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The Best and the Worst

Metroland writers recount their most—and least—memorable Valentine’s Day presents

A Haze of Gifts

I’ve been pondering the gifts I’ve received on Valentine’s Day for a few days now, and I have concluded that I cannot remember a single gift I have been given (or have given myself, for that matter). Brainstorming aloud, I mentioned my lack of a stand-out Valentine’s Day present to my girlfriend of several years, who responded with her pouty face. And before you start criticizing my relationship abilities for being unable to remember what she has so lovingly given me, I’m going to tell you why this is all her fault.

She is excellent at choosing and buying presents and extraordinarily bad at keeping secrets. She will buy birthday presents for me two months before my birthday and give them to me only a week later, and if she does manage to wait until my birthday to give them to me, she has already told me what they are. On top of the giving of “birthday” gifts over the span of a few months, she will also often buy me random gifts for no particular occasion. And thus her presents, which are all essentially bound to no event or date, blend together in my head and I have no idea what she has ever given me on or around Feb. 14. Somewhere in my head is a hazy image of a basket adorned with fuzzy hearts and full of cool stuff, but I’m sure it wasn’t even in February.

Not that I am any better: Her presents haven’t even arrived in the mail yet, and she already knows what they are.

—David Canfield


Feeling Pink, Seeing Red

Best: pink colander (2006). I may be a romantic, but I’m the most practical romantic I’ve ever met. So last year I swooned when my fella gave me a small pink colander full of dark chocolates made nearby. Not only did he satisfy my sweet tooth, but this cute, yet ordinary, kitchen object continually adds cheer to the counter and reminds me of him. Awww.

Worst: one dozen red roses (1997). He dumped me two days before Valentine’s Day. On that particular day, my once-high-school-sweetheart-turned-rotten-loser left a Valentine on my car. I angrily tore it up and tore home. Then, as if to add insult to injury, he brought two dozen roses to the house, one each for my mother and me. (Mercifully, she answered the door.) They were gorgeous, so we promptly threw them out. They looked like I felt: pathetic, flushed, and in a trash can. High school is even cruel to roses.

—Ashley Hahn


Cupcakes and Grapes

I got the best Valentine’s Day gift in the cafeteria of my Catholic elementary school, where the lunchlady trolls wouldn’t let you throw out your garbage unless you finished your entire lunch. But I wasn’t the only kid who sat next to the wall so I could shove gross, half-eaten rice cakes under the heater because we weren’t allowed to chuck them. Upstairs in the classrooms nuns taught us that God created the universe in seven days—and that when slow dancing with another person at our school dances in that same cafeteria, we should always leave between us enough room for the Holy Spirit. At lunchtime on Valentine’s Day in third grade, way before I ever went to any kind of school dance, my spikey-haired hunk of a crush gave me one of his two-pack pink-and-white heart-shaped Hostess cupcakes. My mom would’ve freaked if she knew about me taking junk food from a boy. Flattered and nervous, I offered him some grapes.

The worst Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever gotten was from the Albany Police Department, in 2004. An ever-so-pleasant cop pulled me over for “driving eratically” up Washington Avenue when I was rushing to work. Heart-filled and warm, he kindly gave me two points on my license and a beautiful ticket for $150! Love you too, officer.

—Alexandra Hoefinger


Lovely—and Terribly, Terribly Awkward

My freshman year of college, my boyfriend from high school, “Eric”, who was at college 500 miles away from me, decided to surprise me with a visit on Valentine’s Day. He managed to call my roommate to enlist her help in planning during the week between when I had started to date someone else at college (“Chris”) and when I worked up the guts to tell Eric I had (again) exercised the “open” clause of our long-distance relationship. My roommate was so tormented by the prospects for high drama that this scenario presented that she let me in on the secret.

Eric stuck to his plans despite my confession, and even boldly enlisted Chris in the planning. Valentine’s Day found Chris morosely “distracting” me while Eric laid a trail of rose petals from my door to a festive meal of Chinese take-out in the dorm kitchen and I practiced pretending to be surprised. Turns out I was such a wreck that it wasn’t that hard.

On the upside, he’d also bought me a vibrator.

—Miriam Axel-Lute


Thoughtful and Thoughtless

The best Valentine’s Day present I ever got was completely cliché. When I was a sophomore in college, my long-distance boyfriend (let’s call him John) and I broke up about a week before Valentine’s Day (let’s blame it on the distance). It was sad, as breakups generally are, and I was a bit down and out. But a couple of days later, John called to say that he wanted to give it another shot, and that he’d be coming to visit me for Valentine’s Day weekend. True to his word, he drove the three hours to my school through a treacherous snowstorm, and brought me pounds of chocolate, a dozen roses, and a homemade video (he was, and still is, a cinematographer). Cliché, yes, but it was—by far—the most thoughtful V-Day gift I’ve received to date. On the other end of the spectrum, the guy I dated after John—who I was with for a few years—never got me anything for Valentine’s Day, but he did give me money to buy something for myself. Sweet, huh? In any case, I have to admit, I got some of my favorite “gifts” that way (who else was going to know that I wanted a piece of chunky, Mexican-made pottery? Certainly not him.).

—Kathryn Lurie

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