state of your union

I’m half-watching the state of the union address.  It’s on, but really, I’m searching online for a gift for Phil.  With Valentine’s Day, and the envy attached to it, approaching, it means "gifts for him."  Though let me first begin by saying women are pretty easy to please.  That’s actually bullshit, of course, but it sounds good.  And there’s always an overpriced florist to help do the trick.  As a general rule, women want romantic gifts, nothing practical, and they want them sent to the office.  A retreat at a B&B for you both also works nicely, especially when you’ve gone and packed for her and completely taken her by surprise.  Here’s the thing: a MID did this for me once.  He completely shocked me one night when he took me to a hotel, where he suggested we’d be meeting his friends.  I wasn’t in the mood and fought him on it for a good twenty minutes.  But I rallied and when we couldn’t spot his friends at the hotel bar, I gave him that "I fucking told you so, why are you wasting my time?" look. He suggested we look upstairs at the other, smaller, bar at The Paramount Hotel.   "There’s also a rooftop bar," he insisted, but once we were in the elevator, he pressed the number 8.  We weren’t going to a bar at all.  We were going to our room.  He’d been there earlier in the day.  He’d loaded the DVD player with the original version of Sabrina.  He’d gone ahead and packed me a bag, complete with all my hair products, birth control pill, fresh underwear, deodorant; he thought of everything.  So I married him.  And years later, I wrote a book about him and about how much I hate Valentine’s Day, and, oh, his mother. 

The point is, for Valentine’s Day, we want to be treated as if you’re still courting us. You know us better by now, so maybe you’d tailor the fine details, but the effort needs to be there.  Planning.  We want to remember how it was in the beginning, when you were stumbling over yourself trying to impress us, and Valentine’s Day can help serve as a reminder.  Day to day, we’re given small reminders, thankful that you’ll unload the dishwasher or tell us you think we’re beautiful.  Valentine’s Day isn’t supposed to serve as a reminder of how much we love you, because we know it every day.  It reminds us that we’re loved just as much now. 

Roses are cliche , I think, when they’re from your lover.  But they’re lovely when sent by your Grandfather or Father.  In the years when I didn’t have a Valentine, either my father or grandfather stepped in, sending, or bringing home bouquets.  My father brought home flowers for each of us.  It’s one of my sweetest memories, knowing how special we all were to him. 

And this brings me back to "gifts for him."  Now while a woman might be happy with the idea of a treasure hunt, where she arrives home to find he’s purchased the perfect new outfit for her with a note, instructing her to be downstairs in her lobby by 7:30 PM, wondering what the night has in store for her, men aren’t as easy.  Okay, men aren’t as hard.  What?  You get him a sweater and that’s that?  Buying yourself new lingerie should certainly count for something, but again, a peekaboo bra really doesn’t fall under the category "for him." 

I’ve never had a "him" who fit nicely into any of the "recipients who like…" categories.  I’ve never been in a relationship come Valentine’s Day with THE WANNA BE CHEF, THE GADGET MONSTER, THE WINE IDIOT, or THE LUMBERJACK.  And, I’m happy to say, I’ve never been with a man who’d consider, say, a scented candle a kick-ass gift.  What can you really buy for a guy who’s into golf, aside from more lessons with a pro or a weekend away for a clinic?  And nothing says romance more than sending your man away without you.  Though it does say selfless, but please, this is Valentine’s Day.  There are bubbly letters and cherubs floating around.  Now isn’t the time to get selfless.  Hmmm, so what does he like?  Can I really get him a video game for Valentine’s Day?  There’s just something so wrong there.  Perhaps a new lens for his camera, certainly thoughtful.  Practical.  And that’s what men want.  They want practical yet thoughtful.  I don’t want another kitchen knife or a Bose sounddock for myPod unless you’ve preloaded the pod with a mix filled with songs that make you think of me. Planning, I told you. A scrapbook is always nice, but most men won’t go to the trouble.  So this leaves us with some jewels, the right jewels.  Because even this you can get wrong.  But women… we’re so easy to please.



