It's late, but it's never too late

Friday, February 14, 2003

This column is my annual public-service announcement for men who, like me, have trouble remembering important stuff.

Fellows, this is Valentine's Day. Where is the mushy card for your sweetheart?

Sorry. I didn't mean to make you choke on your Wheaties.

Do not panic.

If you forgot, it's OK. You have options.

First, there are plenty of stores open right now that have what you need, even if you're reading this before the sun comes up. Grab your keys, your wallet and whatever clothes make you decent in public and go like the wind.

The idea here is to get to a store as quickly as possible, rummage among the lousy selection of leftover mushy Valentine's Day cards and race home before you-know-who has a clue.

Important reminders:

At the store, remember to get an envelope for the card. Sometimes, when you wait this long, it's hard to find an envelope that matches the size of the card you want. Not to worry. Oversized envelopes are acceptable. Do not grab an envelope that's too small and forces you to fold the mushy card. That's cheesy.

Remember to sign the card. Nothing spells disaster in the Valentine department like a card that reeks of last-minute haste.

Your second option is to make your own Valentine. This has its up side. A hand-crafted card -- even one with wet glue -- has a way of pulling certain of your sweetheart's emotional strings.

Just remember that the most important feature of a do-it-yourself card is the sentiment of the words you choose to print -- chances are your handwriting is too sloppy for this -- inside the card. You're already out on a limb. Do not use careless words to saw it off.

There is a third option, but it's dicey. And expensive.

I almost hate to mention it at this late hour when your stress level must be somewhere near total breakdown. But let's face it. Right now you are about to become toast. You would do well to heed my advice.

Here's how it works.

Calm down. Get your jitters under control. Inside you may be a wreck. Outside, however, you must display full control of the situation.

When your sweetheart comes into the kitchen, which is where you should be nonchalantly spooning through the leftover milk in your cereal bowl, put on your best I-love-you smile and casually say, Boy, have I got a surprise for you.

Make it sound like you mean it, for Pete's sake.

When your sweetheart indicates even a shred of curiosity -- let's face it, she woke up thinking you are clueless in the Valentine department -- ask her if she has time today to go to the jewelry store with you. Tell her you want to make this a Valentine's Day to remember and you want her with you when you pick out a piece of appraisable jewelry suitable for the occasion.

Do not mutter. You are at a critical point in your life. Either you have what it takes to pull this off or you don't. I'm counting on you to uphold the honor of men everywhere just like you and me.

Frankly, if none of these three options work for you or if -- heaven forbid -- you waited until afternoon to read this column, which means you have no options except the insanity plea, which doesn't work anyway in these circumstances, I have only the thinnest thread of hope to offer.

As you may have noted, this column is, as I said at the outset, for men. Why? Because women are notorious for remembering important stuff.

The only last-ditch possibility that could save your scrawny neck is this: Your sweetheart forgot too.

Boy, do I have some different advice for this situation. Give me a call. Now.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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