Cupid’s Arrow Misses Target

Valentines Day HeartLooking back fifteen to twenty years ago, I am amazed at the weighted significance I placed on Valentine’s Day gift giving.  It was forever the holiday filled with potential of making or breaking a relationship.  Those feelings all seem so ridiculous and childish now, but then, with very little relationship maturity under my belt, it all made logical sense.

When it came to giving the “right Valentine’s gift” I placed a lot of energy and time concocting my gift giving plan of attack.  I completely lost sight of what the celebration was about. Love. Right?

I distinctly recall dating a “certain guy” at the young and clueless age of twenty.  We had only been going out for a short time and Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching.  I know…..the pressure.  There is nothing worse than an impending holiday like Valentine’s to put a young relationship to the ultimate test of failure or success.  At least that’s what I thought.

I was of course ecstatic.  I made this “certain guy” a very clever card, had a picture of us framed, made him my,”Yes, you will fall in love with me Chocolate Chip Cookies” and bought him a shirt.  I know the shirt sounds lame, unimaginative and pathetic, but believe me when I tell you it was a very cool shirt.  It. Really. Was. 

He was picking me up at seven and we were going to a party at the home of a mutual friend.  I think my heart skipped a beat when I heard him knock on the door.  I knew he would have the ideal gift.  A perfect present relaying exactly how he felt about me.  Something romantic, something personal, the ultimate souvenir of our fresh, new and shiny relationship. 

I opened the door only to have my worst fears materialize.  My perfect guy, the one who I had secretly planned my whole life around, was standing there holding a long stick wrapped in white, crumply tissue paper with two purple bows tied at each end.  It appeared as if this stick had rolled around in his car for two weeks.  I knew I loathed it without even knowing what it was. 

We sat down on the couch, I handed him the cookies, the shirt, the card and the picture.  He passed me the very heavy, crumply-white-tissue-papered stick.  I could not even imagine what it could be.


I tore into it cautiously.  What I found was even worse than I anticipated.

 It was a barbell. 

 Yep.  Just a barbell.  About five feet long and thirty pounds.  Nothing else.  Zippo.  The barbell.  Right there.  The perfect symbol of our relationship.

 I think he detected my bewilderment and possible antipathy as I sat there staring at the metal stick looking a bit perplexed.

However, it was his words that put this wide-eyed, “all relationships are perfect” twenty-year old over the edge of what she could handle.  He said, “Isn’t it great?  For your birthday, I’ll get you some weights to go with it.”
First, my birthday was six months away. And now I knew for my twenty-first birthday, the birthday I currently considered to be the birthday of all birthdays, I was going to get weights to partner with the detested barbell. 

Was he kidding?  A lone barbell and no weights for six months?  And let’s be clear, I never hinted a barbell was something I was interested in, this was entirely his creativity at play here.  I was crushed.  This was the best he could do?

Didn’t he know the future of our four imaginary children, house in the burbs, great careers and unforgettable family vacations were riding on this one gift?  Apparently not.

You can believe my self-absorbed, bad, bratty-self sulked all-night.  We broke up two days later.  My perception of his thoughtlessness was also exponentially compounded after I discussed his choice of gifts with other relationship experts, my posse of other twenty-year old girlfriends.

Retrospectively, I should have been impressed by the suggestion that my “certain guy” imagined us together six months later and chalked the gift up to you win some, you lose some in the gift receiving department.  However, life immaturity would not allow the type of enlightenment and forward thinking necessary for that to occur.

Interestingly, seventeen years later, my husband and I never exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day.  We can’t imagine having to choose an item that could possibly come close to expressing how we feel about each other.  We try everyday to do things for each other that enriches our lives and the lives of our children.

Yes, we celebrate the holiday with a marvelous home-cooked meal, fabulous wine, thoughtful gestures and sometimes just a high-five.  However, roses, diamonds and thankfully barbells are not part of our Valentine’s repertoire.

I originally wrote this for Los Angeles based magazine, One For the Table…but I just had to republish it for Valentine’s Day…it still makes me laugh.

