How to Go From Better-Than-Nothing to WAY Better-Than-Nothing on Valentines Day

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Today is Valentine’s Day. My only real excitement on February 14 lies in waking to squeals of delight from my children upon finding the treats I left out for them the night before. This morning, my daughter was particularly excited by the Peppa Pig Beanie Baby I got for her, which brought a big smile to my face because I totally knew I hit the jackpot when I found it in the card store. Apparently, pigs with British accents are all the rage for toddlers nowadays.

The kids’ enthusiasm wore off after about ten minutes (it isn’t exactly Christmas, you know), and then my husband and I exchanged our own treats. After seven years of marriage, I’ve come to expect very little on these cheesy Hallmark Holidays. I find that it successfully avoids unnecessary disappointment and marital arguments. He handed me his classic Valentine’s Day safety net trifecta of roses/card/candy, and I forked over my own card for him. Kiss, kiss, Happy Valentine’s Day, and back to the regular daily routine.

I had to laugh a few minutes later when we were watching the morning news and they were doing a segment on making last minute V-Day gifts look like they were planned out for weeks. The last line of the piece read: “and whatever you do, avoid that cheesy drugstore flowers and candy combo!” To which we both laughed and I added “unless you’ve been married for seven years.”

My husband has never been a big gift-giver or an over-the-top romantic. He proposed to me in the car while driving on the highway, saying “so I was talking to my aunt and she thinks that, since you’re pregnant, maybe we should just get married.” I cried immediately, obviously not because I was so moved by his gesture. And I cried all the way to our dreamy City Hall wedding a few weeks later.

But I don’t blame him. Failed birth control combined with the need for better health insurance never does create the perfect environment for romance. But he set the bar pretty low from the start, and I have learned that the whole mushy-gushy, sweep-her-off-her feet shit just isn’t a requirement, and its absence does not a bad marriage make.

While my little less-than-fairytale romance isn’t exactly one for the books, I’m 100% sure I’m not the only wife who doesn’t bother with high hopes on most gift-giving occasions. Even those who didn’t exchange vows in the same building where ex-cons go to have their urine tested for drugs.

But here’s the thing: since so many married wives have low expectations on Valentine’s Day, it at least gives their husbands an opportunity to catch them off guard by doing something seriously sweet once in a while. I think that, sometimes, guys should toss their “better than nothing” flowers and candy out the window of the same car they proposed in, and do something extra special for the special ladies in their lives. And really, they don’t even have to think that far outside of the box to do it.

Thus I present to you my five, fantastic, WAYYY-better-than-nothing gifts for wives on Valentine’s Day. If there are actually any guys who read my blog, be prepared to slap yourself in the head, coulda-had-a-V8-style, for not thinking of these nifty gifties on your own.

Jewelry. It’s expensive, so I think husbands like to avoid it because they can get away with their wife thinking “oh we can’t afford that right now”. But no one’s telling you to hit her with a diamond from Tiffany’s. It’s 2015, and the timeless gift of jewelry comes in all sizes, shapes, and price tags. From crystal to silver to cubic-Z: it’s ALL better than nothing.

Lingerie. You would expect this type of gift when you first start dating, but it does seem like the last thing a married mother could ever want. Right? Wrong. Think about it. Receiving that type of gift from a husband shows that, after all these years, he still sees his wife as being just as sexy as she was when they were first dating. It’s pretty flattering. She’ll feel like maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t look so bad for a married mom after all. Plus, it might be something extra to look forward to on Valentine’s NIGHT. Wink wink.

Wine or champaign. I mean, if he’s going for an edible gift, it shouldn’t be a gigantic box full of little chocolate regrets. In fact, if you pair some bubbly with #2 on my list, it’s really one hell of a win/win.

Dinner. Either cook it, order it, or take her out for it. Whatever happens, just make sure she doesn’t have to deal with it for at least one night. And for pete’s sake, do the damn dishes after it’s done. And if there’s time, feel free to also sweep, mop, dust, do the laundry, make the beds, scrub the toilets, and clean out the fridge while you’re at it.

Be an even better Dad than usual. There is so much joy in seeing a father make his kids feel special– when he spends time with them, plays with them, shows them how important they are. So on Valentine’s Day, go the extra mile for the kids, too. Take them out to lunch, make a card for Mom together, maybe even pick up a special gift for them too. They’re the littlest Valentines, after all. And honestly, that’s probably one of the most romantic things a man can do for his wife. Because there is NOTHING sexier than a really, really good dad.

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I Can’t Tell You If You’ve Found “The One”, But Neither Can Anyone Else

I don’t know about you, but I am getting very sick of these obnoxious articles popping up all over the internet which list a thousand bullshit ways to know if you’re with the “right” one. They’re all “communication” this and “respect” that, with their condescending listicles that make newlyweds feel all smug and amazing but leave the rest of us wondering where the hell we went wrong.

It drives me crazy. I’m no relationship expert, (seriously, not at all), but I do know that if your husband of fifteen years doesn’t declare you the most beautiful lady in all the land every single time he looks at you, it’s not exactly a reason to go filing for divorce.

