Saturday 23 September 2017

Una Ni Mhaoldhomhnaigh: No useful gifts wanted - don't go practical this Valentine's Day

Listen up lads, says Una Ni Mhaoldhomhnaigh. Don't be tempted to give your Valentine a practical present

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Brace yourselves. It feels as though Santa has only just left town, but, lo and behold, St Valentine's emotional-blackmail fest is upon us. The Hallmark-initiated, money-spinning monster is hideously commercial; crass, even. We should know better, but somehow the pressure to deliver some Valentine love, sealed with a generous swipe of a credit card, remains. "It's in giving that we receive" - no, St Francis, it's not; it's in receiving that we receive.

I was the recipient of an electric blanket a few Valentine's ago, and I'm still not the better of it. Now, before you write me off as ungrateful, demanding and materialistic, let me just say that I'm a fan of practical gifts. My lovely mammy has gifted me many an electric blanket in her time, and they've always been warmly received (pun intended). It's a perfectly lovely expression of love from mother to daughter. Gifting electric blankets tells us a lot about the Irish mammy's obsession with hypothermia too, but let's analyse that another time.

Replacing your girlfriend's recently defunct bedwarmer via a few clicks of a mouse is just too close to effortless. I suggest a blanket ban (pun unintended that time, but I like it). When it comes to demonstrations of romantic love, all electrics make the naughty list. Home electronics being especially ill-advised. Their gift-tag may as well read "no interest in you".

On the night of the long sighs, my beau arrived with a promisingly large parcel. I was never one for buying into the best gifts being of the smaller variety, and had it stripped of its wrapping in a New York minute. My face, when I saw the contents, was not a pretty sight. Although I think the blanket confirmed that he found my face none too pretty at any time. I shared my discontent all night long. I googled "buying your girlfriend an electric blanket" and one post advised "just tell her you don't like her". I quoted that over and over. There were tears (mine) and half-baked apologies (his) and hysterical demands for understanding and appreciation (me again). The Champagne, which I had expected to pop open as I basked in the warmth of his love, remained sulking in the fridge. The atmosphere on the couch would have done a better job of chilling those bubbles, truth be told.

I managed to convince myself that terrible gifts are a rite of passage in relationships. To confirm that men are a shower of lazy, thoughtless sods, and to talk myself out of dumping my lazy, thoughtless sod there and then, I went back online, looking for tales of woe. The former footballer Gary Lineker once bought his wife an onion cutter for Christmas. I still win the pity prize though, because I'm sure it was only one of many other, better gifts. I'd say the fact that they are no longer married is directly related to the onion cutter all the same.

Back to me. I fought my instinct and didn't dump him over blanket-gate. The following December, I was working in China. His gift arrived three or four days after Christmas. December deliveries are dodgy, and within China they're uncertain any month of the year, so its late arrival wasn't a sackable offence. It was a nice big box: good. A bit on the light side: possibly not so good. My Chinese colleagues gathered excitedly to see what the wise man had sent from the west. As he had negative form on the present front, I felt uneasy, and unwrapped it slowly, hoping the crowd would have dispersed by the time I had finished. Hadn't felt uneasy enough, as it turned out. In the big box was a small bottle of Britney Spears perfume. Who knew she was a nose? I'm still not sure what demographic makes up the target market for Britney's merchandise, but women freewheeling out of their 30s, as I was at the time, surely don't form part of it. Hit me baby, one more time.

It's my civic duty to spread this message: when buying your loved one a Valentine's gift, don't allow yourself to be seduced by anything too practical, like an electric blanket. Or anything too random, like a former pop sensation's scent. My ex never needs to know that, despite myself, I love that blanket; it's very cosy of a winter's night.

Now go forth and make someone feel loved - but, for God's sake, think before you swipe.

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