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LOVE THEMES; She lays all the cards on the table, he plays it safe. It all comes down to what the meaning of Valentine's Day' is.; REIMER VS. COWHERD


PSSST. Hey, Susan. Wanna know what Valentine's Day is all about for men?

I'll tell you what it's all about: pressure.

As the big day approaches, a man gets this jittery feeling in his gut, like he did before the SATs back in high school.

And all these thoughts start racing through his mind.

Did I get her the right gift?

Is it enough?

Is it sexy?

Is it too sexy?

What about the card? Does it say what I want to say?

What do I want to say?

Men go nuts trying to figure this stuff out, Susan.

Honest. You may think all we do this time of year is lay on the couch with the remote and a bowl of Doritos watching David Duvall in the

Buick Invitational.

And, yes, there may be some truth to that.

But we also devote a great deal of thought to Valentine's Day gifts.

Because we want to show our love. And because we know if we blow it, there will be hell to pay.

There will be bruised feelings and small, barely audible sighs of disappointment from the woman we love.

And if we've really blown it, there may be long periods of silence around the house and maybe even a full-blown scene in the kitchen later that night, after the kids are in bed.

Believe me, Susan, no man wants to go through that.

Are you kidding? That's like doing five years in Attica, only without the weights and the Ping-Pong tables.

Or sometimes this happens on Valentine's Day: A man goes out and buys his wife (or girlfriend, significant other, whatever) a nice mushy card, flowers, maybe a box of chocolates, too. Then he pulls into the driveway and finds out that his next-door neighbor Doug, the pain-in-the-neck who's always borrowing the chain saw, is whisking his wife off to Bermuda for Valentine's Day.

To Bermuda!

In fact, hey, isn't that a limo picking up Doug and Helen now for the trip to the airport?

By gosh, it is! And look, they're clinking their champagne glasses and waving bye-bye.

Gee, they seem so ...happy.

And there is our man watching them go, with his $2.25 Hallmark card and pitiful bouquet of weeds and cheap box of Forrest Gump chocolates. And now, compared to Doug, he feels like he's giving his wife a Yo-Yo for Valentine's Day.

So men certainly feel a sense of urgency as the day approaches, Susan.

Oh, you have no idea.

I have had Feb. 14 circled in thick, red Magic Marker on my calendar since Christmas. Because even though I have been married for 20 years, if I forget Valentine's Day, my life is over.

I know this. I accept this.

I am at peace with this.

Well, sort of.

The thing is, too, men have been indoctrinated for years as to the types of gifts they must absolutely avoid giving their loved one for Valentine's Day.

The Little Red Book of Contemporary Gift-Giving Ideology says this: no blenders, no coffee makers, no vacuum cleaners, no tires, no tools, etc.

Fine, fine, except ... well, let me tell you a little story about tools, Susan.

Some years ago, about two weeks before Valentine's Day, my wife and I were at Home Depot buying paint.

Anyway, as we're walking through the aisles, we happened to pass a display of electric screw drivers.

And my wife, apropos of nothing, says: "Y'know, I could really use one of them for the curtain rods in the kids' rooms."

So right away a little light bulb goes off in my head, just like in the cartoons.

And I'm thinking: "Hmmm, $17.95 from Black & Decker ... Valentine's Day coming up ... put a bow around that baby and it wouldn't look half bad!"

No, no, Susan, I didn't give her the electric screwdriver for Valentine's Day.

What do you think I am, some kind of caveman? (Don't answer that.)

But I thought about it. Darn straight.

And if I had any guts, I would have given it to her.

And I bet she would have loved it. Well, liked it, anyway.

And then the following Valentine's Day, I could have given her the separate five-piece Phillips-head set of bits.

And the Valentine's Day after that, I could have given her the battery re-charger.

But, no, I wimped out.

I bought her, I don't know, flowers.

Or a candy heart.

Or something like that.

That was the year Doug and Helen went to Bermuda, as I recall.

Pub Date: 2/13/99

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