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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Valentine's Day tips for men

Friday, February 4, 2011

I would certainly never claim to understand everything about either gender.

However, I've been married for nearly 10 years, and in that time I've come to understand some basic truths about the differences between men and women.

These differences are never quite so magnified as they are on Valentine's Day -- and I'm going to try to give advice to guys here.

Valentine's Day is on Feb. 14, guys.

Every year.

It's not like Thanksgiving and Easter; the date never changes.

Valentine's Day means different things to everyone. The trick is to find out what it means to your partner and go from there.

Personalize it. Make sure to remember that Valentine's Day is not a one-size-fits-all holiday.

When I was a kid, my dad -- the only guy in the house -- would buy heart-shaped boxes of candy for my mom, my twin sister and me.

My mom's was always the largest, and usually had plastic flowers and a big bow on it.

My sister's and mine were always exactly the same size, but hers was pink and mine was red.

None of us loved the Valentine's candy, but it became a family tradition. It was comforting and sweet, and it was something my dad, who was not an overtly affectionate guy, did all by himself, so we knew what that box of candy symbolized.

My dad passed away in June 2001. Every Valentine's Day, I still miss getting that box of candy. No one else can get it for me; it was a part of my relationship with my dad and it's something that can't ever be replaced by the efforts of anyone else.

And really, that's what it's all about: what your efforts on Valentine's Day symbolize.

The retailers' television commercials would have you believe that Valentine's Day is the time to gift your significant other with a sparkly bauble worth thousands of dollars -- but realistically, how many of us does that happen to?

Valentine's Day, down to the bare bones of it, is about affection, compatibility and commitment. Macaroni and cheese by candlelight with Frank Sinatra playing on the stereo can mean just as much as a diamond necklace if the gesture is sincere.

Let's take a look at greeting cards.

They're pretty expensive, and generally they end up getting thrown away.

The first Valentine's Day we were together, my husband wrote me a heart-felt note about how I made him feel and how he hoped we would have many more Valentine's Days together.

It was written on yellow steno pad paper.

I know exactly where that note is (and it must have worked, because this will be our 12th Valentine's Day as a couple).

I can't tell you where all the cards are, but that note, written in my husband's handwriting, is precious and I will never lose it.

The thing about that note is, it was written specifically for me. It's not a catch-all sentiment that some guy at the card company wrote to be applicable to any woman.

It's all mine, and that makes it special.

Think about writing a note instead of sending a card.

Being that this is the digital age, I'm going to go out on a limb here and wager that a large portion of you guys out there are going to send the women in your lives text messages or e-mails declaring your love and wishing them a happy Valentine's Day.

This is all fine and dandy, but for the love of all that's holy, don't stop there.

One Valentine's Day a couple of years ago, my husband tucked a picture of us at our wedding in my purse, and had written a line from the song we danced to at our wedding on the back of it.

It was so sweet I cried a little, and it reminded me of why I love him so much.

Even if it's just a sticky note on the steering wheel of her car, take the time to write a little message to your girl with your own two hands. It doesn't have to be an epic love poem ... all it has to say is something along the lines of "I'm so glad you're a part of my life."

It's going to take you all of two minutes to do, and trust me, it'll score you a lot more points than an e-card.

Another seemingly great Valentine's Day gift is a stuffed animal.

Here's a tip: Don't do it.

Grown women have little use for stuffed animals. Additionally, teddy bears and the like are generic, and if you're trying to tell a woman you take her and your relationship seriously, this just plain isn't the way to go about it.

As I look back, any stuffed animal a boyfriend ever got me for Valentine's Day was pink, red or white, and was usually holding a stuffed heart bearing some trite, lukewarm sentiment.

This told me the guy made a beeline for the seasonal aisle, and figured just because the bear, dog or whatever it was happened to be Valentine's Day themed, it was a great gift.

What it told me was that absolutely no thought was put into said gift.

Another mistake I can remember boyfriends in high school and college making was trying too hard.

When I was 15, my boyfriend, who I had been dating for all of six weeks, gave me a white gold and diamond necklace for Valentine's Day.

The gift, lovely though it was, made me uncomfortable for two reasons.

First, I was 15. In my mind, that is way too young for a girl to be getting jewelry from anyone other than her parents.

Secondly, it was too extravagant, and instead of feeling special I felt overwhelmed. It sent me a message that this boy thought we were in a place in our relationship that we definitely were not.

It scared me to death.

I got spooked and broke up with the boy a week later (yes, I returned the necklace).

When you're shopping for a Valentine's Day gift, it's important to remember where you are in the relationship, as well as what the person you're giving the gift to likes.

At this point, a necklace from my husband would be fine, but chances are he wouldn't get me one ... because he knows me well enough to know I'd rather have a season of a TV show I like on DVD or the newest version of Trivial Pursuit.

Know your audience.

Another thing my husband can do that I always appreciate is make our Valentine's Day plans.

Normally, he's a "we can do whatever you want" type of guy, and I've gotten used to it. But when he actually makes plans for Valentine's Day, it's a great treat.

All he has to say is, "I'm going to grill steaks," and I'm over the moon. I don't care that we're staying home. We're together, and he made dinner plans.

Valentine's Day dinner doesn't need to be at a four-star restaurant. Make her spaghetti and bake her a cake at home, and I guarantee she's going to love it.

Use the good china and cloth napkins. Light some candles.

You could even dress up. Do little things to make it extra special, and it will be.

The best gift I have, this Valentine's Day and every Valentine's Day, is that I'm married to my best friend.

Instead of making the day about things, I challenge you to make it about the love-related blessings you have in your life.

I'd wager most of us have at least a few.

Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic. Her e-mail is jbarrand@bannergraphic.com.