Valentine’s gifts that make a vacuum look good

Valentine’s Day is coming, that day in February when we are supposed to buy or wear stripper lingerie to remember the life of a third-century Roman saint who died on the Via Flaminia. In truth, not all couples celebrate with thongs or chocolate or chocolate thongs.

As a public service, a few weeks ago I asked readers for the single worst Valentine’s Day gift they had ever received. (Just call me Cupid.) I was actually a little overwhelmed at the impressively bad choices some of us have made. So, as a public service, here are a few of the responses I received. Here are those things you should never confuse with an appropriate Valentine’s Day present.

• Nicole Williams Adamowicz: “A box of floppy disks. ‘But you need them,’ said my boyfriend.”

• Evan Wing. “A two-page letter from my girlfriend saying that she was breaking up with me.”

• Angi Magnanti: “Three cardboard Valentines cut out of the Little Debbie snack cake box. No snack cakes, just the Valentines.”Unknown

• Jude Bond. “On Valentines Day in college, a new beau took me on our first date to see ‘Deep Throat.’ That was our last date.”

• Carol A. Wheel: “A large print Sudoku book.”

• Elayne Carringer: “In college, I got dumped two years in a row on Valentine’s Day. The second time was by my serious boyfriend who, after blowing off our planned date, decided he was going to spend v-day with his buddies because he ‘needed time to think.’”

• Sharon Miller Buchanan: “A blender from my fiancé — and a cheap one at that.”

• Barbara Gayle Dozetos: “Spray cheese. Seriously. Fake cheese in a can.”

• Julie Failla Earhart: “The gentleman I was dating gave me a card that said, ‘Best Wishes, Mike.’”

• Zepure Talar Kurumlian: “My ex-husband, after dating me for five years and being married to me for one, and knowing that I don’t like chocolate, brought home a box of chocolates — on Feb. 15th. It had already been unwrapped. He apologized that he’d forgotten it in his car the night before. He said he’d eaten some that morning because his whole car smelled like chocolate.”

• Deborah Spofford Churchill: “On my very first Valentine’s day as a new mom – after a very difficult pregnancy and rough emergency delivery — I was really excited to get … a sweatshirt. Yay.”

• Tracy Kahl: “A heart rate monitor for exercising, because Valentine’s Day is all about the ‘heart.’ I interpreted it as a not so subtle hint that I needed to exercise more. He made it up to me by dressing up as cupid and bringing a dozen roses to my office and asking for forgiveness.”

• Maggie Rogers: “A vacuum cleaner.” (Note: Three other women reported receiving vacuums. None were happy.)

• Barbara Jester O’Brien: “A chameleon that lunged out of the box and got tangled in my necklace. He did change color, though, to match my turquoise sweater.”

• Mandy Mullinix: “I collected cow figurines, so a guy I’d been dating found a six-foot-tall stuffed cow. I never knew what to do with it, so I sat it in a dining room chair. One night, I got up for some water in the kitchen. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw that giant cow sitting there.”

• Alison Fraser: “Three days after a Valentine’s Day that was present-less, my disappointment guilted the negligent one into buying me a half-off tin box of chocolate sardines. They had gone bad.”

• Sarah Woodard: “A field guide to obstetrics and gynecology – a book filled with photos of birth mishaps and defects.”

Finally, there is this piece of advice from my friend and book publicist, Jennifer Marshall: “Don’t people know to just buy themselves their own damn present?”

This is especially true if you want a vacuum.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

(This column appeared originally in the Burlington Free Press on February 10, 2013. Chris’s new novel HOUR OF THE WITCH, arrives May 4.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.