Get Busy on A Thoughtful Valentine Gift

Forget the overpriced flowers, cliché heart-shaped candy box, and predictable greeting cards. Show your significant other that you care enough to put serious thought into the gift. Nothing says "I love you" like paying attention.

Some of you just hate Valentine's Day as a commercialized artificial demand to demonstrate your affection by shopping… get over it. You don't have to spend a lot of money or observe the floral ritual, but can you really afford give the impression that you are the Curmudgeon of Romance? I think not. This is not the time to be an activist. If you must, do something special on February 13th to register your disgust with the system. But do something.

This requires you to spend some time thinking about the object of your affection. What do they like to do? Do they collect something? Is there something they keep meaning to do for themselves that you can do for them? An indulgence or small luxury you can treat them to?

Before you rush off to eBay to find a gift… there is a No-No List. For a woman, no matter how much she needs one, do NOT buy her a vacuum cleaner or a handy car emergency kit. "I just want to make your life easier, honey!" Time and place, dude… make her life easier with a new mulch shovel on Arbor Day, not The Big Romance Day. Same goes for men's gifts; even if they really want a riding mower, save it for a birthday. Certainly don't buy them the tools they need to fix YOUR car. Or a gift that reflects the job you want them to get, the clothes you think they should start wearing, or the healthy habit you think they should have.

Gifts should show that you spent time, and thought, not money. Sure, some people love expensive gifts, but more likely, it will look like you spent money to hide the fact that you couldn't think of something good. If you spend a bundle, do it because you tracked down something rare and wonderful. Never spend big money if money is a big issue in your relationship. Spend time, not cash.

So, what is on the Yes-Yes List?

GIFTS OF SERVICE. Give a weekend of your time fixing or cleaning everything that needs it, without making the person feel be-holdin' for it. Give a gift certificate for a meal you cook and clean-up after, especially if you never do that. Even if you can't cook, the effort will be both amusing and thoughtful. Do dishes for the first time in your life… find someone who knows how and ask them. The fact that you did that will be impressive. Give a weekend of your time waiting on her (or him) hand and foot. Fetch her purse, open every door, call her m'lady and focus on what she wants next. Ever painted someone's toenails? Be her loyal servant for a day or two (and see what you learn about her.)

GIFTS OF ORIGINALITY. Did you know that you can hire an artist for a reasonable sum and get custom art or illustration. Have a favorite poem illuminated buy a calligrapher. Make something with your own hands… jewelry, art, pottery, carving, or his portrait in tile mosaic… walk around an art store for ideas. Or have something with personal importance framed elaborately… a cocktail napkin you saved from your first date… the ticket stubs from the movie where you first whispered, "I love you."

GIFTS OF COLLECTABILITY. Do they love a particular author, actor, or movie? Track down a first edition book, a movie theater lobby poster, or an autographed item. Buy a sheet of uncut collector cards for sports teams, comic book heros, or fantasy games. Movie animation cells, rare recordings, and hard-to-get editions from other countries… all of these show you did some work to get them something they will love.

GIFTS OF ROMANCE. These are particularly special if you are normally not a sappy, gushing, romantic fool. Have trouble expressing your feeling in words? Spend time writing her a poem or an essay about what she means to you. Give the gift of attention… remove all the things that normally keep you from relaxing together. That can be tough for working families. Farm out the kids, put away the work, ignore the undone housework, and spent time reminiscing about why you love about each other. Make a lot of all the things you like about the other person and read it outloud. Make the list loooong and feed him/her a candy heart or peeled grape with each item. "Over the top" is the key. Be a fool for her/him.

GIFTS OF RELAXATION. Get a fancy hotel room in your own city, order in room service, and watch movies for a whole weekend. If your partner has kids, YOU arrange the babysitter (enlist a relative). Give her a certificate for a spa weekend or a women's retreat. Give him a afternoon at a men's spa for his first facial and massage. Get lightly-scented massage oil and set up a "spa" at home.. perhaps hire a professional massaage therapist to give you his-n-hers massage or foot reflexology.