I don't do Valentine's Day.
And it's nothing to do with being single. I've actually been in a romantic relationship for 3 and a half years, and we have never celebrated Valentine's Day. Why? Because we don't believe that you need a "special" (see: marketing gimmick) day to show eachother how we feel.
I've read some great articles from singletons (particularly love this one from Lea of The High Tea Cast, which is a superb blog) and of course the deluge of Valentine's tips and advice, mainly aimed at men regarding buying lingerie for a female. I've even read a few articles that seem to have the outdated idea that when a man pays for a date, it is then up to the woman to pay him back with sex.
Now, I'm lucky enough not to have ever dated, or been friends with, a man who thinks that by spending money he is OWED sex (or in fact, owed sex in general). So, much to my dismay, I was surprised to find out that this primitive way of thinking didn't die out in the 1900s. Not only that, but men are being actively encouraged to think like this.
So here is my Valentine's advice, if you so wish to use this one day a year to show that special person (and I'm talking about those of you who are straight, bisexual, homosexual or otherwise inclined - too much Valentine's Day advice/marketing is aimed at men buying for women) you love them:
1. Don't just stop at Valentine's Day.
If you REALLY, really want to get involved on the day, do so, but don't make it a once a year thing. The most romantic gestures are often complete surprises.
2. You don't need to spend a wad of cash on a dinner date to show you care.
The best gifts I've ever had are hand-made and meaningful. I'm assuming you know what your partner or date likes, even if it's just their favourite film? Then hand-make (or if you are as useless at drawing as I am, hunt for something someone else hand-made on Etsy) something which will show your partner how much you appreciate and recognise their interests. Humour is great too.
For example, my boyfriend knows how I love Bioshock, so he crept outside our flat one night and knocked on the door. When I opened the door, there was an empty bottle with a message inside and a box - the message in the bottle said "Would You Kindly Open The Box", inside the box was a Big Daddy toy!
3. In a straight relationship, it should not be the man's responsibility to buy for the woman.
This isn't the '50s, it's common for women to be working for their money, and equality goes both ways. It is not acceptable for women to expect a gift from their male partner, just as it is not acceptable for a man to expect sex in return. Girls, I know it's nice to feel spoilt once in a while, but it also feels amazing to do the same for others, including him! The best dates I've had with my partner have been those where we have both paid for and arranged different things throughout the day!
4. How and when to buy a woman lingerie.
I'm actually surprised that the emphasis is put on men buying women lingerie, because I'm pretty sure it's just as difficult for women buying women lingerie. Guys, you are constantly being given patronising advice regarding buying women lingerie, under the pretense that you are incapable of dressing yourself let alone falling head-first into the lingerie sizing jungle.
My opinion is that each case is different. There is no "trick" to buying the "right" lingerie for a female partner, because each individual case is different. For example, I've never been bought lingerie because I am ridiculously picky (not to mention have very expensive tastes, which would make me feel uncomfortable if someone were to buy me something from my wishlist). If I were in the dating game and a man bought me lingerie fairly early on in the relationship, I would probably be put off. So, make sure you really know her before you consider buying her something.
And even then, how sexy the lingerie is is a rather dangerous game to play. Unless she's a complete sex kitten, it's probably best to go with something luxurious and well-made rather than full on crotchless briefs and harness.
The sizing game is a tough one too. But you don't need to be buying her a bra. There's a whole plethora of lingerie that is much easier to size correctly. If you only have an incredibly vague idea, what about a silk chemise? Also, so many brands do little easy gifts now (including *cough* these Beauty Queen Pin Up Tins from Playful Promises), usually knickers that have enough stretch to be vaguely sized as small, medium or large. Alternatively, go to a small independent lingerie boutique and ask for help - the ladies that work there will be more than happy to give you some ideas.
Also, for those fellas reading.