A few nights ago, I strode along Pearl Street with a friend, complaining long and loud about Valentine’s Day. Not because I hate the holiday itself — in fact, I’m fairly neutral about the whole thing — but more because I never know quite what to write about. I mean, Valentine’s Day is the epitome of the consumer holiday, what with expectations of flowers, chocolate, cards, big dates, and the like. But the anti-holiday rhetoric is just as cliché and overused, and I’m bored of both arguments. Last year I wrote about the history of the growth of the holiday as a consumer thing, but this year I’m kind of at a loss — thus the whining to my friend. In the face of this storm of writer angst, he admirably retained his equanimity and simply said matter-of-factly that he’s always wanted to give someone a chinchilla — or maybe a mating pair of geckos — for Valentine’s Day.
After I stopped laughing, I realized that my friends might all have better ideas on this than I do. This sent me asking everyone I know for the least-cliché thoughts they had on the subject, and how they thought money might be related. And that’s how, for someone who’s pretty neutral on the whole thing, I spent an inordinate amount of brainpower on Valentine’s Day.
Most people seem to value thoughtfulness over monetary value. Obviously, the money involved in buying two dozen expensive roses and a life-sized chocolate-and-diamond replica of a dove (ew) doesn’t make that any less of a dumb idea: you could get anyone that, and there’s very little personal thought involved there (unless you’ve had a running joke about giant chocolate installations). But at the same time, those who argue that hand making something automatically shows thought are straight-up wrong. I mean, the extent of my creative abilities vanishes right around drawing stick figures or sprinkling glitter on some paper. I’m sorry, but the homemade-ness of those objects is not going to win anyone over with delight. If you’re an incredible crafter, then go and make beautiful things and may the Force be with you. If you’re a normal human, you might be a little more stuck.
Now, no one said gifts have to be involved at all. And they don’t. But there is something to be said for acknowledging the people that make your life better.
My interviewees’ tactics all revolved around this general idea, but all in slightly different ways. One friend, for instance, said she’d like to receive an oil change, since that’s been looming over her head for weeks. My artist roommate makes gorgeous cards for everyone she likes (grandparents, friends, hopefully roommates) and writes something really nice in each one. Then there’s my sister, whose oft-stated career path of choice is to marry and then divorce an oil sheik. She thought for a second and said that she didn’t care if it was cliché, she’s ok with her cliché-ness and she wants roses, dammit.
My idea of a perfect gift? I think I speak for all of my graduating friends when I say that if you could do my entire post-school job search for me, and set me up with the perfect career, I’d marry you on the spot.
Vivian Underhill is an environmental sciences major at CU and writes about being cheap once a week for the Colorado Daily.