  1. A nice golf weekend at a lovely resort that also has a spa for you wouldn't be such a bad idea; a bit of time to enjoy being a couple before the babies come home.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Sorry if that was misleading. Phil is NOT Mr. Golf. Thank the golfing gods. Though another GREAT idea, that I actually did when I was living in Manhattan, was signing "us" (not Phil) up for a movie class, where every other Sunday we'd watch a movie (before it was released to the public) then discussed it with the director, or a film critic, one of the actors, etc. That was an awesome gift. For Xmas/Hannukah, last year, along with lessons at Grand Central station, some kick-ass $15 PER PAIR socks and some stylin' tennis shirts, I got Phil a tennis racquet (FOR ME), so I could play with him. He obviously already had a racquet, but he loved the idea that I was committed to doing something that he loved with him.

  2. and the thought that pops into my head is….
    I wonder if Phil still stops in to read the beautiful brides blog from time to time…

  3. Yeah…umm being single and going on 32 and having yet ANOTHER VDay alone – I'm all for whoever can be happy should be happy.

    But for whatever it's worth, I'm writing to let you know that the pics of the beans are phenomenal. Tender, funny, beautiful and dare I say just a little heartbreaking – all at once. Through the lens of the camera. we can see that they know just who they belong to – you, Phil and just as importantly – each other. Hugs, from Long Island.

  4. Meh. We aren't really into Valentines Day here. We give sweet gifts on our anniversary. That day is sacred, but Valentines? Not so much.

  5. What?!? Didn't you get your "Baby Prize" of jewelry of some sort for the beans? Surely Phil knew this IS A MUST! Especially when his wife so elegantly delivers TWO, a BOY and a GIRL in one shot, WHILE HE IS IN NYC DRINKING BEERS AS THEY SLICE YOU OPEN!!

    You didn't get a four carat rock for THAT ordeal?

    I think most husbands will agree that the best gift they could receive from their wife would be an unsolicited blowjob. I know my husband would dig it.

  6. Men? Perhaps not so easy to figure out how to please.

    But a Father? Oh, Stephanie, a Father. Send him carnations and one of those grammar school mail to everyone on class "Will you be mine?" Valentines from his daughter… even if you have to buy a whole box of them and just use the one. A thumbprint of his son. Buy him the fishing poles that he's going to teach your kids to use years from now… and get him one of those nutty Henry Blake fishing hats and hook a lure/fly or two onto it.

    Because you see, now, he's a Dad. And inasmuch as he wasn't a husband last Valentine's Day, his heart has grown three more sizes since then.

    And remember this, because it happened to me: His birthday won't mean nearly as much to him as Fathers Day will, once those twins of yours start bringing home the cards they make in school.

    "That's what Valentine's Day is all about to a Father, little Red-Haired Girl!"

  7. Damn, I hope I have a valentine by then so I can be challenged with the gift. Last year, I ordered customized M&Ms for a guy I had a major crush on – big, big mistake. I know…but that's why it's a crush, right? God willing, he'll be my valentine this year. Lots has happened since then!

    Glad you're back and seeming to be doing well. Thinking of other things for now, lightening your load with other thoughts til the babies come home.

    Have you seen the Feb issue of Glamour? There's an article of a woman who had a preemie, her thoughts and frustrations and of course, a picture of her now just fine, handsome little son.

  8. "he thought of everything. So I married him. And years later, I wrote a book about him and about how much I hate Valentine's Day, and, oh, his mother. "


  9. I agree. Get creative with the daddy theme. His first V-Day as a dad. Wonderful.

    Around here V day is mostly for the kids. We bake heart cookies for those near and dear and make homemade valentines for schoolmates and friends.

    Things change, you'll see ;) And you will be happy for it.