I think that people need to understand that marriage is hard. There is no foolproof checklist or “list of fifteen things” that will quickly determine whether or not you married “the one.” There are over seven billion fish in the sea (actual world population), so who the hell knows if the right one swam up to you and put a ring on your FINger (haha, get it?).

Your husband probably won’t support every decision you make, even the big ones. He isn’t likely to make you feel sexy when you’re bumming around in stained sweatpants and fuzzy slippers. He surely won’t always be honest with you about everything. He might not help around the house enough (or at all). Perhaps he rarely shows his appreciation for all you do, not even with a simple “thank you” once in a while. He probably doesn’t plan date night very often (or ever) and maybe his definition of romance is never leaving the toilet seat up. He’ll sometimes get you really shitty gifts on birthdays and holidays, or none at all. It’s very possible that he’d rather be watching football or playing video games or taking a nap on the couch than partaking in family outings on his days off.

You’re not always going to finish each other’s sentences, or constantly be making each other laugh, or having deep conversations over glasses of wine every night. Hell, you may not even see each other for more than a few minutes a day.

There will be times when you’re madly in love with each other, and times when you’re literally miserable being in the same room together. Times when you look at him and somehow simultaneously love and hate his stupid face at the same time. He probably has similarly mixed emotions about  your stupid face.

But you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. I really think it’s normal, this imperfect, undefined version of marriage. So this isn’t the part where I list all the crap he does do or should be doing to make up for all the shitty stuff. In real life, every relationship is different. What doesn’t work for you might might be working just fine  for someone else, and vice versa. Nothing is ever set in stone, so stop pretending that it should be. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can breathe a nice big sigh of relief that you and your darling aren’t headed straight for Splitsville simply because the fucking internet told you so.

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An Ode to the Dishwasher…Sort Of

I’ve picked on laundry. I’ve picked on grocery shopping. Kids clothes, playgrounds, social media, assholes, the Tooth Fairy— I’ve bitched and moaned about it all (side note: click a few of those links for some of my whiniest/funniest blogs, and don’t mind my shameless  self promotion). But for some reason, I’ve never really tackled the wretched task of doing dishes. At least not at length like these other topics. And doing dishes is one of the most loathsome daily rituals of all. I’m really not sure how it has escaped my wrath all this time.

Well, that ends today.

My dishwasher was a birthday gift from my husband three years ago. Some might find a dishwasher to be a rather unconventional gift, but I thought it was a fantastic idea. After all, all the jewelry in the world won’t reduce the spread of bacterial growth while leaving your cups and glasses with a streak-free shine.

Not that I have anything against jewelry. Because I don’t. Are you listening, Big M? Nothing at all.

Anyway, the day that the dishwasher was installed was probably one of the best days of my life. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but I assure you, it most certainly is not. Because owning a dishwasher instantly improved my quality of life.

Prior to having a dishwasher to call my very own, I had spent countless hours of my life slaving over the kitchen sink, washing dish after dirty dish, bowl after dirty bowl. So many glasses and plates and coffee mugs and UGH, the horrible never-ending silverware. An endless supply of utensils in every shape and size littered my sink every single day of my life. Not to mention how much precious time and elbow grease was wasted scrubbing away at dirty pots and pans on a regular basis.

And the baby bottles! Ugh! So many pieces! Why all the pieces, Dr. Brown’s? Avent? Playtex? Why do you hate parents? Why??

For some reason, my family produces an astonishing amount of dirty dishes every day. No amount of paper plates or plastic silverware seems to even slightly reduce the mounds of dishes from piling higher and higher with each passing hour.  The kids seem to really enjoy taking a tiny sip of water and immediately tossing their cups into the sink, and then repeating that process every half hour. I can’t believe I actually used to hand wash something like THIS every day:

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And it isn’t just about saving time, either. I’ve actually lost layers of skin on my poor little hands from all that scouring and harsh water, leaving them constantly cracked and bleeding and swollen and just totally gross.

So yea, getting the dishwasher was one of the best things that ever happened to me (my life sounds pretty exciting, huh?).

Now don’t get me wrong. Owning a dishwasher doesn’t alleviate ALL of the pain associated with doing dishes. It doesn’t load itself. It doesn’t empty itself. Sometimes it ruins shit (why do they even still make things that aren’t dishwasher safe?) It certainly doesn’t have any clown-car-like properties that enable you to easily place every single item inside before slamming the door, hitting the power button and sitting down with a nice glass of wine. Sometimes I spend more time mashing and maneuvering than if I would just whip out the old dobie pad and get the job done with my own two hands.

Sometimes I spend so much time mulling over which configuration of dishes will leave me with the least amount of leftover items to wash by hand that I forget there was ever a time when I didn’t have the luxury of that decision to make.  Which is really not cool, because it’s really important not to forget where you came from (in this case, that would be a dishwasherless home).

