I’ve never gotten roses on Valentine’s Day. Well, maybe once — from an unwanted suitor. But, nope! I’ve never gotten flowers (on Valentine’s Day) from a man who was either courting me, dating me or sleeping with me.
I know! Now, ask me why.
Because, I am not that chick. Because I am not the chick who craves jewelry from Zales, bad chocolate from Whitman’s or a cute, plush pink teddy bear. I have an adversarial relationship with all Hallmark holidays, and if you’re courting, dating or sleeping with me, you already know that.
If you are dating or partnered with someone who does like all that stuff, you’ve got it easy. (No judgment implied.) You don’t need my advice, or need to finish this article for that matter. Just turn on network TV and let it tell you what she wants.
Words of Advice for Women Like Me
If, on the other hand, you are in the market for a fabulous je ne sais quoi sumpin’ sumpin’ for a grown woman like me this year, listen up. Here are my ideas for a memorable bouquet:
You don’t need to spend money on us to make us happy. A touch of creativity combined with some effort can be a real aphrodisiac for a grown-up woman.
Idea: I am no longer married, but on a Valentine’s Day 20 years ago, my then-husband — or wasbund* — surprised me with a vow to “make the bed, Euro shams and all, every day, for the rest of our married life.”
Sadly, his vow only lasted one month. But at the time, it was the most creative and touching gift I could ever have imagined getting from any committed sloth. Ever. He got laid a lot that month. I’m just sayin’.
Daring probably doesn’t mean what you think it does. What it means, here, is to get out of your comfort zone and dare to find out what she likes. Don’t wait till Valentine’s to figure out what is important to her. Dare to figure out what lights her up on the other days of the year. Listen to her. Observe her in action. Who is she? Attune yourself to her philosophy of life. Collect the data in your head.
Idea: A beau took me to the Santa Monica Pier on a date. He squirted enough water through a tiny clown hole to win himself a plush toy. He knew I’d have no interest in taking home the plush toy. Walking back to the car, he approached a sweet child and gave the toy to the little boy. The child was thrilled. I was thrilled because he knows that kindness to strangers is a high value of mine. It was a nice moment, and it was a great night.
Get her something that she’s mentioned out loud — something that she has always wanted to do, buy, or see — in the past. Knowing that you were paying attention will win you major brownie points. It’s not brain surgery.
Idea: Here is the script: “I got us tickets to the [Broad Museum]. They didn’t have tickets for us until next March, but here they are.” Now, hand her the actual tickets so she knows you really made the effort. The same goes for a trip.
Don’t know where to take her? See our travel section.
I prefer experiences over jewelry. Let me rephrase that. I can buy myself jewelry and chocolates. But getting you to jump on a trampoline at SkyMania, or to rollerblade on the beach, have a beer and watch the sunset with me, is not something I can buy. You have to agree to do it with me, and then actually do it with me.
Idea: Focus on an adventure you know she’d love to do and organize it. It does not have to be on Valentine’s Day (see above). But give her a card and let her know that the day is planned. It doesn’t have to be an active activity like mine. Maybe she likes to drive around and get lost in new neighborhoods looking at people’s cool houses. Or maybe she would love a 2-hour drive to a neighboring town “just for lunch” where she gets to talk to you in the car the whole way. Just pay attention to what the word adventure means to her, and do it.
What a concept! We may all have different styles of attachment based on our past experiences with our primary caregivers in childhood. But we all have common universal needs. Here is a link to the Universal Human Needs list from my website. Read it and see if you can guess which of her human needs are not being met in life. Now, meet the ones you can, to the best of your ability, whenever it’s possible for you to do so.
Not everyone can, or even should, meet everyone’s needs. That’s what friends, family and loved ones are for. But we can all be better at tuning into which needs are and are not being met by our partners.
Idea: Print out the list and highlight those that you plan on working on for her. Roll it up with a red ribbon. Discuss them with her. While you’re at it, let her know yours.