  10. The other part of Valentine's Day I have always disliked is (1) making sure he made reservations at your favorite restaurant in enough advance that you're not eating at 5 pm, and (2) getting to your favorite restaurant and finding a prix fixe menu with none of your favorite dishes.

    I'm getting my man a blue oxford-cloth robe from Ralph Lauren. Sexy yet practical too.

  11. I checked the babies photos tonight – the first time in a little while. I can hardly believe how much they have grown in such a short time. They are so beautiful. I am thrilled and excited for you. Best wishes, Fran

  12. Urgh. "Women want" – so not true. Boy and I completely skip Valentine's Day, at my request, because it's a stupid holiday. Loving each other should be year round, and no one should be punished for not doing the right thing on a scheduled day.

  13. We had been together a year, maybe two, when I went out and loaded up on skin care products for myself on Valentines Day. He's notoriously hard to please and after three years of buying and failing I gave up. I got him nothing. I displayed my goodies for him that night, and he kept waiting for his thoughtful something. "Nothing."

    He was so hurt. And I was surprised that he cared. So I try extra hard now. I still fail miserably. But at least I try.

  14. I would definately plan something special that the TWO of you can share together. Maybe a weekend away is not in the cards with your current situation. But I say bring it home to you. You could always have a couples massage in your own living room. Or you could have a chef come to your home and cook you both a romantic dinner. Or have it catered. Of course you could alway plan the menu yourself and cook it together. You aren't going to get much romantic alone time at home once the beans are finally home. I think that's more important for both of you right now than some big romantic gesture that will just eventually blend in with all the rest.

    I love Wry Bry's comment about him not just being your husband for the first VDay, but also being a father. I agree that you should definately incorporate a gift or two from Abigail AND Lucas. Nothing could possibly mean more to him.

  15. I love-love-love Wry Bri's idea. You're so creative that you could really go to town on this one. How about those great Valentines kids make in kindergarten? Pink construction paper, doily trim, crayons and lots of Elmer's Glue. Besides, not to be crass, but you 2 have significant financial resources, so buying one more "thing" for Phil would probably be less meaningful to you than crafting something for him "from" the babies. Who are too freaking cute for words, BTW.

  16. Shelley, MID= Men I Dated.

    Stephanie, I have a question, that is a little off topic. How did you decide what to do with your name change? I recently (in June) got married, and still have my maiden name at this point. I like my last name, but feel compelled to change it for my husband. I have thought about hyphenating it, keeping it, changing it altogether. We are currently trying for a baby, and it is a touchy subject when it comes to the baby's last name. Do we hyphenate the baby's last name, or just give it his? I would like my children to have the same last name as me. I don't know… it's such a complexing thought! Plus, I really don't feel like dealing with all the hassles of changing it… but, that is probably just me being lazy.

    I love your blog, love the pictures, and have cried and laughed along with you. Aren't men lucky to have women like us?!

  17. Stephanie – can you please elaborate on the Sunday movie class in NYC? I'd love to sign up for something like this. Was it through 92stY? Makor? JCC? The New School? Thanks!

  18. Personally, I have always liked homemade gifts. I've told bfs before to just make me a card, that's all that I wanted.
    Most men arent very good with homemade gifts which makes it even more touching that they go to that trouble (as well as feeling like they're gay).
    Wait until your babes are old enough to make you stuff for Valentine's Day. :) You wont hate Valentine's Day anymore.

    Picture 5099 is a classic of Abigail is classic.
    And I love how she has her eyes closed in 5152 and then she's aware of you in 5153. Little sneak!

    I know I already said it but they're both really pretty babies. Their coloring is beautiful.

  19. Hi Stephanie,

    I just looked at the newest pictures posted. So adorable! It must be great not to have the tubes taped to their sweet little faces, picture # Img 4993 of Abigail, talk about perfect lips! Take care & don't stress yourself about Valentine's Day.

