Gather 'round, guys. Valentine's Day is coming, and it's time to share a few romantical secrets.
Now, this isn't for the women. So gals, quit sneaking around, trying to learn these nuggets of relationship wisdom; after all, you get more than your share from those women's magazines I've seen in the checkout line.
You know the ones: They have headlines like, "10 Tricks To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed." I'm pretty sure there is just one trick: "Show up."
And this is just for the guys who like girls: I'm afraid I don't have any advice for the Brokeback Mountain types; they'll have to consult the checkout line for help.
This is just for the guys who like girls, and more specifically, just for the guys who like girls and haven't yet ventured out to get their significant others a Valentine's Day gift.
That's probably a lot of guys, judging from the crowd that will be streaming out of the grocery store Tuesday afternoon with sad-looking leftover refrigerated flowers, carrying the last of the picked-over cards ("To My Dearest Grandmother," you rationalize, can be skillfully edited to say "To My Dear," with just a little Wite-Out).
The problem, guys, is that because we don't plan ahead, we think it's too late for meaningful shopping. We're confused by all the alluring ads begging us to buy a three-diamond ring ("For Your Past, Present and Future Together, Which Includes A Lifetime of Debt To Pay For All These Diamonds") or other pre-packaged expressions of love, devotion and poor financial judgment.
We end up either spending more than we intended because the cheap stuff is already sold out. Or we wind up going to a fast-food restaurant because we failed to make reservations at a romantic place ("Look, honey - I pinched off part of the bun and made it into a heart! Um, those are tears of joy, right?").
No more. The secret (hey, no fair; I still see some women peeking - go back to reading Cosmo) is to not let the last-minute bug get to you; instead, look for gifts at places where women don't think of shopping.
Yep. The hardware store.
I know. You're smacking yourself in the head right now because you didn't think of this already. And if your wife is glaring at you across the table, she cheated and read more than she was supposed to.
See, while the less-enlightened among us are sheepishly standing in line at the grocery story Tuesday, looking at the women's magazines and wondering if the "Six Ways To Make Your Man Beg For More" is "show up again," you'll be cruising through Culpepper Ace Hardware or the Grovetown Farm and Garden Center or Lowe's. Or even Brown's Feed and Seed, if you're really a hard-core romantic.
This is more liberating than a 1970s bra-burning, isn't it? Just think: You don't have to fidget uncomfortably in a lingerie store, lying to the petite saleswoman that your wife is "just about her size" when you know she still hasn't lost the 28 pounds she gained from eating that first bite of wedding cake.
And you don't have to dream of the new sliding power miter saw you could have bought with the money you spent on past-present-future bling.
Nope, the hardware store is where you'll want to be. You know she wants a water-heater blanket: Women appreciate practicality, and you can promise to let her spend all the money you save on heating bills. Is there some honeydo job you've been putting off because you lacked the right screws? Bag 'em up with a note promising to finish the job. And nothing says "I Love You" like a bag of pre-emergence herbicide.
There's no reason you can't pick up a few things for yourself while you're there, either; hey, you know if she was buying you a shirt at Kohl's, she'd pick up a few things for herself, too.
On the way home, feel free to stop by the grocery store - but don't buy candy on the Valentine's aisle. Save that trip for Wednesday; the candy is usually half-price the day after a holiday. Instead, go to the regular candy aisle and buy a bag of little wrapped candy bars: Women think if they only eat one little bitty piece of chocolate at a time, they won't gain any weight. Humor them.
And because of that practical streak all women have (though it's sometimes deeply hidden), they'll appreciate it if you wrap your gifts in newspaper. Just don't use this edition; you'll want her to believe you thought this up all by yourself. (So will I.)
Does all this work? Sure it probably does! I know because I peeked, too. That's one of the women's magazine secrets about how to please men: To pretend to like anything we do for them with sincerity, because we so badly need their approval.
If all else fails, most hardware stores sell doghouses, too.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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