Valentine’s Day is coming up, so I thought I’d post a little guide to romantic gift giving. For the longest time, I had no idea how to give a romantic gift, mainly because I didn’t understand what the word “romantic” means. I’m a guy who interfaces more with computers than with people, and who enjoys reading about economics and sports statistics. One day I was driving home from work and realized that the word “romantic” is an antonym of the word “practical” and suddenly a lot of things I had been missing became clear to me. For example, if you’re like me, you never understood why so many people find jewelry to be a wonderful gift to receive. Allow me to explain.
The first rule of romantic gift giving is that practical gifts are never romantic. Your significant other may need new snow boots, but snow boots are not romantic, unless they’re very fashionable and don’t actually keep your feet dry. It doesn’t matter how much the recipient wants the gift in question, if it’s a practical gift, you won’t get any credit for being romantic.
The second rule of romantic gift giving is that for a gift to be appreciated, it has to exceed expectations. That means that big events call for bigger gifts. One time I went to lunch at Taco Bell, and bought a stuffed chihuahua for less than five dollars. I gave it to my wife when I got home, and it turned out to be one my wife’s favorite gifts. Why? Because she didn’t expect to get anything at all and because it showed that I was thinking about her while I was at lunch at Taco Bell. I had no idea it would be well-received at the time, I just bought it because she liked those old commercials with the dog. Anyway, had I bought her a stuffed chihuahua from Taco Bell for our fifth wedding anniversary, I don’t think it would have made it into the gift hall of fame.
The third rule of gift giving is that a gift is a token of generosity. In other words, the more you sacrifice to give a gift, the more the recipient will appreciate it. You may get chided for absurdity, but everyone wants someone to behave absurdly on their behalf, at least occasionally. The nice thing about this rule is that for most recipients, effort is a substitute for cash. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you have to put a lot into the gift somehow. Spending a bit more than you can afford on a gift is romantic. Going out of your way to pick up that certain something is romantic. Handmade gifts are romantic.
Now it should be clear why jewelry is a romantic gift. Jewelry is completely impractical, as it’s simply an adornment. It is obviously expensive. The recipient can wear the jewelry and show other people that someone feels like they are worth sacrificing for. The trick with jewelry is managing expectations. If you buy too much jewelry, you’ll get yourself into a position where you can’t outdo yourself. Giving romantic gifts is all about outdoing yourself. As reliable as jewelry is as a romantic gift, it doesn’t work for me. My wife doesn’t wear jewelry.
That brings me to a final point. You have to account for taste. If you give an unexpected, generous, romantic gift that the recipient will hate, you won’t get yourself anywhere. That’s one area where I can’t help you out. Pay attention to what your significant other likes, and avoid giving gifts that strongly reflect personal taste. In other words, avoid purses and shoes, unless you have seen your significant other point at a specific item and say something to the effect of, “I love that but could never afford it.” We’ve all seen the movies where a romantic gentleman surprises a lady with a fancy dress to wear to dinner. That doesn’t work in real life.
A final warning: You know what they call people who are excessively romantic? Idiots. If you buy expensive gifts but you can’t pay your rent, only idiots will appreciate those gifts. Your goal for romantic gift giving should be to astound and surprise, not to keep the recipient up at night worrying about your poor judgement. Good luck!