To gift or not to gift?

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By David Whitlock

 “Let’s not get anything for each other this Valentine’s,” Lori announced to me.  “We don’t have time to look, and besides, we need to save the money.”

But how do I know she means it?

A man can never be completely sure. Sometimes his Valentine’s underlying message is: “I really want to be wowed but want you to figure that out without me having to tell you because if I tell you it won’t be the surprise I’m totally expecting you to surprise me with.”

Valentine’s Day can present complications.

It was so simple back in second grade, when Valentine’s gifting began for me.

My dad, a dentist, kept a stash of adjustable rings for children to choose from after they had endured the pain of a tooth pulled or cavity filled.

This made Valentine’s easy for me. While Dad was putting in a crown here or a bridge there, I was rummaging through his drawer of trinkets reserved for kids. No one could compete with the wide assortment of rings I could give the girls.  For several years, this worked marvelously. I found myself riding a wave of popularity. Indeed, I was the veritable Valentine’s Gift King of Washington Elementary School, thanks to Dad’s pretend rings.

But by sixth grade, Dad’s rings were out; they had run their course; girls no longer seemed interested in adjustable faux rings.

My Valentine’s troubles were just beginning.

A box of chocolates and a card for Dana was all my sixth-grade allowance could afford; Edna and I broke up not long after exchanging bracelets in seventh (Did she think I was trying to mirror her gift?); Trish and I split up a few weeks before Valentine’s (Was it the stress of facing the Valentine’s Day question?); and after that, fearing failure, I conveniently remained unattached during Valentine’s.

It wasn’t until my last year of high school that I again found myself searching for a Valentine’s gift. I scrutinized and examined every piece of jewelry in town within my price range and pestered my older brothers for advice before finally settling on a drop with my initials on it, which I proudly presented to Lori.

It was a success; she loved it; and I felt I had vindicated myself as a Valentine’s connoisseur of fine gifts.

But that’s been many Valentine’s ago now, and here I am, caught in a quandary: I want to surprise my Valentine with a gift, but I know it can’t ding our tight budget. Nor can it be a present so stupendous that she would be embarrassed if she doesn’t get me something.

Then I read an article about sacrificing as a gift for Valentine’s Day. The idea was to give up a bad habit, say smoking, drinking or swearing for your Valentine.  

I’m far from perfect, but when it comes to bad habits, I’m a boring guy.
What could I give up?

“Why are you wearing gloves in the house?” Lori would ask on Valentine’s Day.

‘”Oh, I’m trying to break my habit of picking my cuticles; it’s my Valentine’s gift for you. Enjoy.”

This would not work.

Then I read a recipe in the newspaper for preparing Lobster tail as a romantic meal for Valentine’s. “Now that’s what I’ll do: a romantic dinner prepared by me.”

I ran the idea past my daughter, Madi.

“I don’t think Mom likes lobster.”

Indeed, I’d forgotten. That would be a problem.

Stuck again.

And then at once, it came to me.

I could give up my habit of maintaining a plant-based diet, which is at times annoying for Lori, since she doesn’t adhere to my nutritional regimen.

Yes, this would be my sacrifice for Lori.

I’ll prepare for her a steak (medium rare), a baked potato (skin crisped) and asparagus (sautéed).  The challenge will be pretending I’m not actually savoring every morsel of that juicy steak, so she will be impressed with my altruistic gift for her.

And if she’s isn’t, I can always call Dad.

“Got any of those adjustable rings left?”