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Dawn's Column How To Be A Valentine
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Valentine's Day is just a few days away, so I thought I'd offer a little advice to the many men out there who struggle with ideas for what to do for their wife or girlfriend on this special day.

What do women want? Well, I can offer some insight.

I know there's a lot of pressure on men on Valentine's Day. Keep in mind that it's only one day out of the year, but if you blow it you'll really have to bring your "A" game to make up for it. Trust me, it's best just to bring your "A" game in the first place.

The point I would like to emphasize the most - pay attention guys - is that we women just want to know that you've made an effort. Let this statement serve as the brick-wall-falling-on-your-head moment.

Make a real effort. Actions speak volumes. It doesn't matter if you have a lot of money to spend or not. How much it costs truly doesn't matter.

Mark your calendars. No excuses about forgetting.

Another point is: please don't wait until the last minute. We can tell when you've waited until the last minute and it tells us that we're not worth your time, whether you feel that way or not. That's not a good message to send to your Valentine.

One of my girlfriends owns a busy flower shop. She's told me that she frequently sees men skidding in just before closing time, some have even caught her as she's ready to pull out of the parking lot and begged her to reopen so they could buy flowers for their lady - and she has obliged them. Don't be one of those guys.

Here are some suggestions and please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list. You certainly don't have to do all these things. Just think of this as a jumping off point, something to inspire you. Be imaginative, creative. We like that.

• Tell her why you love her, or what made you fall in love with her.

This can take a number of different forms. You can give her a handwritten note or letter, like a love letter or poem. You can buy a card, but make sure to write your own personal message in it as well, don't let the card do all the talking. A card you make yourself by hand is also good, you'd be surprised. You can also tell her what she means to you as you hold her hands and look into her eyes.

Whatever the case, your words need to be specific. A woman likes to know why you think she's beautiful and what other qualities you find special in her, beyond her looks.

You can deliver these things in person, or you can tuck a note or card somewhere where you know only your beloved will find it. Some good spots might be her jewelry box, makeup bag, lingerie drawer, even her lunch pail or briefcase - wherever she looks as part of her regular routine.

Another great way to tell your lady that you love her is to sing her praises to other people when she is within earshot. It's also good to do it when she's not around because this will eventually make its way back to her. Whatever you do, never make negative comments about your woman or jokes at her expense to others. No woman wants to be referred to as your "ol' lady" or "ball and chain," or in other myriad unflattering ways. This kind of talk is a surefire way to strangle the life out of your relationship at your own hands. This tidbit applies to women when talking about their men as well.

• Arrange a romantic dinner at home or at a restaurant.

Just the two of you. No kids. Call a relative, a babysitter, someone you can count on to watch them, and do it several days in advance. Make dinner reservations if need be, but do it pronto. You're already behind the eight ball on this one. Mother's Day and Valentine's Day are the busiest days of the year for restaurants and this can create issues for getting good service.

Tell your special gal that you're making plans, or surprise her, but just make sure she knows to put on makeup and something nice to wear. That goes for you, too. Don't wear your sweatpants. Make sure your shirt is pressed and that you smell good.

For dinner at home, light the candles, get some good wine or champagne, or even sparkling cider. Plan your meal carefully, nothing messy or garlicky. Whether you pick it up somewhere or prepare it yourself, serve it up on the nice dishes. And, whatever you do, don't leave the dirty dishes for her to clean. This last part is very important. But don't do the dishes right after dinner either, that's the time for romance. Remember, no sweatpants.

• Jewelry, flowers, perfume, or even a pair of sexy shoes or dress that she's been admiring can be great gifts.

Jewelry and perfume are things that are very personal and specific. Make sure you know your woman well, and that you've done your homework on her so you can get her something that she'll be happy to wear.

If purchasing her a pair of special shoes or a pretty dress, look in her closet when she's not around to find out the right size. Look at the tags on several articles of clothing that she wears frequently so you get her something that fits. Many women have "skinny" clothes and "fat" clothes in their closet to address those up and down pounds. No woman likes it when her man buys her something that's several sizes too big or too small, this can cause hurt feelings either way. Remember to remove the price tag but keep a gift receipt on hand just in case she wants or needs to exchange it.

Flowers need to be in the red family, deep or blush pinks will also do. Yellow flowers symbolize friendship and white ones mean purity. After all, what's the message you'd like to send?

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Some women may want to casually leave the paper open to this page where your guy will see it. Others may need to be more obvious and tack it to the refrigerator or bathroom mirror.

Whatever the case, a true Valentine will appreciate your efforts.

Dawn M. Henley is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.