Ah, Valentine's Day, holiday of anticipation and angst. For some, it's a delightful excuse for public displays of affection, for others a form of emotional blackmail--a demand for loot. Some of us simply ignore the occasion while others go all out. Regardless of your attitude toward the holiday, it does present an opportunity to contemplate the meanings and forms of modern-day love tokens.
To give readers some Valentine's Day inspiration, we asked DG contributors and friends to suggest gifts for male and female Valentines. Their ideas range from "a bodice-ripper in a bottle" to a Pixar classic.
Besides solving all the tedious discussions about asking directions, the Garmin GPS routes your beloved around traffic snarls, gives him directions for shopping, restaurants, and florists, stores photos, and offers a choice of voices with sexy accents. Rev his engine.
Kate Coe is DG's chief correspondent.
For anyone, male or female, who loves 19th-century opera, I'd suggest a horizon-opening gift that combines passion and glamour: one of the phenomenal recent recordings of early opera.
1. Anything recorded by Fabio Biondi; my top pick would be Vivaldi's Bajazet.
2. Handel's sexiest opera, Giulio Cesare. The DVD of the Glyndebourne production features the greatest production numbers in recent opera history.
Joan DeJean, a professor of French literature at Penn, is the author of The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour. She was interviewed by DG here.
Groomzilla doesn't believe in separate gifts for men and women! Of course, this is largely because I try to pass off women's perfume as cologne and Coach purses as unisex carry-alls, but motives aside, boyfriends and girlfriends alike get only one recommendation this Valentine's Day: WALL-E on DVD.
The kid in all of us loves a good Pixar flick, and this Oscar-nominated film has a secret life as the best love story to come out of Hollywood in years. It might seem strange that an animated eco-fable starring an anthropomorphic trash compactor would get one in a romantic frame of mind, but I guarantee that this is the must-watch DVD for a cozy Valentine's night in.
Groomzilla is the nom de plume of a newlywed Los Angeles attorney who chronicled his adventures in gay wedding planning in a series of DG posts.
A Hermès silk scarf. So glamorous that American actress-turned-Monaco-princess Grace Kelly reportedly used one as a sling for her broken arm back in the Fifties. Audrey and Jackie adored them. SJP and Madonna do too. The intricately patterned French-milled silk squares were first produced in 1927 and are hand-screened in Lyons. Choose a versatile 36” X 36” size in classic Hermes orange or a top Pantone trend color for Spring 2009: bright blue, lavender or lemon. Spread your Valentine love to the rest of the world with the Offrandes d’un Jour pattern. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Indian charity CRY (Child Rights and You). The website’s “playtime with your scarf” is a how-to guide for 20 ways to fold: bohemian turban, prim neckerchief, sexy halter. Each method reveals different aspects of the overall pattern, so you decide how much you want to expose. Hermes.com or check vintage stores. $350-375.
Songes Eau de Toilette by French perfumer Annick Goutal. The actual color is a fiery reddish-gold. Officially a floral/oriental blend. Inspired by Annick Goutal’s daughter Camille’s romantic trip to the island of Mauritius. Sensual, sunny, rich, real.
A man should do everything with ease and grace. That includes commuting and making playlists. Give him a portable GPS navigator with real-time traffic navigation info and an iTunes tagger that lets him tag songs he hears on the radio so he can buy them on iTunes later. According to Consumer Reports both features will be available on the Dual Electronics’ NavAtlas XNAV43HD, which will retail for $280 when it goes on sale in late March or early April (give your guy a TK note). Bond has probably had one since 1975.
And speaking of the 70s, how about a little retro pornography? Our household is a fan of Playboy: Redheads, a collection of photographs the magazine published from the 1950s-1970s. If you’re a fan of blondes and brunettes too, you can get the three-volume boxed set. The prints are sometimes more kitsch than erotic (think girl with beehive eagerly awaiting her chess opponent while perched on a shag carpet) but the lack of cosmetic surgery enhancements and the BP (before-Photoshop) era absence of digital retouching makes these fantasy women seem like they just might be attainable. Which is somehow sexier.
Women don't want vacuum cleaners and mixmasters for valentines day. They want tokens of love. So for her I suggest he buy the largest South Sea pearl stud earrings he can afford--black or white--simple ones, no fancy filigree trimmings. If he can afford two sets, he should get one black and one white. Then she can wear them in split sets-- black on one ear, white on the other. Amazon has them from $149 to $7500.
