Nope. This isn't a post about the late 80's/early 90's shoegazer/noise band, My Bloody Valentine, nor is it about the 1981 slasher movie, My Bloody Valentine (probably where the band got its name from in the first place) but the "bloody" greeting card 'holiday' known as Valentine's Day. Although named after an early Christian martyr named Valentine (of course), it has about as much to do with him as Christmas has to do with Christ. Thank the Victorians for putting both of these 'holidays' on the calendar and making them obligatory gifting occasions befitting retailers more than either recipients or givers.
This post is obviously from a guy's point of view. Men don't usually talk about 'the bloody holiday'. We either fall in line and acquiesce to tradition and bestow the customary love tokens on the object of our affection, or we ignore it completely. (And run the risk of landing in the doghouse.) Personally, I think it's unfair to guys to have to toe the line and submit to the traditional gifting ritual. But this is NOT a holiday for guys, and any benefit a guy is going to get out of it is purely coincidental.
Valentine's Day has its traditional gifting protocol tied to the Roman child-god Cupid, with his bow and arrow of love, and the (target) heart(s) so associated with the holiday. Traditional gifting is usually limited to greeting cards, flowers (usually a dozen red roses), a box of chocolates, or jewelry. All eligible items are intended to elicit a positive sentimental response from the recipient, in fond affection of the giver. The protocol can be expanded to include intimate clothing, a fine dinner, a romantic escape, cute stuffed animals, perfume, a gift basket, mink coat, taking in a(chic flick) movie or nearly anything that has romantic connotations. The appropriateness of the gift is proportionate to the relationship of the parties involved; that little juvenile card worked just fine for you in fourth grade, but a pearl necklace would have been way out of line, unless you were in schools like Page in Beverly Hills or Dalton in New York. Then again, just try giving one of those 'paper dandies' as an adult to the object of your desire and you're in a heap o' trouble.
By far and large, Valentine's Day is a day for females, more than males. Although the gifting is supposed to be mutual, the gifting protocol is heavily biased towards women and the kind of things they're supposed to like. (Sorry ladies, the boxer shorts with the hearts on 'em just don't do anything for us guys.) Unlike Christmas, all practicality is thrown out the window and if you're planning on getting her a gift you think she needs, it's probably the wrong thing. (Be sure to consider the weight of such a practical gifting item before purchase; it could have a serious impact on your skull when she hurls it back at you.) So it's easy enough for guys to select something within the protocol; consider what might elicit the best emotional response for a bit more than what you would normally spend.
Women actually have it a little harder in the gifting process on Valentine's Day. Although we'll accept your cards, boxer shorts (grudgingly), new watch, new tie, cuff links or whatever silly little trinket you want to bestow on us, there is only one thing we really want, and unless you're clueless, you've already guess it. Funny thing is, it doesn't cost you a dime, unless you want to 'dress it up a little'. Short of this, we don't need any tokens to let us know you love us, the physical expression is quite sufficient. Of course, the extent of physical expression is dependent on the depth of the relationship; from a kiss for a friendly admirer to wild passionate sex for the deeply involved. Of course, the appropriate reciprocation is usually left up to the ladies- you're probably not going to screw some guy you've been casually dating just because he gave you a bunch of flowers. But you might soften up a bit and allow the physical romantic expression to linger a little longer. If this doesn't feel comfortable, you shouldn't be accepting Valentines gifts from this person anyway. It's supposed to be a romantic holiday.
You can't really call Valentine's Day a real 'holiday' anyway, unless you make it one. The very concept of a holiday implies a day off of work. Businesses and government offices don't close on Valentine's Day. If you're a working stiff, your boss isn't going to give you the day off, unless you might be meeting him or her for a torrid affair. A housewife (or house-husband) might be given the day off by a generous spouse, but this is purely optional. the holiday aspect only has to do with the date appearing on the calendar, and the parties involved hopefully spending some time with each other.
If you're married or in a committed relationship, the celebration of Valentine's Day's is usually MANDATORY, unless you BOTH consider the concept of Valentine's Day a ridiculous commercial tradition. (Guys, don't second-guess women on this; you either know how she feels about V-Day for a fact, or you don't. If in doubt, err on the side of gifting. If you don't, there could be hell to pay, and it's a small price to keep the peace.) Most couples don't have that cynical attitude, although guys are more prone towards resenting being manipulated by V-Day's commercial aspects. Guys, don't expect any reciprocation either. V-Day is about HER, not about YOU. This holds no matter what the depth of your relationship is, and no matter what the size of the gift is. Although you might think it should, giving her a pair of diamond earrings doesn't necessarily guarantee an intimate liaison. It could help, but your best bet is to 'go with the flow' and see what happens. Expect nothing and you might even be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, if you want to double you chances of getting some Valentine's Day action, lingerie might be the best way to go. After all, women wear boudoir garb mostly for men (perhaps in some cases, other women) and unless she's not the type who enjoys this most feminine of apparel, it's a good bet she might want to try it on and try it out. A few caveats though: you need to know her size (guessing is the #1 downfall in this department, with the potential to turn a dream into a disaster), her preference (perhaps romantic over risque, but the better you know her, the more elastic this rule becomes), make it a 'supplementary gift' (in addition to one of the more traditional gifting items) because in a sense, it's more for you than it is her, no matter how much a woman enjoys wearing intimate apparel. The final caveat: if you haven't already been (or aren't yet close to being) intimate with the object of your affection, chances are that a gift of this nature isn't going to prompt that fantasy scenario you've been imagining. If fact, you are more likely to be shut down quicker than a porn website in Saudi Arabia.
So what if your relationship hasn't progressed to the stage of intimacy yet, you're unsure what to get her and you don't want to subscribe to the traditional gifting items? Well, there are quite a number other options at your disposal- a bottle of champagne; a smart-looking handbag; a good book; a romantic DVD; her favorite music CD she doesn't have in her collection; a nice figurine; an object 'd art; some scented soaps; a cool candle; a gold cigarette case (only if she smokes); a fancy journal; a photograph of her pet; or any other item that carries a sentimental attachment. Avoid gift certificates and items lacking that personal touch unless you're giving from afar. A cute teapot may seem like a good idea but it won't inspire any romance. Whatever you do, choose wisely, grasshopper, you don't want to end up playing the fool over an ill-conceived valentine gift.
So back to the 'Bloody Valentine' theme I started with, personally, I think the 'hearts' have got to go. I don't care for the card game, in romance it has absolutely nothing to do with the organ in the body by the same name (unless you count anticipatory palpitations, or cardiac arrest due to exertion from love requited) and it has a silly shape that only ever reminds me of "I Love Lucy". For guys, our concession to the lady in our life is to honor you with a token of our affection on Valentine's Day. Please honor us by eschewing the bloody valentine heart that is the silliest symbol of love ever conceived, the hallmark of crass commercialism.