PERRY: Valentine’s Day is the most awkward time to look a grift horse in the mouth

What I assumed to be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for last year, was not. Trying to be helpful during the coldest time of the year, who wouldn’t want some love from some warm clothing? My wife, apparently. PHOTO BY DAVE PERRY


I’ll get the unpleasant part out of the way: admitting that I suck at giving gifts my wife likes.

Apparently, we both hate that about me.

Now for the really unpleasant part. I don’t know what to get for her this year for Valentines Day to hate.

It’s not like I don’t want to get her something that makes her squeal with delight when she opens that Nordstrom-looking box while we’re having that awesome romantic dinner, with us and my 27-year-old daughter. But I fail because of my disease. I’m frugal.

OK. I’m a liar, because I’m actually cheap.

I don’t want to be miserly. It’s congenital. I was raised the poor son of penny-pinching parents. They were not the kind of people who hoard money, we just didn’t have any. So anything that cost more than a buck or two was a lot of money. Anything more than $100 was a life-changing expense.

I don’t mean to make it out like I lived in a holler and ate opossum pie for Thanksgiving. But Friday was payday, and we went to the grocery store for the week’s entertainment. As a family, we were not only poor, but kinda fat, too. Store brand canned rice pudding is not at the top of the list of best nutritional choices.

For as long as I can remember, my culinary diaries have been mapped out by Wednesday circulars. They still are. I horrify my daughter by always scouring the clearance racks and rooms. I treasure day-old donuts and mangled boxes of cereal for pennies on the dollar. Bag o’ nasty avocados for a buck? You betchya.

“Wow. I didn’t think anybody actually bought this stuff,” one checkout clerk quipped one day, as I immediately drew looks of curiosity and then pity from the other customers. She winced when I pulled out the coupon for the damaged, sticky bottle of Pine Sol, but gave me the discount.

It was cool.

To this day, while my wife, Melody, and all my friends live in regular dread of having to shop for groceries. I still love it. Any food expenditure was and is justifiable. I have no problem paying $7.63 for enough farmed salmon for three meals — only when it’s on sale — but laying out that same amount on decent towels or sturdy laundry baskets? Sinful.

“Why not just use old boxes for dirty laundry?” I asked recently. Melody seemed to think I was offering to move and obliged me. She has nice towels for her and our daughter. After I complained about the price of them, I’ve been relegated to using something most people would say no longer would suffice to wash the car. It sops up the water but leaves behind a cache of lint and threads in my hair. It’s bad karma, I’ve heard more than once.

So I want to buy something nice for Valentine’s Day, I just get all weird when I see how much money it costs. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a tightwad, but I’m no hermit. We live in a kinda nice house. I ski, just not a lot, which is an issue. Once a year or so we’ll fly somewhere very far away and obscenely expensive — if we’d gone when normal people go. But I can tell you where the damaged goods and clearance racks are just about anywhere in Avignon, Mainz, Buenos Aires and weird American cities in a good many states.

So it would seem like I would win the best husband prize when one year I announced I was giving Melody a trip to Iceland for Valentine’s Day.

“Are you going, too?” she asked, making me feel sort of funny.

“Well, yeah.”

“Then it’s a vacation, not a Valentine’s Day gift.”

Melody and my daughter seem to have a lot of rules about things like this. I, however, am unencumbered.

She’s difficult to please when it comes to birthday, anniversary and Christmas gifts. It’s not like I ever gave her a sweater that would win an ugly sweater contest. Well, there was one that I kind of wondered what I was thinking when she pulled it out of the box. She wondered that, too. I got it from the rack of doom.

And it’s not like I’m the kind of cad who gives household appliances as gifts. Well, there was a vacuum, but she said she really wanted it. It wasn’t the one she wanted. It was a knock-off, and I got it on sale. But the thought was first-rate.

And the toaster, well, that was supposed to be a joke, and it would have been a really good one if I’d remembered to get something else for that Valentine’s Day. It’s not like it wasn’t a nice toaster. Just not a name brand, and it was a display model or a return or something. You couldn’t even see the dent on the back side.

OK. I’m a loser. I go to and look at the stuff she talks about loving and think, “Seriously? $50 plus shipping for craft projects? I could make that for $2.”

But then I run out of time, and it’s days or hours away from Valentine’s Day and, well, who wouldn’t want a knock-off IKEA shower curtain from Big Lots?

And that brings me to the waning hours before V-Day hits this year. I’ve already been warned about gift cards, which are apparently a euphemism for not caring enough to actually find a gift. I, however, would love to be euphemised. Not Melody.

And looking through the Harbor Freight Dollar Days circular for the gift that will save my marriage and my reputation finds me feeling grim. If you have suggestions, send them now.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Mastadon, Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or  [email protected]

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1 month ago

Hey Dave–I have to admit that I got divorced many years ago because I didn’t get what I asked for year after year: with two young kids and two big dogs, I just wanted my baseboards dusted. No go. Bye now. If she skis with you, then you got this: something warm, high-end and fashionable (maybe red or pink?) Bet you don’t skimp on YOUR ski wear/equipment 😉

1 month ago

You could stop writing woke crud

1 month ago
Reply to  Noneya

What a sad world you must live in.