Couplehood: Avoiding the Valentine Clichés

By Andrea Karim on 8 February 2007 (Updated 10 June 2007) 3 comments

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, and you know what that means: lots of people are going to buy lots of dumb crap. But you are above and beyond that, because you read Wise Bread. I’m not saying that Wise Bread readers are smarter than everyone else, but I’m definitely implying it.

I didn’t realize that people still bought crappy Valentine’s stuff until I was at Walgreen’s the other evening and saw these huge, red, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. My lord. People must buy them, or they wouldn’t sell them… right? There might be a few people out there who don’t know how much better it is to be original, or slightly outside-the-box for obligatory holidays like Valentine’s Day.

First and foremost – know your target. Are you celebrating with a spouse, long-term significant other, or a newer love? You should know a bit about them by now – if your powers of observation are terrible, ask someone else who knows them well. “I just want to express how much I care about him/her” is a good way to phrase it (use him or her, don’t say “him/her”).

If you’ve been married a long time, and you think you know your spouse, please read this very serious cautionary tale.

Anyway, here are some common V-Day clichés that should be avoided at all cost. Well, not at all cost, because this IS supposedly a site about frugal living, but you get the idea.

Cliché #1: Chocolates

Chocolate is a lovely, lovely thing, as long as your recipient likes chocolate. Does your date like Skittles better? More of a Sour Patch Kids kind of guy? Consider these things before buying. If you settle on chocolate, then a huge box is unnecessary and tacky, and let’s face it, the chocolates suck. You’re much better off buying a small box of exquisite chocolates than a big slab o’ yuck.

If chocolates aren’t the thing, consider other sweets. Fresh mochi is good, although probably better arranged on a nice platter. If you have someone who is very Japanorama, Pocky is always appreciated. Aforementioned Skittles look super-cute in a pretty glass jar.

Cliché #2: Roses

I’ve already expressed my feelings about roses. Find something more interesting and less expensive. Arrange them yourself.

If your recipient has a green thumb, you might consider a live plant. Something cool, though, not a chrysanthemum from Albertson’s. Think about a small banzai, a gardenia, lemon tree, pretty cactus planter, or a Venus Fly Trap. (You could totally do a “Venus” theme if you went with the flytrap. You could also give a card shaped like the planet Venus, show up in a toga, and lip-synch “I’m your Venus”.)

Cliché #3: Lovey-dovey Hallmark Card

If you want to express your feelings, a Hallmark card covered in cupids, puppies, and pink hearts is a dumb way to do it. The oversize ones are even worse.

You can make your own card, but only if you have some sort of artistic talent, or if you TOTALLY AND UTTERLY LACK ANY ARTISTIC TALENT WHATSOEVER. Somewhere in between won’t cut it. I once saw a flip-book Valentine that was given to a friend by her crush. He used stick figures, but the simple little cartoon featured him handing her a heart and then getting a kiss in return. Super cute, and it only cost him a couple of bucks for the index cards and markers. And an hour of his time, but that's the point. Effort.

One time when I was totally broke, I surprised my romantic mark by covering their doorway with paper hearts. I stole the scrap paper from my workplace, so it was really, really free. But it was a pretty good set-up, if I do say so myself.

Cliché #4: Candlelight Dinner & Champagne

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If you are doing this yourself, then awesome. If you are going out, then more power to you. I like a smaller venue for romantic dinners, but sometimes the wacky places can be just as fun. I actually prefer jazz bars for a truly romantic moment – the ones that allow dancing are even better. But figuring out something different or unusual shouldn’t be too hard – been wanting to try Ethiopian food? Give it a shot. You can giggle nervously together while eating with your hands. Dress appropriately and make reservations ahead of time if you can.

Champagne is great. I’d rather enjoy it at home after dinner. It’s a great prelude to other things, like… Scrabble.

Cliché #5: Lingerie/silk boxers

It is so, so difficult to pick out lingerie for someone else. I don’t even recommend trying it unless something VERY specific has been pointed out to you and you are completely secure in your knowledge of what size is needed. She will not be happy to receive a size 16 nightie if she’s a size 6. Likewise, he’ll look stupid drowning in XL boxers if he’s 5’6” and 120 pounds.

Cliché #6: Stuffed Toys

In a word: no. That goes double for candy hearts and glitter stuffed into envelopes. Unless you have managed to find someone who genuinely loves stuffed toys (and if you have, think twice about the mental acuity of this person), then leave the childish stuff to the children. Or, if you must, don’t don’t don’t get a teddybear. Get a Valentine’s Day dragon or something.

Cliché #7: Jewelry and/or Perfume

Jewelry is pricey. I’d avoid it altogether. Yes, there are cheap, chintzy gold necklaces to be had at great prices in malls across America. But unless you’re dating K-Fed or Lady Sovereign, it’s just a messy idea. The real stuff costs a lot, and there are better holidays on which to give it. If V-Day is your special jewelry day, well, then, I can't help you, except to hint that vintage jewels are hot right now, and a sapphire kicks more butt than a diamond could any day.

Ditto perfume. I love perfume, but men and women have different senses of smell. Unless you’ve been given specific directions by someone in the know, don’t bother. If your love has a signature scent, you can always buy some related product, like a body lotion or a powder, but let’s face it, that’s just not very romantic. I say nix it.

Mind you, if you are really talented and super-loaded, you could pull a Smoove B and do all of the clichés in one night. But your date will have to have a great sense of irony, or post-irony, or whatever it is that we have these days.

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Paul Michael's picture

I always try and do something interesting and unique for my wife. For her birthday, I made her a card that was a message in a bottle. It cost less than a cliche Hallmark card and she felt very special.

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Slinky

I always say to skip the gifts and just spend time doing your favorite things together. Play board games or go skiing or whatever it is you like to do.

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Rene'

Who needs the "keepin' up with Jones" pressure, especially since the Jones are probably one step away from divorce court anyway. My fiance' just fixed my cable inputs for me and I'm feeling very loved. A no-cost-but-time idea I do like though, is writing a letter to your love...a real letter, no text or email. Beautiful and in these times, unique.