Valentine's Day: Two words that strike fear into the hearts of men up and down the country. Not because of the cards/bouquets of flowers/bookings at overpriced restaurants we're expected to arrange, but because nowadays, we're also expected to buy you a gift.
It's not the money, you understand – it's simply that men and women are worlds apart when it comes to buying presents. You ladies can go into one of those gift shops that men avoid like the plague, full of various made-to-look-old items and aromatic things, and find something like a scented candle that even unlit smells like toilet cleaner, or one of those tiny, decorated boxes that’s too small to ever hold anything useful, plus a card with some hideously abstract glitter-encrusted front and twee message, and you'll buy them – and here's the thing we don't understand - even when you don’t yet know who you're going to give them to. Like a benevolent camel, you can store these kinds of things for months, waiting for the perfect as-yet unforeseen opportunity to present itself so you can present the, er, present.
Yet for men, even when we're buying for a specific person and for a particular event, present-buying is a minefield. Venturing into the kind of shops mentioned above makes us lose the will to live, so instead, we might take refuge in the nearest department store, but it's then our problems really start.
For example, we daren't buy you clothes. We know you'll never wear what we pick out for you, and instead you'll oh-so-sweetly ask for the receipt so you can change it 'for a different colour', then actually swap it for another handbag or yet another pair of shoes, because 'they didn’t have my size' – code, of course, for 'I hated it'.
There’s always lingerie, but we know you can't take that back, so buying the correct size is of paramount importance; trouble is, the only way to guarantee we'll get that right is to check. This means rifling through your underwear drawer when you're not looking, and if we get caught - and don't want to ruin the surprise - we run the risk of being branded a pervert. Even then, we have the problem of what sort to get you; a red silk stocking-and-suspender set may get our pulse racing, but you might think it means we don’t find you sexy enough as is. Similarly, anything too plain and you'll worry we don’t find you sexy at all.
Jewellery's worse. We're scared enough to spend a tenner on a pair of knickers that you'll think are, well, pants, so the thought of spending ten times that on something you'll regard with equal disdain paralyses us with fear. And while most of us have learned by now that giving you something practical for the house means we're likely to receive divorce papers in return, that doesn't leave an awful lot for us to choose from.
So this Valentine's Day, do us – and yourselves – a favour. If you want to stand a chance of getting a half-decent present from your other half, then make sure you give us something first: A great big, hard-to-miss hint.
Matt's latest book, THE ACCIDENTAL PROPOSAL, is out on the 17th of February. For information is and all Matt's books visit his website here
'Ed Middleton is ecstatic: he's just got engaged to his girlfriend, Sam, and he couldn't be happier. At least, he thinks he's engaged. The thing is, it was Sam who did the proposing, and the more he thinks about it, the less he's sure that she was actually asking him to marry her. She could have just been asking the question, you know...hypothetically. As the wedding day draws nearer, Ed becomes more and more uneasy. Sam keeps disappearing off for furtive meetings and private phone calls, and when he spies her going into a pub with a man he's never seen before, all his old jealousies and insecurities threaten to re-surface. It's the perfect time for Ed's unhinged ex-girlfriend, Jane, to show up on his doorstep. Meanwhile, Dan - Ed's best-friend and soon-to-be-best-man - is determined to throw him a stag night to remember. And when a severely hung-over Ed wakes up the morning after the night before to see a second dent in the pillow, it seems as if Dan has got his wish. Will Ed manage to find out the truth about his stag night as well as the identity of Sam's secret man? Or will an accidental proposal lead them both down the aisle to a wedding neither of them ever imagined?'