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Sunday, February 14, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

Growing up, my nuclear family had a Valentine's Day tradition of buying each other small gifts. There was a limit (usually around a dollar, which is probably five dollars today) and the point was an expression of appreciation. Dad, of course, always did something more elaborate for the day, usually flowers, dinner, and an appropriate "girl gift." My father taught me to never give your wife an appliance or household item for Valentine's Day (or her birthday) but to always find a "girl gift" which she could enjoy "as a girl".

I had the same girlfriend from the age of 12 until she dumped me when we were 20. I always sent her a Valentine's Day card and (and in later years an appropriate girl gift) as we were never in the same town, until the final year we had together, when we were at the same college. She insisted that I not get her anything, then was furious that I did not get her anything. I always thought that this failure on my part was the beginning of the end, and she did dump me six months later, over many issues great and small.

Understanding women is easy in the general sense. They're girls and they like girl stuff. (OK, modern PC speak says I should say "women" but I think of "boys and girls" so it's not like I think calling them girls makes them subservient or minor children.) Girls/women like to be served, fussed over, and made to feel special. You have to do the right thing all year (make sure the oil is changed in her car, fill the tank for her when it's cold, pick up stuff at the store, help organize the errands and do your share of them), but Valentine's Day and her birthday and your anniversary days are days to make her feel not just taken care of, but adored. In the specific sense, however, a given woman may have specific likes and dislikes, but they ALL want you to find out what those likes and dislikes are and pay attention to them. Leanna, for example, abhors red flowers (or red clothing, or red anything. The "test" is did you actually listen to them all year (at least since Christmas) and understand what they want. Leanna is a very practical girl, and this year I took the money (which must always come from my separate funds, not family money) I would spend for her flowers, showed her how much it was, and took her to the place of flowers to pick our her own arrangement. Not finding anything to her taste, she asked and the clerk created a special arrangement just for her. It's in her office (photos are on the website and the company's page on Facebook), and the women who have seen it have expressed the appropriate amount of admiration for how well trained her husband is.

Flowers are, practicality says, the worst gift as they last only a week. (Leanna got them anyway, but they're not the only thing she got.) Chocolate does not last even that long and messes up the inevitable diet. What women want, so conventional wisdom says, is jewelry (as it last forever) but Leanna has years of jewelry I have given her as gifts. What she really wanted (and what I have offered to give her without her having to ask because I listened, read between the lines, and paid attention) is a husband, one who isn't distracted by business. So today, I won't go to the office. She has her flowers and will be given an appropriate and very personal gift, and will of course be taken to her favorite restaurant for lunch. But instead of going to the office, I'll stay home on Sunday, and do some clutter clearing, going through boxes, rearranging furniture, and watching some stuff that she's been saving on Tivo for a marathon viewing session. Oh, that and the 500-square foot addition to the house including a massive bathroom which was begun on her birthday and will be finished next week. I paid attention. I listened.