I do get kind of pissed at my dishwasher whenever there is an excess of tupperware hanging around my sink. I’m sure we can all admit to “accidentally” tossing some innocent pieces of tupperware in the garbage once in a while just because it’s such a pain in the ass to clean. It takes up too much precious space on the top rack of the dishwasher, has all kinds of edges and hard-to-reach spots, and always ends up with that inevitable greasy film that’s impossible to get rid of. I guess my qualms should really be more with the tupperware than the dishwasher here… so screw you, tupperware. Just screw you.

It also sucks when I’m emptying the dishwasher and come across a pair of cooking tongs harboring crusted breadcrumbs from last night’s chicken cutlets, or a rogue spinach leaf clinging to a fork, or the worst– hardened cereal bits glued to yesterday morning’s bowl of raisin bran. Like what’s the point of using a dishwasher if you have to rewash some of its contents anyway?

Still, although it doesn’t perfectly clean every dirty dish in my life, nor does it grow a pair of extendable arms that reach into the cabinets and put away the clean stuff for me (are you listening, KitchenAid??), I love my dishwasher simply as much as one can adore any inanimate object that makes life a thousand times easier.

And all that time I save on washing dishes frees me up to complete other important tasks, like helping the kids with homework, cooking healthy dinners, folding loads of laundry, and of course, pouring myself glasses of wine.

 

Valentine’s Day, Shmalentine’s Day

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My aversion to Valentine’s Day dates all the way back to elementary school.

In the third grade, I got sick and threw up on Valentine’s Day.  The holiday literally made me hurl. Not a big deal for most (normal) children, but for a child plagued by severe emetophobia (defined as an “intense, irrational fear or anxiety pertaining to vomiting”—look it up, it’s a REAL THING), this was pretty bad news in terms of old V-Day.  For the following three or four years, I became terrified whenever I’d start to see little hearts and cupids taped decoratively around my classroom and neighbor’s windows.  The anxiety would mount higher and higher as February 14 drew near, and when it arrived I’d spend the day in a cold sweat, praying to make it out alive (and puke-free).  Weird, I know.  But whose childhood isn’t?

When junior high reared its ugly head, Valentine’s Day was a whole new kind of unpleasant.  In my school, some genius thought it would be a fine idea to sell balloons for a few days leading up to V-Day, then have them delivered to recipients’ classrooms on the big day and handed out in front of the entire class – much to the delight of those with adoring boyfriends, “BFF”s, or perhaps secret admirers.  Sweet, right?  Not for the other 75% of the class who received nothing more than a crushing blow to their already dwindling self-esteem.  You can probably guess which percentage I belonged to.

Valentine’s Day.  Making junior high even shittier than it already is.

The classroom balloon torture has its own grown-up version for the workplace, by the way.  I call it “Nice Roses, Bitch.”  Check out these priceless moments from season two’s Valentines Day episode of The Office that sum up this phenomenon well.  Pam is literally throwing flowers and chocolate at Phyllis after the delivery guy disappoints her once again, and Meredith leers at Phyllis’s gagworthy display of gifts while sipping her vodka-laced Subway soda.  God, I miss that show.

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Once you have children, Valentine’s Day becomes just another annoying holiday that you have to pretend is “fun” for their sake.  Yay kids!  Let’s make red, heart-shaped cookies!  And red, heart-shaped cards!  And hang red, heart-shaped decorations!

Can someone please find a red, heart-shaped gun and shoot me with it?

When my son started preschool, I found out about these pointless little Valentines that the kids hand out to each other in class nowadays.  Here’s what happens: Mom heads over to Hallmark, forks over ten bucks for a box of cheap (HEART-SHAPED!!!) Spiderman or Cinderella cards (which are essentially glorified name tags), then goes home and writes one out for each child in the class.  On Valentine’s Day, the teacher puts all the little “cards” in each preschooler’s book bag at the end of the day.  When the child arrives home, all cards are promptly removed from the bag by Mom and offered enthusiastically to the child, who then shrugs disinterestedly and asks if he or she can go watch TV.  The child leaves the room, the tags go in the recycling bin, and much time, trees, and money have been wasted once again.

So here’s Valentine’s Day to me, in a nutshell.  Flowers die. Chocolate is fattening.  Kids don’t give a shit about romance.  Men are usually idiots who never get it right.  Women are usually even bigger idiots for expecting them to get it right in the first place.  And Cupid? Is a naked little perv who shoots people in the ass.

Here’s a fun, little-known fact:  Saint Valentine DROPPED DEAD on Valentine’s Day.  Wikipedia that shit, it’s true.

Another fun fact: divorce lawyers report a 40% increase in new business each year right after Valentine’s Day.  ‘Cuz nothing says “be mine” like a stack of freshly signed divorced papers!

Guess what’s red and NOT heart-shaped? 

Wine.

I think I’ll go have some.

Oh, Dwight.  I hope you and Angela are frolicking happily om a beet farm somewhere right now with your seven children and Cousin Mose.

Oh, Dwight. I hope you and Angela are frolicking happily on a beet farm somewhere right now with your seven children and Cousin Mose.