Men like more technical things, so for him, I suggest a Kindle downloaded with free sample chapters of every book you think might interest him or --if you want to make him over--books that will make him a better conversationalist. [Editor's note: Amazon will release a new version of the Kindle on February 9.]
If he can't afford much, he can buy her a set of polyester ivory satin sheets and pillowcases. The sheets may be too slippery for daily use but satin pillowcases are great for postponing facial wrinkles and preserving hairdos. Do not buy the red ones--the color rubs off.
Another of my favorite gifts for women is a luxurious, washable silk jacquard kimono from Dreamsacks, $110, in baby pink and many other colors. They have them short too. They are great for traveling, because they come in a little pouch and fold up small, and they feel very glam for swanning around the house.
Joan Kron, contributing editor at large for Allure, was interviewed by DG here.
Gift idea for a man: Android Alien Blue Dial Mens Watch
This watch is made for a stylish but slightly nerdy guy who travels a lot. He will always know what time it is wherever you are.
Gift idea for a woman: Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker
Valentine's Day on a weekend means breakfast in bed! The Bialetti moka pot is as easy to brew as a drip coffee maker. Plus, it looks adorable on the stovetop. The 6-cup version is the perfect size for two.
Joanne McNeil blogs at The Tomorrow Museum and was interviewed by DG here.
I'm afraid I'm one of those party poopers who hates Valentine's Day. Maybe it has something to do with my junior high's Val-O-Gram program. For $.50 you could buy a friend a pink carnation, for $1.00, you could send a red carnation to the boy/girl of your dreams. What ended up happening is the popular girls would then roam the hallways with armfuls of flowers while the rest of us hid behind our locker doors, silently weeping. Screw you, Valentine's Day! What have you ever done for me?!?
I Hate Valentine's Day
The ultimate melancholy music man (please note song "I Will Never Marry.")
But, hey, let's get real here. Sometimes V-Day is really about gettin' a little something, something. To that end, why not surprise her with some AUTHENTIC Love Liquid from Kama Sutra Bedside Box Lover's Toolkit? The "handcrafted antique replica" box will look great next to your Precious Moments figurines and the kiddoes will never know! Special request, though, if you buy this, will you please report back on what the feather in the hacky-sack looking thing is? Inquiring minds....
Paige Phelps is a Dallas-based journalist and regular DG contributor.
A good present, for Valentine's Day or any other occasion, should be something tailored to the recipient, which makes generic assignments like this (and, yes, I'm the one who cooked it up) rather peculiar. We at DG can only hope that there's enough variety on our list to suit a wide range of sweethearts.
That said, something sensual is always good. So how about the oh-so-strokable Apple iPod touch, suitable for either sex? Personalize it with photos or a playlist of shared favorite songs.
Also, remember that you are giving the gift to your lover, not yourself. Don't put a bow on an effort at reform and expect a big thank you kiss. Take it from a blissfully married football widow, nothing says "I love you" like NFL films. He'll think of you every time he hears John Fucenda.
Similarly, if you're the type of guy to grouse about the silly impracticality of perishable flowers, surprise her with a big bouquet. (If you're sending it long-distance, I highly recommend Proflowers, either via the Amazon link here or their own website.)
Virginia Postrel is DG's editor-in-chief and a columnist for The Atlantic. She's writing a book on glamour for The Free Press.
While I am not exactly sure why it's happened or whether I deserve it, my husband has lately started doing something wonderful for me in the morning as I lie in bed, and that is bring me a cup of hot coffee
. And every morning, as I nestle a little deeper into the pillows, I say, "Thank you, baby," and he says, "Of course." Twelve years, and this new sweetness. Mm.
This one was difficult for me. I consulted a good friend, and his feeling was the same as mine. I'm not as big on "stuff" as I am on things that are thoughtful but also are something a couple can experience together.
So I'm running with this idea: an indulgent bath experience set up and managed by a woman's significant other. I really find indulgent bath and body care products completely irresistible. Maybe you won't share a bath but why not? Ideally, I see this as the woman getting treated to a spa experience at home.
Don't just pick any set. Know what her favorite fragrance type is: citrus, fruity, floral, earthy and go from there. For example, for me, it's floral scents with lavender or freesia being my first choices.