One Year Ago: Grilled Glazed Pineapple
Two Years Ago: This is Why We Love

Post a Comment


  1. Marielle 1

    Cathy-that cracks me up! I could do without Valentine’s Day myself. I’ve always put effort into the meals on that day, (they don’t hold a candle to your meals) and time with my kids as my expression of love for them. Nice article.

  2. Dawn 2

    Oh that made me cackle. Thanks so much!

  3. Sara in NY 3

    Can I have the recipe for the “Make you fall in love with me cookies?” I need to hook someone.

  4. Liv 4

    That’s hilarious!! I think it’s quite nice that you and your husband don’t give gifts for Valentine’s Day. My partner and I are terrible enamoured with each other and this, our second Valentine’s Day, I’m struggling to come up with words for a card or a gift that can state what I feel for him. So I got him a remote control car. GREAT gift for a grown up, right?

  5. You win, Cathy! Worst V Day gift ever received! So glad your V Days are what you deserve now. :-)


  6. Tom 6

    There is this girl I am dating who I want to get rid of, but I feel bad…I am soooo giving her a barbell. Thanks for the idea and easy let down.

  7. stef 7

    for valentines day, the husband picks out some random Whole Foods flowers and I make us a dinner of his choice, then we get wasted and play video games. hahaha

  8. Noble Pig 8

    I’m thinking it will work.

  9. Carole Penner 9

    I’ve always believed that every day should be Valentine’s Day.

  10. KathyB. 10

    The guy was probably very nice , and had you decided to understand his choice and forgive his misguided gift, he may have even been “the guy”, but aren’t you glad ( ecstatically ) you found your real “Valentine” in the end.

    Somehow, Valentine’s Day is not so important for my husband and I either, yet love abounds. Amazing.

  11. Jenny 11

    I’m so happy I am not alone in horrible Valentine’s Day stories/gifts. My bf and I don’t celebrate it either, I’ll make a nice dinner have some wine, play a game. We don’t need a specific day to say I love you, we do that daily. Roses, diamonds etc. don’t exist for us, there is no need.

  12. A barbell. I’m laughing so hard…

  13. I love this story! Been there, done that. I still have the Batman comic book I got…but the guy is long gone! LOL!

    AND my husband and I do not exchange Valentines gifts either. I agree that a gift could not sum up our love and devotion. Happy Day!

  14. Katie 14

    Haha. I LOL’d at this since it sounds like a perfect V-Day to me!!!

  15. I love this story! Hilarious and disturbing. I like the idea of cheap flowers, alcohol, and video games. That sounds a bit familiar.

    When you’ve been together for a while, you don’t need silly little gifts to say “I love you” and “You mean the world to me”. You both just know.

    Thats how me and my hubby celebrate Valentines and anniversaries…just being together, eating yummy rich food and drinking wine. What else do you need?

  16. Kim in MD 16

    What a great post!There is just way too much hype over Valentine’s Day!

    My husband and I always stay home on Valentine’s Day.I make a nice dinner (which now includes our children), pour some nice wine and enjoy each other’s company…the perfect evening for us!

  17. My husband and I never spend Valentine’s Day together. He works out of state from January to nearly May, and has since before we met. I send him a card, and sometimes some peanut M&Ms and he orders me flowers to be delivered on the day. He sometimes hides a little gift that he will tell me about later. I would rather have him home; I don’t need the flowers.
    I think I have your story beat though on the worst present ever. I had been dating this guy for six months before my birthday rolled around. We had already exchanged “I love youâ€￾ and for his birthday several months earlier I had given him an expensive briefcase. For my birthday I got a set of steak knives (was a vegetarian at the time), a 10 pound bag of cat food (for my cat), and a birthday card that was unsigned (in case I wanted to re-gift it).

  18. Stephanie 18

    my husband and I don’t exchange gifts for any holiday. we prefer to buy things together that we both like. Most people think we are crazy. My daughter buys presents for each of us “from each other” but that’s about it. You are a very interesting blogger!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting