Forget the roses - just wash my car

The average American household will spend $94.50 on Valentine's Day this year, by one estimate.

On what? Flowers, dinner at a fancy restaurant, cards proclaiming undying love?

Maybe I'm being too cynical, but as the price of a dozen roses soars each February, I wonder why phoning the florist has come to be the major symbol of love in our society.

Surely, loving someone means doing something special just for him or her, not the same thing millions of other people are doing. Just as certainly, it should be more personal and take more effort than picking up the phone or stopping by a shop.

I once met a gardener who told me about her favorite present of all time: a load of manure, given to her by her son. He was understandably reluctant when she told him what would make her heart sing, but he found a source and delivered the malodorous gift.

If I could choose a Valentine's gift for myself, it might be having my spouse wash the dishes one night when I'm not expecting it, or being afforded the opportunity to sit in my bathrobe and read a book from cover to cover on my day off - when I really should be grocery shopping or cleaning the shower.

Of course, this works two ways. I ought to get a piece of paper and write on it, as I used to do in elementary school: "This certificate entitles you to have me ... walk the dog on a cold morning when you'd rather sleep in ... take out the garbage on a rainy night ... not nag you about turning off the lights in the hallway...."

All those deeds would cost me something in time or effort - and they would be things my husband would appreciate. Besides, he'd really love it if I saved $94.50.

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