Once again, Valentine’s Day is nearing, that moment each year when we celebrate what it means to be in love. The traditional gifts? Cards and flowers and candy. Really uncomfortable lingerie. Some people, however, try to transcend tradition. I asked readers this year for some of the worst or strangest Valentine’s gifts they had ever received or heard about. Here are some of their responses.
• Selina Rooney: “My dad, a dairy farmer, once left a giant dried cow poop in the shape of a heart in the barn doorway for my mom. I don’t have any idea how he got the cow to poop a heart shape.”
• Nvair Kadian Beylerian: “Our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, my husband gave me a waffle iron. ‘But honey, it’s heart-shaped!’ he said in defense.”
• Shelagh Connor Shapiro: “Long ago, a boyfriend gave me a heart pin made of faux pearls, and then told me he’d found it under the passenger seat of the used car he’d just bought.”
• Danielle Libertucci Tucker: “I was in college and had been dating my boyfriend for five years. He had graduated and I was in my first year of grad school. He was giving me hints about my Valentine’s present. He was going to take me to a store to pick it out, as he needed me to try it on. It was something I would wear and keep for a long time. I leapt to the conclusion that he was getting me an engagement ring, and so I was giddy with excitement. I asked my sister if she would be my maid of honor. I bought bridal magazines, circled dresses, and daydreamed. Then on Valentine’s weekend, my boyfriend took me to Dick’s Sporting Goods, where I picked out a pair of rollerblades.”
• Ann Grady Lang: “After gaining 10 pounds my first year of college, my boyfriend gave me a huge, heart-shaped box of chocolates. I was floored. ‘Dude,’ I said, ‘you’re always telling me I need to lose weight, and now you’re giving me pounds of chocolates?’ His response: ‘Nobody said you had to eat them.’”
• Amy Nash: “My sister enjoys cheese and crackers, so my brother-in-law gave her a box of Cheez-Its. He thought he was being efficient.”
• Hope Lindsay: “Worst Valentine’s present? I thought I had read the signals and that I was finally getting ‘the ring.’ Instead, my gift was a roll of crepe paper. ‘I thought it was funny,’ my boyfriend said.”
• Becky Holt: “My husband gave me a loofa sponge and bath gel in a brown paper bag, stapled at the top, when we were in college. (I still married him; we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in July.) He delivered his gift to the front desk in the dorm where I lived, so the attendant called me to come get my present — which was behind rows and rows of bouquets of red roses. I was wondering which flowers might be mine, when the attendant presented the crumbled brown bag. I was a wee bit surprised. It was actually the first of many memorable, off-beat Valentine’s Day gifts.”
• Amy Feld: “The week before Valentine’s Day, the guy I was seeing gave me a dozen half-dead roses that he got at the gas station. He said the guy told him they’d be more expensive the following week. He was the last guy I dated before realizing I’m lesbian.”
• Alison Redlich: “This was back when my husband and I were still courting. As we were walking home from a family function in Manhattan, my mother asked Lee — then my boyfriend – what he had bought me. He replied, ‘Wait a minute,’ went into a bodega, bought a card (not sure it was even a Valentine), borrowed the cashier’s pen, and wrote, ‘Love, Lee’ on the bottom. Then he handed it to me and said, ‘I don’t do Valentine’s Day. Too contrived.’ To his credit, he spontaneously brings me flowers year-round.”
• Kathy Jablonski: “I received a bug repellant bracelet … from my husband.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.
(This column appeared originally in the Burlington Free Press on February 9. The paperback of Chris’s most recent novel, “The Light in the Ruins,” arrives on April 22.)