Guys, this is for you. Ladies, please pass it on to any significant other or clueless man you think could use it. Quickly.
I decided in the early days of knowing my wife that I'd have a theme for the special Valentine's Day gifts I'd buy her every year. My theme would be Red. I'd get her something red for this special celebration each time around. That was it. Very simple. And, themes are good, right?
There's always a red enamel bracelet to be found, or a cute red T shirt or sweater. Red shoes are nice. A ruby anything is always appreciated. A bright red Prada bag can be a hit, as I discovered one year by sheer luck. And, yeah, sports cars do come in that color, too. But let's not get carried away.
I'm writing to you today for a very important reason. Over the years, I have learned something vital about gifts appropriate to the occasion.
You can't always go with your first instincts on these things, as I've found out the hard way. Not every red gift works. The bright red Swiss Army Knife didn't quite cut it, after all, as I had imagined it would. I ended up explaining at great length all the cool things she could do with it - other than stabbing me, of course. And I hate to even mention this - I suppose I should promise I'm not kidding - but the novelty store wind-up chattering white teeth with very red plastic lips and gums didn't evoke quite the level and warmth of unrestrained merriment that I was aiming for, either.
Rule One. Think this thing through in advance.
Rule Two: If the gift will take ANY AMOUNT OF EXPLAINING, get another one. The romance holiday of the year is not a good time for explaining - an activity most of us engage in mainly when we're in trouble and something has gone badly wrong.
Rule Three: If you're even thinking about a funny gift, examine all facets of the potential humor or lack thereof. Again, this might not be the occasion for bold risk taking of this particular sort. It can work, but tread carefully.
My ultimate lesson about all this was the year I thought I was really showing ultimate love and concern by getting my wife something for her safety in the kitchen. Again, gentlemen: Take Note.
Rule Four: Kitchen gifts are not generally ideal for Valentine's Day. It's maybe not the right message, regardless of your sterling intentions. A older friend bought his wife what he thought was a super nice personal gift - the very best, top of the line frying pan he could find, with no expense spared. And, as he later reported to me, "She cried a lot, but not in a good way."
If you even consider anything practical, you might want to get a really nice card instead. And champagne. Or a nice Spanish Cava. Otherwise, you're in danger of entering the territory of Platonic Love, and I'm guessing that's not the philosophical consequence you want on this particular day.
My ultimate lesson came about as a result of what I thought was incredible creativity on my part. I bought my wife a bright red fire extinguisher for kitchen use - to show, as I've mentioned, my love and concern for her safety. And I have to tell you, it put out the fire in ways I had not anticipated. Honestly, it never occurred to me that this particular gift might be taken as a commentary on her culinary skills, which are, I should add, exceptionally excellent.
Please let me repeat myself on this one. It's not a day to go for practical. And in relation to this particular holiday, forget that you even have a kitchen unless YOU plan to cook in it and clean up perfectly afterwards.
It's not too late to take back that well intentioned practical item you've already gotten that even monumental explaining won't make work.
Remember, my friends: It's all about showing love in a way that your special person will immediately see as a show of love, and one that's not about you or what you love.
And, now that I say this, maybe I need to go back and do a little more shopping.
Happy Love Day in Advance.