed Crescent wrench?
    I've always said there are five categories of gifts, tributary, sentimental, practical, burdensome, and recursive. The first is something expensive to show you love so much you've gone into debt for a piece of stone with a price puffed up by a bloody international cartel, the second is something that will generate warm thoughts every time she looks at it or wears it, the third is something to help with something she does, the next is the proverbial white elephant; you can't get rid of it and keeping it is a burden. The last is a gift to ones self, whether it be a baby-doll nightie or a shirt and tie, it's really intended to benefit the giver.

  16. So happy to see the Hoppe's #9 reference in there. Just a drop or two behind each ear...


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