A Comedian's View: Seven Things You Better Not Give for Valentine's Day

Humorist and author Gina Barreca - valentineAs humorist and author of "It's Not That I'm Bitter," Gina Barreca (right) puts it, Valentine's Day is ripe for wrong turns, especially if you're attempting to cover your bases on a budget. Here are her helpful hints about what to avoid in the gift department, with the caveat that these rules apply to everyone except George Clooney, who, she says, could open a can of lentils over the sink for her V-Day dinner and she'd find herself thinking "How did George know this is what I've always wanted!?"

Gina offers seven rules for what to avoid in your Valentine gift-gifting, even when on a budget.

1. 'None of This Homemade Crap'

Don't say, "I'll give you a back rub with some mineral oil, or maybe some WD-40, and it will count as a 'spa treatment.' " It doesn't, it won't and you shouldn't do it. "A spa treatment is something which takes place out of the home, where a person from a former Eastern Bloc country surrounds you with towels and doesn't complain that this is really boring after 10 minutes." A romantic dinner, by definition, is a dinner that someone else cooks for you in a restaurant. "Women have been pulling this off for years," says Gina, "and now men have gotten into the act." End it people, now.

2. 'Don't Give Her a Device You've Been Telling Her for Years She Needs to Learn How to Master'

Chances are, unless she's suggested otherwise, she really doesn't want a GPS or a universal remote or "that plastic-wrapping contraption you saw on TV that wraps food and everything else so that it looks as if it's in a giant condom." Says Gina: "You believe she should like this, but she doesn't and even more secretly you know that. You are only giving her this device to further bully her into learning how to do something that you want her to do." This is a gift to whom, exactly?

3. 'No Domestic Appliances'

Not even things that have been on a pre-existing list, like a new vacuum cleaner or microwave. Not even if your microwave is "so broken you are receiving messages from NASA on the damaged frequency" and you seriously need a new one. "Valentine's Day gifts must be frivolous, not functional," Gina says. What is also on this list, adds Gina, are giving her a gym membership (never a good idea) or a gift-certificate to a home-delivery weight-loss food-prep service, "which might make her change the locks or move to another city entirely."

4. 'Never Buy Something With a Past Expiration Date or Damaged Goods'

By birthright, women check expiration dates. Faithfully. If you buy Godiva chocolates at Odd Lots, "the chocolate will burst open in its own end-of-life death throes," Gina says. If you buy 500-count Egyptian cotton sheets and scrape the Bed, Bath & Beyond sale sticker off, women will know that they were reduced to $29.99 because women can still feel the residual adhesive when they fondle the package. Women will know that the damaged box did not get damaged between the store and your car in transit but had been already "returned" merchandise because the zipper on the package was ripped open by someone's beagle and chewed up. Women will see the teeth marks. Count on it.

5. 'Valentine's Day Cards Expire in Their Own Way'

Don't buy cards with a character from a TV show that's gone off the air. It's not vintage, it's simply a sign you are being cheap. If the show is not on a major network, it is not OK. You are shopping wherever products go to die. Also, adds Gina, no cards in a foreign language unless you speak it.

6. 'Don't Re-Gift Something From Her Own House'

Yes, it's been tried and is a one-way ticket to the couch. You can buy her another version of something you know she loves, but she doesn't need one more pair of alien day-glo dishwashing gloves, no matter how much you heard her thank the thoughtful person who got her the originals. Think Versace.

7. 'Clearly Abandoned Stuffed Toys Are Out'

They are depressing and often have noticeable stains. It is difficult to magically turn them into romantic items. A leftover Rudolph with a heart slapped on it is a no-no. You are giving this gift because you want to be rejected, no other reason. Under no circumstances is it acceptable, unless, of course, George Clooney brings it over.


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