Signs of affection
Do men or women fork out more money on Valentine's Day? I pose the question to dating couple Matthew Piscopo and Jade Grima, who are looking forward to their first Valentine's together.
"I guess that depends on a number of factors, doesn't it?" replies Matthew, a design professional who also holds a degree in anthropology and psychology. "My gut feeling is, however, that men spend more."
In a way, we would like to believe that every romance starts out with two people having the best of intentions. Our splashes and splurges at the beginning of a love story are the grand, flashy gestures which mark the giddy stage of courtship.
As we survive the ups and downs of being together, the simpler and more meaningful, perhaps, are the surprises with which we show our affection.
It takes time to get the script so right that you can do without a gift. In the interim, it is usually the man who spends more money on the holiday dedicated to romance.
As far as American statistics go, in fact, Matthew's instincts are on track. According to Wise Bread, a group of bloggers who seek to enjoy life without blowing the budget, men spend close to double the amount women do for Valentine's Day. Quoting a number of sources, wisebread.com elaborates further: "More than one third of men would prefer not receiving a gift. Less than 20 per cent of women feel the same way."
According to Matthew, men are more inclined to be big spenders. Jade, a student, believes that there is a particular reason for this. "In general, men spend more because they tend to wait until the last minute to buy a gift and, when you are hard-pressed for time, you are normally going to end up parting with more money.
Apart from that, men have to think of where to take their loved one out, so at the end of the day, it all adds up to quite a tidy sum."
Matthew says that a lot depends on where two people are in terms of their relationship, and whether or not they actually intend to do something special on Valentine's Day or ignore it altogether. A teenager, for example, may go out of his way to make a big impression on his date.
"It is different for couples who have children," he says. "Some parents might not feel the need to spend a lot. Given the hard work that comes with raising a family, it may be the case that a couple would, more than anything, appreciate the opportunity to spend some time together by cooking dinner or going out. In most cases, both the man and the woman would buy something small and meaningful for each other."
Jade, in fact, prizes the Valentine's Day card as the most important item on the agenda. "I intend to buy a card and a special gift. I tend to give more importance to the card which, I believe, should be chosen with care. The script on a card should be particularly significant to get the message across that you are there for your partner through thick and thin."
Matthew reiterates this: "It is the little, meaningful gestures which seal a mutual bond rather than the amount of money dished out."
Matthew believes Valentine's is a special day for any budding couple, so flowers and a card are a must.
"When it comes to a first Valentine's Day together," he says, "we all become teenagers again. Love keeps us young at heart and a memorable Valentine's Day can breathe a lifetime of warmth in the spirit."
Matthew and Jade, however, point out that each moment is a good opportunity to tell a loved one how you feel. "I don't have to wait for Valentine's Day to tell Matthew how much I love him," Jade says.
While it is appropriate to dedicate a holiday to romance, given that so many celebrations cram the calendar, Valentine's Day is also special because, according to Matthew, it represents something of a milestone in a couple's relationship: "It is a reminder of how well a relationship is going."
The cards, flowers, chocolate and dinner serve to show that our loved one's well-being is in our heart in the here and now and always. Yet, after everything has been said and done, what touches us most when we exchange gifts is, in Matthew's words, "the look in the other's eyes". It is something you will never forget.
How do you keep a relationship going? Once you know you have found The One, it is, actually, not too difficult to take a relationship to the next level. However, you have to always be willing to go the extra mile to watch out for your love and do what is best for your partner or the family you may eventually have together.
Matthew and Jade have the basics sorted out: "Listen, speak, do wonderful things together and keep it interesting. Once you keep your loved one present in your heart and thoughts every day, your better half will do the same."
This is, indeed, the stuff that memories are made of.
This article appeared in the Valentine's Day supplement of The Sunday Times, February 8, 2009.