Vexing Valentine's issues put man, woman at odds

The sexes square off about gift-giving ideas on the day most guys dread

February 14, 2005

It's the Day of Wreck-oning.

Valentine's Day continues to be marked by all the finer characteristics of romance: anxiety, mixed signals, unrealistic expectations and almost unparalleled thoughtlessness. But roses are always nice.

Men could get in trouble today. They got through the holidays, they enjoyed the Super Bowl, but now, how to handle this most delicate of days? We brought together one confused married guy and one smart single woman for mutual enlightenment through a meaningful dialogue of the heart. Or, perhaps, just to kill some time at work.

Rob Hiaasen: So it's a bogus day, right?

Dan Thanh Dang: As a woman, this might be heresy on my part, but I agree. If you're alone, you can't go anywhere without feeling like a loser, and if you're with someone, it's fraught with peril.

In consulting a girlfriend, also perpetually single, we decided this holiday suffers from bad timing. It's too close to the Super Bowl. You guys gear up to watch the big game -- you rent a big-screen TV, get food, invite people over and maybe even offer party favors. We see how you can get your act together for that, but then along comes Valentine's Day a couple weeks later, and you're struck dumb.

The Super Bowl, dear single woman, is the ultimate holiday!

Yes, it's not the same. The Super Bowl isn't about romance or love or smooches... not unless you count all those players hugging, crying and patting each other on the backside. ... But it shows that if you can set up a Super Bowl party for your pals, you can plan ahead for your wife.

Anyway, help me out here. When a woman says she does not want anything for Valentine's Day, is it a wretched lie?

It's self-preservation.

Most women set low expectations so they won't be disappointed by whatever you do -- or don't do. You think, "If I tell him I don't want anything and he gets me anything, it'll be sweet. If he doesn't do anything, it'll just confirm I'm right: He's a thoughtless dummy."

Translation for guys: "Hey, this isn't a big major deal. You don't have to pop champagne and toss rose petals in front of me as I walk, but you could take me out for dinner."

Just don't be the dork-who-didn't-do-anything-on-Valentine 's-Day-for-his-wife-of-20-years.

This is where I get all anxious and nervous and where I blame Valentine's Day for making me so nervous that I can't figure out what to buy, so I panic and buy nothing.

Every girl's got a bad Valentine's memory. One year, I got flowers with a card that said, "I'm looking forward to a long future together." Aw, sweet. Except it was from a guy I had dinner with ONCE. Another year, I was seeing someone who stopped calling for a month. He finally called and asked me to the opera for Valentine's Day. Except he called on VALENTINE'S DAY AFTERNOON.

The upshot is, you can only improve on that.

I'm trying to remember. Once I sent her flowers, but it was on Feb. 15. Apparently, timing is everything on this day. Maybe I could get her eBlaster 5.0 remote monitoring software to record and capture all my e-mails and instant messages.

Yes, nothing warms the heart like a lack of trust. How about that Web site where you plug in a few words describing your significant other and it offers gift ideas? Surely the advertising sponsors have nothing to do with the results telling you to get her a toaster oven.

This is a true story. My wife does want a toaster oven.

Hey, me too! I want the stainless-steel kind that includes the oven and a side toaster, too!

That would be even better than the disposable pooper scoopers my last guy bought me, not for Valentine's Day, but just because I'm me. It had just the right touch of weirdness (Who buys a girl pooper scoopers?), thoughtfulness (I adore my dog!) and timing (a gift for no reason).

I think we have been skirting a certain gift idea...

You're right. I have no clue. Twenty years! What do you do after the first year of flowers and chocolate? Is it like anniversaries, where you go from paper to silver to gold?

Maybe it's time to break out the big gift weapon: Lingerie.

Heh. Hold on while I pick myself off the ground after laughing myself silly. Let me just share with you, most lingerie is a gift to a woman from a man FOR the man. A woman will smile and hug and thank you but think, "I'm going to be really cold in this."

I saw "Sex and the City" once, and they wore lingerie...

They do on Desperate Housewives, too, but if you think women walk around in matching red lace panties and bra, stilettos and a fur coat because that's cool and comfortable ...

Here's an idea: How about both sides maintaining a sane level of expectations?

Pull out all the stops and you run into two problems. 1. It won't be reciprocated on the same level. Say you cook dinner and write a poem. You'll get back a gift card signed "Love, Sue." 2. She'll expect you to top that next year.

It's all in the execution. If I got a card that said how much I brighten his day, every day, written in his own words, I would love that. That might even top the disposable pooper scoopers.

Now you're talking crazy.

One more thing: Are married women supposed to do something for their husbands on Valentine's Day? Or is this a holiday strictly for torturing men.

No. Yes.

How one-sided. A girl could really grow to love this holiday.

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