The Not-So-Obvious Valentine's Gift Guide


Cupid, that mischievous little cherub synonymous with Valentine’s Day, has another name in Ancient Greek mythology: Eros. You also might not know that Eros is the son of Venus, goddess of love. And the Ancient Greeks recognized seven different types of love, with differing words to describe the warm and fuzzy feeling you might get for a romantic partner, flirty crush, best friend, parent, and more. Our modern interpretation of Valentine’s Day is so exactly by the book, and all the stuff in pink-and-red packaging leaves little room for anything but L-U-V love. What’s up with that? Leaning into Hallmark romanticism on Valentine’s Day is kind, but ultimately impersonal. And the day is either filled with rituals someone told you to want, or littered with disappointment when real life doesn’t measure up. So before you buy that box of mystery chocolates and bright red thong, think a little harder. Be a little sillier! Below, five ideas that say “I love you” more creatively—you’ve got a week to shop.

A dried floral bouquet

If you’ve ever had a girlfriend, known somebody recovering from surgery, or supported an actor friend in their local theater production, you know that gifted flowers are expensive. One might even say they’re… suspiciously expensive. Who, pray tell, benefits from a $70 purchase that you’ve got to chuck in a week? It’s a page right out of the ‘ol Apple playbook! This is not to minimize the beauty of a floral arrangement—it's just that if you're spending money on home decor it should last longer than an avocado. At the exact same price point as a bouquet of roses, dried florals have the chutzpah of flowers and the lasting power of jewelry. Not only do they look beautiful (and colorful, if you’re into that), they will never wilt or get moldy on you. A dried floral bouquet says “I may have looked through your Instagram saved folder while you were in the bathroom,” in a thoughtful way. Plus, lots of florists make and ship them now. If you want to get crafty, you can also buy your own dried stems, arrange them at home, and hand-deliver the bouquet to a pal’s doorstep.

A non-floral bouquet

Of course, a bouquet doesn’t have to be made out of flowers. Anything tied together in a bunch counts these days, so you can really go as nontraditional as you want. If you’re looking to grab the bouquet train at flower station and ride it all the way across the spectrum, you’d de-board squarely at meat. Yes, meat bouquets are a thing. And it’s hilarious. So much funnier than a boring old Edible Arrangement! A brand called Man Crates sells a bouquet of salami and jerky that’s wrapped with a surprising amount of grace and thought for a brand called Man Crates. Of course, you could buy this for any meat lover, gender identity notwithstanding. It’s perfect for those whose love language is food, or maybe for the person whose valentine is their dog this year. More options include a cured bacon bouquet and whatever crazy jerky sculpture is happening over on Say It With Beef dot com. Pairs well with two balls of pizza dough and a cast iron skillet.

An inexpensive but excellent vibrator hard to find. Luckily, the folks at Maude seem to have it figured out. First of all, it’s not giant and hot pink and phallic—it’s an incredibly discreet, neutral-toned and gender-neutral silicone teardrop that you could easily leave out on purpose. This is probably because it was developed by a woman, founder Éva Goicochea, and not a cis-hetero man. Furthermore, this thing is actually a really good vibrator. What seems impossible because of its small size (the harder to fit a powerful motor into, my dear) and low price point (about half the cost of every other vibe in my collection) are deep, powerful vibrations—but speed three delivers them just fine. The whole thing fits right into the palm of a hand, somebody’s hand, anybody’s hand! It’s perfect for use with a partner or alone, and truly, it’s difficult to bemoan a lack of a soulmate on this most commercially romantic of days while you’re busy having an orgasm.

A full-body lubricant

In the same veins of eye cream and foot cream, personal lubricant seems to be one of those things that really stays in its own lane. But if you’ve ever rummaged for a tissue with your hands in the air after applying too much lube and not having any idea where to put the excess, consider Kate McLeod’s Sex Stone. It’s a limited edition version of her Top 25-winning body stone, the recipe tweaked slightly to be fragrance-free and melt faster upon contact with skin. As she was working on its specific blend of natural oils, McLeod distributed samples to friends with all different sexual orientations and preferences to make sure the final product was “lube-y” enough for everyone. Don’t use it if you rely on latex or polyisoprene condoms—the oils in Sex Stone can damage these materials, making the condom not all that effective at protecting against anything. However, Sex Stone just fine to use with silicone toys, like the vibrator mentioned above, and if sex isn’t on the menu you can still use the bar as a massage tool or for all over moisturization. Once you get down to just a tiny shard, throw it in a bathtub and soak.

A card you’ll never lose or throw out

Instead of writing the person you love a card (and dealing with the hassle of mail right now) why not take a minute to think about what you might write on a card, record yourself saying it outloud with a phone or computer, and send that over instead? With the decluttering miracle of technology, it’s something they’ll have forever without losing track of. It also lends an element of portability—most people don’t carry around a hand-written love letter, but they will have their phone. It would be nice to re-listen to something like this whenever you’re feeling blue or nervous, kind of like a pep talk or hype-up playlist. But the best part is that telling the folks you love that you love them is always free. It’s easy to forget, this time of year.

Photo via ITG