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Darrell Huckaby - Exhaustive research to aid the Valentine challenged

So here we are again. Feb. 14. Valentine's Day.

Ten years ago, when I had just started writing this column, I wrote a piece called "Help for the Valentine Impaired" in which I bemoaned the fact that I never knew what to get my lovely wife, Lisa, as a Valentine gift.

Despite all of the well-intended advice I received from our readers, I bought her an iron. It might as well have been a lead balloon, because that's about how well the gift went over. In the decade that has passed, I have gotten no closer to solving the riddle of how to please a woman on Cupid's big day.

I don't understand it, either, because every year I ask the guys I eat lunch with for suggestions.

This year, I decided to take a different tack and interviewed several women-type friends, asking each of them to describe their perfect Valentine's Day - and the gift they would most like to receive. After considering their collective responses, the solution finally became clear as mud. I might as well have asked the guys at lunch.

Let's just put it this way. There was no clear consensus. I did, however, learn what a lot of other husbands and boyfriends should have done today - and should not have done.

One decidedly low-maintenance pollee insisted that she would be fine with some Jelly Bellies and a handful of chocolate.

I would be in luck if this young lady were my Valentine, because I already have a jelly belly - but I'm swimming laps every day in an effort to get rid of it. I also keep a lot of chocolate on hand, which is one reason I have so many laps to swim.

One other person thought that candy would be dandy as a Valentine's gift - she preferred dark chocolates - but, surprisingly, most of the women I talked to weren't overly impressed with any of the normal gifts we men have been led to believe will make our partners' days - and, subsequently, our own nights.

A sample from the actual surveys:

"Forget the chocolate! That is what every woman in America is expecting to get. I want the men in my life to think outside the box!"

I guess that would be the heart-shaped red box with the lace and plastic flowers. I wonder if CVS gives refunds?

Another:

"Anything but a stupid box of chocolate! I am just now getting control of my weight after Christmas and he'll come home with a Whitman's Sampler. He'll eat half of them himself and he hasn't gotten his weight under control from the past 10 Christmases!"

OK. So chocolate is out. How about flowers?

One person has already received a bouquet of Gerber daises - which, I suppose have something to do with the baby food people - and one person said she'd love to be surprised with fresh flowers, because she never gets them. But most respondents said nay to flowers, as well.

More actual quotes:

"Flowers are nice, but you've spent $75 to $100 for something that will be dead in three days. I'd rather just have the money!"

"I don't want him rushing to Publix at the last minute to get a dozen roses - or even worse, just making a phone call to the florist. I want him to put some actual thought into his gift."

And another:

"Not roses! Where's the imagination in that."

So now we are learning what not to buy - but we all know that we had better buy something - so what?

No. 1 answer?

A special night on the town with no conversation about work, sports, or kids.

Menus varied from spicy Cajun to Italian to "any food that I don't have to cook."

For many, the night on the town was followed by a variety of activities ranging from bubble baths to foot massages - and a few that I can't publish in this particular forum.

No. 2 answer?

Spa Sydell, whatever that is.

One blonde-haired vixen mentioned strawberries, whipped cream and handcuffs, but I think she just wanted to watch my face turn red.

There were even opinions about greeting cards.

"I would treasure a well-worded love letter; one telling me all those things he holds dear about me."

"My husband picked out the exact same card for me three years in a row."

"I don't want to know he showed up at Wal-Mart at the last minute fighting over all the cards that were left and paying 99 cents because he got such a crummy card."

If you happen to be married to that last person - or someone like her, you have a problem if you haven't been shopping yet.

And for the record, not a single person said she wanted skimpy red lingerie - or a new iron for that matter. So there you have it. The results of my extensive and exhaustive research has not been much help - but for the right price, I can give you the phone number of the woman who wanted handcuffs and strawberries. And I happen to know that her husband bought her a 99 cent card and a Whitman Sampler.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.