  20. Sorry for the double. I agree with Manic Mom!
    (Didnt realize married people did this too) :)
    My mom gave me a gorgeous diamond ring after I had my son and now it's the only ring I wear.

  21. Shelley: MID=Man I dated.

    I have to say, even though it may be cliche, I love getting roses from my husband. Maybe because, my wasband never got them for me. At all! You learn to appreciate those things..the thought of having to find a gift for Valentines day makes me cringe. I can never find anything suitable for my husband – but I think you gave me an idea. Good luck.

  22. Sundry-

    I agree 100% with R, it's far better to treat each other well all year around. Being a bitch or a schmuck for 3 months, followed by a 5-minute visit to the florist, just doesn't cut it.

    Funny how you're 1st paragraph says women want nothing practical, yet your last paragraph says that men do want something practical.

    IMHO, forget the camera lens or the golfclub. He knows better than you what he likes, and if he needs one of those items, he'll but it himself. Lessons aren't a bad idea, but I wouldn't limit it to those things he currently engaged in. If your partner is a tough guy wannabee, but not really, you could get him boxing lessons. If he loves music, but can't play anything, you could get him piano, guitar, or singing lessons.

    But if you want to go over the top, Steph's idea of a getaway day(s) is the way to go. Tickets to LV or NYC. Tickets and travel to the US open. Tickets to the Superbowl or World series or Final 4, depending on his tastes. Airfare for mountain climbing or an archiological dig.

  23. woops, this may have sent without me putting anything;
    Andria– re: your baby's name- why not do the latin tradition of putting your husband's last name and your last name together, i.e. if your last name is Smith and your husband's is McNally, you would do Oliver McNally Smith. It's an interesting idea.

    Stephanie, as for this entry, it was very nice and if I would change one thing it would be that my love would have to be the sort of person to say I am "beautiful" not that he 'thinks' I'm beautiful! Ha

    And the person who said carnations as a gift- that was a joke right? Carnations are like the most horrid flower ever known to man.

    Have a great time deciding what to do – you are so incredibly artsy and creative I'm sure you'll come up with something.

  24. Try to go to the hospital at a time that Phil won't be there & ask one of the nurses to take a photo of you with the twins. Put that into a beautiful frame for his desk & enclose a loving note from the three of you. There are loads of far more creative things I could come up with but I truly think this would be the most meaningful gift on his first Valentine's Day as a father. Of course, if you wanted to save it for Father's Day………

  25. I just checked out the latest pics of the babies. They are beautiful!! The photos of them together are wonderful! You've truely been blessed!

  26. Gawd- I hate to even bring this up, but…

    I was just looking at the pictures again, and I was noticing the babies room (which is adorable!) But- the window situation scares me a little. When I was growing up (in East Texas) in the 80's, parents were told to not put anything near the window that showed that it was an nursery, or to have blinds that were closed, and to make sure the windows were well shut and secured. This followed an outbreak of infant abductions. I noticed that Abigail's bed is close to both windows, and you have somewhat sheer draperies on the windows, and no blinds. Are they upstairs? I just wanted to gently remind you that Austin can create a false semblance of safety- but it takes just one looney to ruin it for you. You are not only a new mother, but a famous one at that.
    Following what happened to that mom last Sept/Oct, I am wary about ever even putting the "birth announcement stork" in my yard, when it comes that time.
    Ok, now that I have caused panic, I am done writing. :)

  27. i've always thought valentine's day was a secret way of "fattening up" your loved one thereby making them all the more unattractive to any other possible suitors.
    that being said…

    once again…i can't stop looking…HUGWEB is absolutely THE cutest picture ever taken of two babies together, ever, in the world, ever, ever, period. They look so identical and I love his striped onesie!! What do they do all day? Are they sleeping mostly? What do they do when they are awake? I think it's so cute that they sleep together like that. Reminds me of last night. I woke up and my daughter was sleeping in my bed, cuddled in my arms, yet I distinctly remember putting her to bed in her own bed. I imagine her waking up at night and walking towards my bed, wiping sleep from her eyes, dragging her blanket behind and carefully maneuvering herself in my bed, into my arms, while i lay there sleeping without a clue.

