Today is Valentine's Day and thoughts for all of us are on those we love and hope will love us back. Each age has its own level of apprehension. It doesn't get easier for those just starting relationships and getting it wrong can reduce you to doing -- nothing (which opens up a whole new can of worms) .
Kindergartners-3rd Graders: Parents help select full packages of heart-and-lace-filled cards to punch out and share with all classmates (none left out, here). This is our first social card-giving tradition. Most are funny and introduce our young to the fun we can have with our language with every pun-filled card. The agony of who gets which card is only second to the real feeling of not wanting to give any away but keep them all to ourselves! Mothers and Dads make sure we do the right thing. By third grade, we start winnowing down the number of cards given and only our very special friends and family members are asked to be our Valentines.
New Loves: These require a totally different approach. Turmoil coupled with desire for those just starting out -- how sentimental can you really be without scaring the new love away? How silly, before you're dismissed as too cavalier? Get TWO cards, one frivolous and one serious, just in case? Tricky, tricky ground.
And, what about presents? Candy is the official neutral ground -- and, it's the size that determines the depth of feeling -- unless, of course, the giver eats it all! Whose gift was it? Flowers can be a single rose to a roomful, or a special bouquet of your loves favorite flower.
A word to the wise: find out whether or not your love really does like chocolate. Because YOU do, doesn't mean everyone does. A gift of chocolates to someone who doesn't like them, or is allergic, says that you just grabbed the most convenient thing around and really don't care about their feelings. I, personally, have never really cared for chocolate. It's okay but I'm a salt person, preferring things tangy rather than sweet. The best present I ever received was a lemon-meringue pie with my Valentine card. It told me that my love really understood me and what I liked. Lots of points gained for this one.
More permanent gifts require serious thought. They should be kept light and general for new loves, saving the diamonds, pearls, and Cadillac cars for those who know they are in a more committed relationship.
The one thing you don't do is send the SAME card to all your new loves, if you're still playing the field. That's just tacky.
Relationships over three months old: You should have a pretty good idea about the type of card to give, here, but it's still a very tricky place to be. Is there a real direction? More serious? Less? Both on the same page? Is this a true love for you? Ready to almost let go? The Valentine you give can add fuel to a fire or pour water all over it. Not giving a card, at all -- well . . .
Married: A time to let is all hang loose and gift cards that are funny, poignant, frivolous, full of deep meaning. Gifts are across the board, from the light-hearted to the moon. Having a special evening out at your favorite intimate restaurant, reminiscing about your love and what it means to you, all help strengthen your bond.
What's important is that you don't let it become just another day because you're trying to save money. Try to never save when it comes to chances of expressing your feelings for each other. These are the joys that make the hard times, easier. If money is tight, create your own cards and give "to do" lists. You can always save a dollar, here and there, during the year to have enough for Valentine's Day.
Whatever you do, don't give a really goofy Valentine without an accompanying serious one. Even though the receiver will say it's all right, they don't feel it in their hearts. Give love and, if you don't know how to say the words, take the time to shop early enough to find a card that will say it for you. You might even want to take a page from the Kindergartners and send all your friends one of those pun-filled cards as a "just keeping in touch" moment.
Happy Valentine's Day!