Valentine’s Day Instructions, Batteries Not Included

Valentine’s Day is the most overrated, underwhelming, guilt-trip-inducing, Hallmark holiday of the year. It ranks somewhere between Sweetest Day and Secretary’s Day. (Is that still an actual job title or do they just use it for authenticity’s sake on Mad Men?). Valentine’s Day is just an unnecessary reason to extend what I like to call the, “Drawstring Pants Season,” which starts somewhere around Halloween and ends on New Year’s Day when you’re waddling back into the gym under a cloud of self-loathing for extreme overindulgence.

I’ll admit it: I fell victim to the commercialization of love once. I gave my college sweet heart a Valentine’s teddy bear wearing a t-shirt that said something like “I love you beary much” (Ridiculous – every one knows bears wear scarves to stay warm). In my defense, I was a highly over-scheduled, penniless college student. I knew it was a dumb gift, but the college-dormfull-of-girly-peer-pressure to “celebrate love” really got to me, which I didn’t realize until our gift exchange later that day: “Oh, sweetie. You got me a heart-shaped pendant? Oh, no…it’s beautiful. Thanks! I hope you like your, um…bear.”

Lest you think ice water runs through my veins, I am truly ALL for the celebration of love. Bring on the fancy dinners, the unexpected sparkly gifts, the best love songs of the 80’s, 90’s and today, and even the chocolate (none of that cheap drugstore crap though, thankyouverymuch). After having sunk to the level of gifting someone a stuffed bear, however, I decided years ago that Valentine’s Day was not worth my time. Or any man’s. Which is exactly how I came to receive one of the coolest gifts ever (next to my heated mattress pad).

When I met my husband, Brian, several years later, we decided to make each other Valentine gifts; fun, no stress, and best of all – mostly hysterical. His condo was close to my office back when we were in that dating stage where you don’t even notice that they leave their pants on the floor of every room in the house. I’d get off work early on a Friday and head to his place to have some quality alone time with a cold beer and a computer game before he got home. The thing is – when Nature calls, you listen…no matter what level of Snood you are about to conquer.

Now, it’s important to note here that, through no fault of their own, men are genetically incapable of installing a new roll of toilet paper on an empty dispenser. They can take every part out from under the hood of a car, play a drinking game version of Tiddlywinks with them on the floor of the garage and then reassemble perfectly in working order, but they absolutely cannot replace an empty roll of toilet paper.

So, lil’ ol’ me would be stuck on the throne with nothing more than a copy of “A History of Russia and the Soviet Union” and occasionally an Outside magazine until Brian walked in the door and heard me shout, “Hey, you! Bring up some damn toilet paper!” My efforts to explain to him why girls can’t just “drip dry” like boys do must have inspired a spark of genius in his little boyfriend brain because that year I received The Toilet Tree for Valentine’s Day. Nothing says “Be Mine” like an 8 foot piece of PVC pipe loaded up, floor to ceiling, with 20+ rolls of toilet paper that are handily dispensed from a tiny door at the bottom. It was conveniently located in the corner, measured the exact distance of my arm’s reach from the throne to the dispenser and looked something like this:

out of toilet paper

Never again did I run out of toilet paper at a critical moment. Toilet Tree version 2.0 was supposed to have a squirrel that creeps up the Tree as each roll gets dispensed, so you know when a refill is needed, but we got married and moved shortly thereafter. Most regrettably, the Tree didn’t make the cut when we ran out of space in the moving van.

My point is that this was a ridiculously awesome, thoughtful and really useful gift that meant more to me than a box of chocolates. Since the brunt of gift-giving-guilt on Valentine’s Day largely falls on the men, here’s the part where I go all advice-y on ya, so listen up, boys. Especially if you’re married.

Guys, girls don’t want heart-shaped pendants. Not for any holiday. Ever. They’re cheesy, uninspired and will end up at one of those We Buy Gold type stores someday. May I suggest some less expensive, but longer-lasting, heart-warming ideas:

  • Send flowers to her at work. She’ll be the envy of her co-workers. And here’s the most important part – DO NOT do it on Valentine’s Day. Flowers for no reason are the flowers we remember.
  • Cook for her. It doesn’t matter what you make, just make sure she doesn’t have to clean it up in the morning. If you absolutely cannot boil a pot of water and don’t know what a really good food blog is, you can order out. Just make sure you serve it all on real plates. And you know the drill – candles, music and don’t forget to slip the kids some Benadryl so they don’t wake up in the middle of it all (kidding about the Benadryl…sort of – don’t send me hate mail, people). Women LOVE to be served.
  • Write her a letter. For whatever reason, again probably due to a genetic mutation within your fine species, a lot of men get tongue-tied when it comes to saying more than, “Of course I love you” and, “No, you don’t look fat in that outfit. You look curvy” (which we loosely translate to “fat”, by the way). Take the time to hand write your woman a letter. Text, e-mail and wall posts don’t belong here, fellas.
  • Make her something – we love it when you get creative. Go to a photo website and make her a photo book of your life together (something small she can fit in her purse). Or you can even draw her a story of your life together. Crappy pictures are awesome. We just love that you took the time to reflect on your life with us. If you’re musically inclined, think about writing her a song. Or go retro and make her a mixed tape…er, play list in today’s parlance.  And here’s an easy one: Get thyself to Staples, buy a small desk calendar and write something you love about her or a memory on every single day. If you can’t think of at least 365 reasons, you might want to think about going on the Dr. Phil show.
  • Gift her a professional photo session (c’mon, you’re reading a photo blog – whatd’ya expect?). Whether you give her a photo shoot that is all hers (a boudoir session…think of your woman in the pages of Victoria’s Secret minus the hideously overgrown angel wings) or a shoot that includes the whole family, she will love that you value creating and preserving memories as much as she does. And let’s face it, dudes: we live longer than you. Those memories are what we’ll cling to many, many years from now.

Most of all, do these things when it’s not Valentine’s Day. These are the things we’ll remember long after we’ve blown those precious Weight Watches points on a box of cheap chocolates and tossed out the overpriced red roses you sent. And trust me on this – a warm fuzzy memory of something spontaneously sweet you did might just save your neck the next time you “forget” to replace the toilet paper on the roll.

~Ali

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