Whether you’re in a long-term relationship or just starting something out, the pressures of Valentine’s Day gift shopping are infamous. Getting the perfect gift, that’s romantic without being throwaway or cloying, can be difficult. When buying for a woman, there are a few staple present ideas, for better or for worse: flowers, chocolate, giant teddy bears, and jewellery are all clichés for the 14th of February. For the unimaginative partner, there’s no shortage of obvious fall-backs to pick up from Tesco if the big day has slipped your mind and you want a traditionally female gift. By comparison, when it comes to men’s gifts the romance largely disappears. Gone are products covered in pink and red hearts or lace, or the tasty sweet treats. Instead, we’re offered seemingly romantic twists on very ‘blokey’ items that would otherwise be a stocking filler. Whack a cute message on some beer or some boxers and that apparently passes for a grand gesture. When men in heterosexual relationships seem to be expected to splash out on organic roses and a gemstone or two, the scales don’t seem very balanced, financially or emotionally.

the scales don’t seem very balanced, financially or emotionally

Like many elements of stereotypical heteronormative relationships, gift-giving on Valentine’s Day paints the man as the bread-winner, able to stoically fork out for fancy presents and receive none, and the woman as needing validation with some shiny trinkets and loving message printed in a card. It’s nonsense, really. The idea of men not appreciating romance seems rooted in toxic masculinity, in ideas of men being emotionless pillars of stoicism who prefer a good fight to a good hug. Like a lot of traditional Valentine’s Day proceedings, this expectation needs to be thrown swiftly into the bin. Boys do cry, and I’m sure we’d all shed a tear or three if our significant other bought us a bouquet of flowers or a cuddly llama – gestures are touching no matter what! However, there’s no arguing that good gift ideas for men aren’t so easy to find. With this in mind, I asked the men of Exeter, so you don’t have to.

gestures are touching no matter what

The answers I got fit into three broad categories. Firstly, think about personalisation. A personal touch doesn’t have to mean going on an expensive website to get something custom-made or engraved with initials. Hand-making a card or gift can be a really touching move. If you’ve got a talent or hobby, use it – draw your partner something if you’re an artist, make a mixtape if you’re musically minded, or whip out a vase if you’ve been going to pottery classes. It won’t matter what the gift is ultimately, any present which has had some hard work and time spent on it will always be a winner. Secondly, think about experience. Gifts don’t always have to be a material object, and memories are guaranteed to last the longest. You could get your man concert tickets, spend a day at the beach with them, cook dinner – the options are endless. Particularly if you’re in a long-distance relationship, just spending time together can be incredibly valuable. Thirdly, if you’re not one for a big gesture, there’s always the little things. Gloves, socks, a baking tray, fancy biscuits – if you know the guy you’re with, you’ll know what they’ve been wanting for a while, and a coveted essential can often be far sexier than something you didn’t need. To be honest, all these suggestions apply equally to gifts for women; it’s time we moved past some of the old grandiose clichés and started doing small but meaningful gestures. But don’t be too hasty in ditching flowers and chocolate – any day of the year, we’re all going to appreciate that.

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