    wishing you many memories like that,

  28. As much as I love getting flowers and chocolate myself, I hate to buy that stuff for somebody else– it seems so generic and commercial– some corporate sentiment instead of my own. Last year I bought a huge poster frame with a very large collage mat– I think there were about 40 spots for photos. Using a pretty black font with red shadows, I printed out "What I love about you…" in a text box big enough for the title spot on the frame. Then I filled in each box with a line or two about what makes him my Mr. Wonderful (eg, "I love that you think I am beautiful and tell me so"; "I love that you treat your daughter like a princess and your mother like a queen"; etc.). Making it just gave me a whole new catalog of reasons to love him, and he was just blown away. He hung it over his desk in our home office, and I still catch him on the phone, looking up at it and grinning like a Cheshire cat all the time.

  29. I like the idea of a homemade valentine for Dad. I would suggest tracing the beans' hands on construction paper, folding down the middle and ring finger on each cutout to make the sign language sign for "I Love You", cutting out a little heart to put in palm of each hand cutout, and putting each bean's thumbprint on that. Decorate further as desired!

  30. Before you know it, the beautiful beans' will be going out for a day in the park or a trip to the mall. How about a dad's diaper bag? Something hip looking, leather, with embossed initials. OK, you can skip the initial part.

  31. I've always felt like what we want from anyone is to feel missed when we aren't around. And that's why I think planning is so thoughtful — it says, "I was thinking of you even though I wasn't with you." That's why I love it when a guy picks me flowers instead of buying them.

  32. Because my current boyfriend also hates Valentine's Day (whew, did he blog a diatribe the year before we met), we have decided only to give each other the most hideous, hysterical, over-the-top kitsch we can find. This makes the day light hearted, and a play on itself.

    Last year I won the cheesiest gift award for my chocolate fish bedecked with "You're a Great Catch" on the wrapper. We already can't wait for this year.

  33. I also agree with everyone who said you should embrace the fact that it`s not just two of you anymore and make the Vday gift on the lines of this.

  34. I second the diaper bag idea- get him the diaper dude. He'll look hip and be equipped with everything the beans will need!

  35. I could never put into words what I felt about Valentine's Day/gifts for the occasion. But you completely hit the mark with this post. Thank you!

    PS-Those little red-headed babies are beautiful!

  36. "How about a dad's diaper bag?"

    So, if Phil gets Steph a diaper bag for Valetine's Day, you really think that will cut it? "Hey Steph, I got you a really nice diaper bag and a bunch of diapers for you". I don't think so.

    Other suggestions-if your partner is a movie fan, an original movie poster from his favorite movie, or a signed first edition if he's a reader.

  37. The newest pics of the babies are adorable! Thier pics, and this post, reminded me…have you gotten any wedding proofs or candids back yet? I was so looking forward to seeing all the things you described from that day, and then the babies came along and distracted me :) Good luck with the gift ideas!

  38. one of my most cherished gifts from my husband was a calendar he made at FedExKinkos's. every month featured a special picture of us from our travels and special occasions. it probably was around $25 and priceless to me….. what makes it extra sweet is that he took the time to find these pictures without my knowledge. all of the photos are of just the two of us…. that is quickly about to change as we are expecting our first child at the end of February. a gift from the heart.

  39. Don't sell the golf short. It's all about equipment and nice golf wear. If someone gave me, say, a golf gift certificate to any online store such as golfsmith or TGW, I'd be thrilled. {hint}


  41. Make this one special somehow, this will be the last Valentines day that you will have for the next 15 years that you won't need to hire a sitter. :)

    We always try to keep it simple rather than trying to out do the year before. We tend to do homemade cards and sappy stuff like that. Don't forget to make Daddy a card from the Beans. :)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.