When I was in my early 20s, my then boyfriend decided to buy me a set of lacy lingerie for Valentine’s Day.
Unfortunately, when I tried it on, I looked like two pigs fighting under a blanket. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t make it expand two sizes larger. It just didn’t fit. And I felt ridiculous.
Valentine’s Day is often considered a figment of Hallmark’s imagination to sell more cards to consumers in the early 20th century. But there are many legends surrounding the celebration. One involves Roman Emperor Claudius II who banned his soldiers from marrying because he believed a family would distract from military duties. Valentine was said to have worn an amethyst ring carved with a symbol of cupid. Soldiers would see the ring and ask him to perform their weddings in secret – ultimately leading to Valentine’s execution and subsequent sainthood.
Valentines are also mentioned in the late Middle Ages by Chaucer and the Renaissance by Shakespeare. Sending Valentine’s cards to loved ones became popular in the 1840s in Britain and the US, when immigrants brought the tradition to Australia.
Australians are set to splash $485 million or $118 per gift in the name of love this year – up nearly 17 per cent on 2022 according to research by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and Roy Morgan.
“Australians are set to take advantage of long sought-after freedoms to spoil their loved ones,” ARA CEO Paul Zahra said.
“For couples who have begun a relationship in the past three years – 2023 will be the first opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s Day without limitations.”
Consumers in NSW were the most generous with an estimated spend of $155 million, followed by Victoria at $105 million, and Queensland at $85 million. The bulk of the spending will be done by 18-49 year-olds.
Flowers remain the favoured option, with 42 per cent of people predicted to purchase the traditional gift, followed by chocolates or food (29%), sex toys/ other toys (seven per cent), and dining out or getaways (seven per cent). One lucky soul is going to receive a $350,000 Lamborghini. Other hot ticket items were watches, lingerie, and AirPods.
AirPods generally fall under the electrical appliances or impersonal and unromantic gifts banner. This got me thinking – the lead up to February 14 can be fraught with risk. What – if anything – do you buy your partner?
Many people resent being told when to celebrate their love for someone as they view it as a commercial impost. That’s completely understandable, and how I used to feel. But now that I’m lucky enough to be married to the love of my life, I realise it’s more than that – if you love someone you’ll find as many ways to show them as you can. And it doesn’t have to be expensive to be romantic. A home-made card, heart-shaped cookies whipped up in the kitchen and breakfast in bed have been some of the nicest Valentine’s gifts I’ve ever received.
If you do decide to venture out looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, make sure you do some research first.
Cards are usually a safe bet. Chocolate is too – unless you’re dairy-free or Vegan. For the non-allergic amongst us, flowers used to be a no-brainer but now we’re being told that a large chunk of our roses come from overseas.
As my experience with lingerie suggests, make sure you know the right size. Even then, it can be risky for all the obvious reasons. Sometimes all you want to do is look stylish and effortless in the bedroom, without looking like you are so sexed-up that you should be charging for it.
So if you don’t want to end up in the doghouse this year, listen up all you would-be gift-givers here are some Valentine’s Day tips you might find useful.
If you have just started dating someone, Valentine’s Day can be a minefield because you don’t want to go OTT and scare your would-be prospect off, but you don’t want to do nothing either.
The trick is striking just the right balance. Find a gift that’s equal to the level of your relationship.
If the relationship is new, the right level may be a low-key card that’s possibly funny and light-hearted. Give the ones with poems and heartfelt messages a wide birth – these are for couples who have been together longer.
If you want to buy a gift, pick one that shows you have put in some time and thought into understanding what your other half likes. That means no impersonal or practical gifts including things like headphones, blenders, or hairdryers. Fragrance and heart-shaped jewellery are unimaginative cliches. Also off-limits are gifts you would like such as tickets to some obscure band you’ve been wanting to see, but you know it’s not your partner’s thing. No dropping hints like giving gym memberships (yes, it’s been done); or a lawnmower (an old school friend’s father did this for his wife, I kid you not).
And if you’re bemoaning this article because you’re single, don’t worry there’s Single’s Day on November 11 that’s designed just for you. Beginning in China in the 1990s as a rebellion against Valentine’s Day, it’s now going global. The date was chosen because 11 represents “single sticks” or “bare sticks” which is Chinese slang for bachelor.
At least when you buy for yourself you don’t have to worry that you’ll get it wrong. But if your cupid’s arrow does end up hitting the wrong Valentine’s Day mark, just remember a relationship is not built on one day, but around a sum of days.
Susan Schwartz is a Brisbane-based former international fashion editor who left the magazine world to launch Status Quan (statusquan.com) – a luxury sleepwear and loungewear brand made in Australia from natural fibres.