She loves you for who you really are. So, allow yourself to love her from that genuine, authentic place. Even if you get her “the wrong thing” — a sincere fuck up, a la Cameron Diaz singing bad karaoke in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” — it is irresistible to a grown-ass woman, because…it’s genuine. Let her know that you are trying. If it turns out that you’re no good at being genuine, you may want to consider pulling out that wallet after all.
Idea: But make it a genuine gift. It could be anything — tiny diamond earrings, a genuine leather wallet, or even genuine hand-crafted artisan candies. But add a note inside the box about what it means to you to have a genuine woman in your life.
I don’t mean that you have to be vulnerable like a man-boy, sick in bed whining for more Kleenex. I mean…if you are really stuck and don’t know what she wants, tell her that. Tell her that you’re really trying to step up your game for her, and that you really want to make an effort. You have thought about it really hard, but still feel stuck and frozen. Then ask her to please communicate to you exactly what she wants. If you really need her guidance and are earnest, she will guide you. Take notes.
Idea: Or just confess to her that you have watched the movie Ghost eight times, and that you’ve secretly harbored the desire to play out the clay-pot scene with her. That’ll work too.
Contrary to popular belief, we actually like your extra testosterone (when it is modulated by the head on the top of your neck). I know we beat you up a lot about this because we detest macho. But we do like heroic. Think of one heroic thing you could do for your partner. Got it? Okay. Wait! Are you still looking for me to tell you about a gift you can “present” on Valentine’s Day in the hope of looking like an attentive romantic partner? OMG! Well, if that’s what you’re still looking for by the time you’ve read this far, then, my friend, you are still missing the point. I am going to tell you one more time: Women like me don’t actually care about this specific day. Be a hero on the other random days of the week and watch her respect for you grow.
Idea: Consider accompanying her to visit her elderly aunt at the senior care center. Offer to take her father (son, boss) fly fishing so she can have a few days with her mom (girlfriend, or being alone). Or upgrade the AAA account to premium. Being a hero means “showing up” in important ways.
I know. Communication with another species can be hard. But communicating doesn’t always have to be with words. We women have eyes and ears in the backs of our heads, right? We also smell lies and sense bullshit a mile away. Be honest and find gentle ways to speak your truth, which creates trust and intimacy.
Idea: Give her a handwritten, redeemable coupon for a sensual candle-lit massage (by you, of course), for her pleasure only. Chocolate in this context is a big Yes.
“Being present” means focusing on her — the whole her — and nothing but her. Listen with both ears, ask questions and hear her answers. Look her in the eyes when she is talking and maybe even repeat back what she said to you in different words so she knows she was heard. Being present is harder than you think. Cultivating a mindfulness practice for yourself can help you do this.
Idea: Let’s say you made reservations for Valentine’s dinner. To make Valentine’s dinner different than every other night of the week, set aside all distractions. Make sure you get all your office work done so it’s off your mind. Complete your daily to-do list before dinner, and leave your phone in the car.
Don’t be your brand of weird. For once, try being her brand of weird. That, my friends, is the true meaning of romance.
Idea: Dream up a weird scavenger hunt, picnic in a cemetery, attend a Star Trek convention, visit a science museum or a garden show. Remember, it’s her weird not yours.
That could mean just about anything, right? Wrong. She knows exactly what being naughty means to her. It’s your job to learn this, and not to contaminate it with your own goofy versions of naughty. Do not project your naughty onto her or prejudge hers.
Idea: Whether she tells you that naughty means eating ice cream in her pj’s or sharing some latent sexual fantasy with you, do not judge it. Use this data to get to know her better.
If nothing I’ve said resonates with you, don’t worry. You probably don’t have a grown-up woman to give anything to anyway. If everything I’ve said challenges you a little, then good. Print out this article and give it to her inside a Valentine’s Day card and ask her what she thinks of it. Initiating the conversation is itself a big bouquet.
*wasbund: Thanks and credit to Patti Hillis for coining this fantastic word.
Read Mary’s AGEIST profile here.