February 13, 2019 at 03:00AM by CWC
I’m sure there are plenty of Valentine’s Day gift guides available that factor in the longevity of a given relationship—and you should obviously feel free to consult away. But as “relationships” themselves get blurrier and blurrier in definition, the holiday mostly gives the gift of stress. If you just started seeing someone new, not only are you left to wonder what kind of gift your new special someone would even like, but also what signals you’re sending with what you choose to give. (Heck, the whole conundrum of gift-giving is an issue that’s fraught with confusion even for couples who have been together for ages.) So, as your no-BS friend from the internet, I have one thing to tell you: There is no need—I repeat, NO NEED—to get a Valentine’s Day gift for someone you’re newly seeing.
Maybe the other person just came out of a long-term partnership and you can’t tell if you’re a rebound. Or, the two of you have been out thrice and you kind of like them, but you’re keeping your options open. Basically, if it seems light-years too soon for a DTR conversation, you can save your money for more worthy buys than chocolates and conversation hearts.
If you’re still left wondering “but, WHY?” because you really want to do something to show your interest, well, you’re a sweet soul. It is possible to gift small tokens without making things weird. Below, learn how to read the room before you dive into your next date with a million long-stemmed roses that accomplish nothing beyond making things feel wildly awkward.
Are you even seeing this person on Valentine’s Day?
The first step to knowing whether you should gift or not is figuring out if you’re even celebrating the holiday together. And, if it hasn’t been mentioned by now, either bring it up yourself and make a plan, or don’t—but definitely don’t expect for the other person to do so. If you’re not seeing each other, no gift necessary.
Have plans to see each other not on February 14, but on some other Valentine’s Day-adjacent occasion (like the following weekend)? In this case, make sure you communicate about whether or not you’re celebrating the Hallmark holiday together.
Yep, it’s a date
Okay, okay, if you sense genuine promise in this nascent relationship, and you really do want to give a V-Day gift, then a small token of affection isn’t entirely out of the question.
For example, while courting my partner, I gave him a Prince sticker because, well, Vinnie’s Pizzeria was handing them out willy-nilly, and he really loves Prince. Very weirdly, I carried the sticker around in my purse until we “accidentally” crossed paths again.
It’s sweet to offer something small, a touch personal, and not necessarily romantic—with a tiny price ceiling. It’s a way of saying, “I remembered this little thing about you, I’m excited to learn more about you, and if this blows up in my face I’m not taking a gigantic financial hit.”
The point behind this story of my very niche gift is that it’s sweet to offer something small, a touch personal, and not necessarily romantic—with a tiny price ceiling. And if you can also pretend it’s something you didn’t devote much effort or thought to procuring—even better. It’s a way of saying, “I remembered this little thing about you, I’m excited to learn more about you, and if this blows up in my face I’m not taking a gigantic financial hit.”
But what if you don’t know anything personal about them?
If you don’t know even a generic interest of someone you’re dating, well, chances are you can forgo the gifting game. Still, if you really feel you must, opt for something the two of you can share. Wine is always a solid choice, and healthy baked goods certainly work, too. This way you’re elevating your shared experience that might make for a great memory to look back on.
And obviously, if the chocolate-and-flowers cliché feels right to you—go ahead. You’ll most likely get a welcome, happy response from the recipient. Just make sure not to expect anything in return—especially if the two of you never discussed the holiday or your mutual plans for it. If it’s out of generosity and personal desire, give, give, give, you kind, romantic soul, you.
But, the second that quest for the perfect gift spikes your stress, show yourself some love and put the kabosh on that anxiety attack in the making. After all, if you’re with someone who’s the real deal, you’ll have next year to exchange Valentines.