It’s not chocolates, flowers, or teddy bears. I know why these things start to look like a good idea: You’re at checkout at CVS and you see a Valentine’s Day–related article, and boom! You remember it’s February, which means that either you have just enough time to pull something together or you messed up. Real bad. You forgot Valentine’s Day and she said nothing, which is worse than a fight. Just so you know, it’s the 14th; It’s always on the 14th.
Then you remember two weeks ago, while you were on the couch thinking about a dog you saw on your way to work, and your girlfriend said, clear as a bell: no gifts. But does she really mean no gifts? As in, no gifts no gifts? Was she even talking about Valentine’s Day? It’s too hard to remember—you can only remember the dog. It was a really, really cool-looking dog.
But she has to want something. All girls do, right? Or is it not woke anymore to assume that a woman would want a gift for Valentine’s Day? Is she getting you something? You’ve talked about a Nintendo Switch a lot ever since your really cool friend Kevin got one. Kevin probably got his partner a gift. Kevin’s so awesome. Kevin is the cool-looking dog of people.
Your stress is appropriate: Valentine’s Day is a holiday designed to make us look inadequate. But there is a cure-all—something that every woman wants. There are very few things I’d recommend giving to all women; not even grilled cheese is universal. Hell, even cash is a controversial gift. But this advice works for every couple. And it’s evergreen. So you’re pre-welcome.
In the seminal film The Break-Up, there is a scene where Jennifer Aniston, who is, bizarrely, dating Vince Vaughn, yells at him, exasperated, “I don’t want you to do the dishes. I want you to want to do the dishes.” Of course he answers: “Why would I want to do dishes?”
No one wants to do the dishes. That means she doesn’t want to do the dishes either. She does, however, want the dishes done. It’s of value to her to have the dishes done. And he doesn’t care that she values that. She’s upset that she’s with someone who doesn’t want to do the work of being in a couple, and if she always has to ask him to do something, it doesn’t “count.” She’s still in charge of making sure the dishes get done.
This is the lament that my female friends have been rehashing for years: We want you to wantto do the work of being in a relationship with us. So, here is the deepest secret nobody—other than women—knows (the root of the root and the bud of the bud and all that) to making women feel loved:
Women are done planning. Do you know how many parts of your life women have planned? They have all taken care of planning something for you because you neglected to, or because you left something to the last minute. Because it didn’t occur to you that you would even need to plan. I’m positive. Yes, you have to RSVP to your friend’s wedding. Black tie doesn’t mean a suit! Did you get them a gift? Remember to rent a suit. No, seriously, don’t leave this to the last minute, you don’t own a bow tie, dude. It’s like someone noticed that we could juggle
multiple timelines when they stuck us in the kitchen in the 1950s, and after that we were tasked with all of planning from here to eternity.
We’re the ones who grab the Uber while you guys are still playing Madden 2 minutes before we have to go somewhere. We’re the ones who text everyone about going to that new bar on Friday night while you wait and see what’s happening tonight, hoping, dear God, that someone will drop hot fresh plans in your lap. Your idea of planning is probably “wyd tn?” And that’s fine. Somewhat. Okay, it’s really aggravating, but you guys do lots of other great things like insisting that you know how to pack the trunk of the car better than anyone else and wearing smelly-good colognes.
So give your partner a break and plan something. Anything. Well, not anything. Something she’d like. If you don’t know what she’d like, dinner is a safe and worthy bet. If you can afford to, make it a bit nicer. If you can’t, make a dinner yourself. The only rule is: Take care of everything.
Every single cog in the wheel that is your evening? Think of it. Don’t ask if she wants to Lift or drive. Make a plan. Make sure that she’ll be home in time for your reservation. You did make a reservation, right? Is there a place to get drinks afterward nearby? Look it up. What are you doing after that? Coming home and being cozy, over-full babies on the couch while watching that new German Netflix show? Cool. Have a plan. I can’t tell you how grateful she’ll be to not make any of the preparations. And to have someone who wants to take care of everything for her.