Dating a minimalist is all fun and games until a gift-giving holiday rolls around. Now, I love that my boyfriend is neat and tidy and not super attached to material things. But Monday is Valentine’s Day. A day to present your sweetheart with tokens of affection. We’ve been dating for nine months, which is too long to legitimately wiggle out of celebrating (I think that limit is three months). But we haven’t been together for long enough that we can just get away with ignoring the holiday completely, like my parents shortly after they were married – a dozen red roses are a bit less romantic when they’re coming out of your joint checking account. (They did celebrate Feb. 15, the day all the heart-shaped candy goes on sale, religiously and with great passion.)

Our Hallmark culture has me cornered. I’ve got to figure out something to give my minimalist boyfriend. And before you suggest “take him out to a nice restaurant,” like my mother did, please recall that we are still in a pandemic. (Yes, still.)

See, I’m easy to shop for, because I’m a clutterbug, and I do like stuff. I have a couple of common, physical things that can be easily purchased and presented to me: ostentatiously large hair bows, scented candles, coffee and various coffee-related accessories like mugs. But my boyfriend – let’s call him Rory – already has most of the things he wants, except maybe an air fryer, and there is literally no room to put it in his apartment. Rory likes books (but he has a Kindle). He likes music (but it’s all on his phone). He likes art (but doesn’t want to cover the walls). He doesn’t even have a dog of his own that I could buy toys for as a sort of proxy gift (he borrows Janey). He would like a fancy vacuum, but I don’t have $600. (Side note: Why are vacuums so expensive, and yet so hard to get repaired?) I can’t really buy “the sensation of a warm spring breeze in your hair” at Target.

I asked what he wanted for his birthday. He said some new pens would be nice. Then Christmas came along a few months later. And I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. And he said some wool-blend socks and a new set of bath towels. And then a week before Christmas, he gave me my gift early, which was a super nice winter parka. And I started panicking because all I’d gotten him at that point were the socks and a book on medieval art. Thank god my brother was home for the holidays, because he helped me talk my way through what I could possibly get my boyfriend.

“He’s a smart guy, right?” my brother said. Yes, of course. Super duper smart. “Well, all smart guys have a thing they’re super into. Dad loved World War II biographies. What’s Rory’s thing, Victoria? What’s his smart-dude thing?” Sports cars! Race cars! He likes racing! Not in a stockbroker-midlife-crisis sort of way, but in a look-at-the-laws-of-thermodynamics-in-action sort of way. “What about tickets to a racetrack? New Hampshire has some nice ones,” suggested my brother, who also likes cars (trucks, mostly). So I started Googling and I found an opportunity to test-drive a Lamborghini around a track in New Hampshire, the only downside being that it will be in June.

In the middle of writing the draft for this column, I texted him to ask him what he wanted for Valentine’s Day. Do you know what he said? “Seeing you would be enough.” Which is both tooth-meltingly sweet and extremely unhelpful for the situation. Keep in mind, we’re not in a long-distance relationship. We see each other multiple times per week.


I think I find this stressful because I’m a rule-follower by nature, and I love him very much, and the social rules say you have to get your loved one some sort of gift on Valentine’s Day. I did finally come up with something, but by then it was too late to guarantee Feb. 14 delivery, so it will arrive on the feast day of some other saint.

Both of us are oddly obsessed with the legend of St. Guinefort, who was a 13th-century French folk saint who also happened to be a dog. Guinefort was allegedly found at home covered in blood with a crying child, and the dog’s master, thinking he had attacked the baby, killed him and threw him in a well, but it turns out Guinefort had killed a snake that had threatened the child, and was a good boy after all. Miracles were reported at his grave. The Catholic Church said it was heresy for a dog to be a saint and tried to repress the local beliefs, which backfired, because the cult of belief persisted for over 500 years in France.

So I found a website where you can get art screen-printed on various items, and I found an artist who had done a portrait of St. Guinefort in the style of a stained-glass window, and I had that printed on a fleece throw blanket. (Rory is always cold.) I hope he likes it. I’m sure Janey will love it. Either way, all I’ve done is buy myself some more time before the next gift-giving holiday, when the cycle begins anew.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.