Are you feeling a little clueless about how to choose the right Valentine's Day Gift?
I am a Professional Matchmaker and here's what I know:
-- Keep in mind that if you are dating someone, you need to acknowledge Valentine's Day in some way. If you try to pull the ol', "Valentine's Day is just a Hallmark holiday and I don't believe in it," you will just end up in the doghouse. Trust me.
-- Valentine's Day can be a tricky holiday because you want to do enough so that you get brownie points for effort but you don't want to do too much or go over the top because that could scare someone off or give the wrong message. Doing enough means doing something, anything, even if it's stopping at the Gristedes Supermarket on the way home and picking up candy and flowers. Doing too much means putting on the full court press for someone you barely know with flowery love cards, and dinner at the most romantic restaurant in the city like Aureole.
-- You need to give gifts and cards that are commensurate with the level of your relationship. This means that if you have only been out a few times, you need to pick a Shoebox Greeting card that is more playful, sarcastic and funny rather than mushy gushy. In this instance, mushy gushy will make things awkward and give off the wrong message. Just the same, if you have been dating a long time, you can't get away with a funny card or an impersonal card and you can't get away with just signing your name. If you have been together for awhile, your beau is going to expect a sentimental card, a Hallmark card that has script font and with a handwritten message in it from you.
-- Keep in mind that women always compare their Valentine's Day gifts, cards and experiences with their friends and colleagues. The women always do a play by play for each other, so you need to step up. You definitely don't want your gal to be the gal by the water cooler who has nothing to brag about. You need to give her something to cluck over. And the water cooler winners are not always the ones who get the most expensive gift or were taken to the fanciest dinner. The admired woman by the water cooler is always the one who tells the most romantic story about her Valentine's Day evening that is met with the most "Ohhhhhs and Ahhhhs" about how sweet and adorable you were. Can you be that guy?
-- Lingerie is a risky gift. A lot of men want to give lingerie to their ladies. First of all, they like seeing their gal in it and secondly, they think this is a good way to signal to their gal that they think she is sexy. However, if you are thinking of buying lingerie, make sure you are at the "lingerie" stage of your dating or the girl might get offended and think it is an inappropriate sexual overture. Equally, make sure that you pick tasteful lingerie- if you pick out a raunchy teddy straight from the pages of Hustler, your girl might think you don't respect her. You can only go with sleazy lingerie if sleazy and edgy is part of your sexual repertoire with your gal; don't use Valentine's Day to change things up.
-- Make sure to choose a gift that your beau would like, not just something that you would like. For example, don't get her tickets to a Knicks basketball game rationalizing that it's a night out for the two of you and at least you get to see some basketball. Instead you should get her tickets to a Broadway show like La Cage aux Folles that SHE would enjoy and you should go along with a big smile on your face. And girls, don't get him a manicure and pedicure for Valentine's Day because you think he has disgusting feet and you think of it as a "pampering day"; men don't find pampering to be enjoyable. Instead, buy him a day at Skip Barber race track and save the hygiene intervention for another day.
-- Make sure you choose a gift that has something romantic and thoughtful about it and isn't just practical. Don't buy her a new blow-dryer because you know she needs one or a gift certificate to ger her hair colored. Take the time to pick out a gift she would like and wouldn't buy herself. Or think about keeping her company while she is at the beauty salon; she will find this to be romantic.
- If you can't spend a lot of money, go with a creative and sentimental gift. Some good ideas are things like a handmade gift certificate redeemable for one back massage or a gift certificate redeemable for 5 "non- veto-able" movie choices. Or sprinkle rose pedals and Hershey kisses all over the bedroom and have a bubble bath drawn in a candle lit bathroom. Or make a mix CD of all of your honey's favorite songs but remember it's about his or her favorites, not yours! Gifts don't have to be expensive to be romantic.
-- If you are dating more than one person at the same time, you need to make sure that you think of all of them on Valentine's Day. It's okay to choose your favorite for the Valentine's Day evening but if you forget about the others, they probably won't be sticking around thereafter. Plus, if you don't see one of your gals on Valentine's Day proper, you need to have a good excuse or she will be suspicious and that will get you into trouble as well.
-- If a "where is this relationship going" conversation starts brewing during your romantic evening (and many times they do), the best way to handle it is too focus on the romantic evening you planned and calmly suggest you save that conversation for another time.
- If you got a gift for your gal and you can tell that she didn't like it or you chose poorly, don't get defensive, just be humble and say that you are not very good at choosing gifts and you would love for her to come with you next time and help you pick,so you can get her something you really loves. The fact that you would say something like this to her will make her feel good and will compensate for the fact that your gift was not what she was expecting.
Samantha Daniels is a well known professional matchmaker, President of Samantha's Table Matchmaking and the author of "Matchbook: The Diary of a Modern Day Matchmaker" (Simon & Schuster). You can read more from Samantha on her personal blog, Matchmaker in the Know. Follow Samantha Daniels on Twitter @Matchmakersd.