What to buy my valentine while she's far away?
January 24, 2008 11:07 AM   Subscribe

I need some long-distance-specific suggestions for a Valentine's day gift. I'm in San Francisco; she's in Australia.

My Aussie girlfriend had to move back to Melbourne in December because her work visa in the US was up. We have to deal with the long distance while we work out a plan for ourselves. I was just there for a visit over New Year's, we talk on the phone more or less daily, and already have some other visits planned for the upcoming year, so it all feels manageable. That said, I do miss her like mad, and I'd like to do something nice for her on the 14th.

I'm open to all kinds of suggestions, but I'm trying to think of something more clever than jewelry (got her something as a going-away present), flowers (just sent her some because she was having a shitty week), or chocolate (cliche). If it was something San Francisco or Melbourne/Australia specific, that could be a plus.

The bottom line is that I'm crazy about this woman and I'm a hopeless (but apparently not very creative?) romantic. Even just a nudge in the right direction would be incredibly helpful!
posted by autojack to Human Relations (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Flowers. The ones you just got here will have been dead for a while three weeks from now. Just get her a different kind. You don't have to be creative about it. Flowers are great.
posted by andrewzipp at 11:15 AM on January 24, 2008

Write down as many things that you can think of that you miss/love about her, cut them out, put stickers on them, annotate. Find a lovely box, insert. Tell her to open the box, take one out and read it every time she misses you.
This would hopefully be pretty light, weight wise.

Decorative heartfelt cards, books of poetry you find appropriate, a nice photograph album with photos of you with the promise of more (memories and photos) to share, a gift experience like sky diving or something, something useful towards any hobbies she has, a gift certificate for a day spa etc....

An idea on buget might help with the answers.
posted by Neonshock at 11:22 AM on January 24, 2008

Also, how long have you been together? Some suggestions will work for a long-term couple, but if you haven't been together that long, will come across a little overdone.
posted by cashman at 11:24 AM on January 24, 2008

Oh man, time to bring in the super cheese.

Take this weekend to hang out with a friend and have them take pictures of you looking sad and doing ridiculous couple stuff like drinking a milkshake that has 2 straws, riding a 2 person bike or rowing a boat to alcatraz.

Send these pictures in the snail mail but one at a time so she can get them on different days.

Then on valentine's day, show up at her place in Australia with a milkshake, a 2 person bike and a rowboat.

yeah I got nothing for the finale, but I think the start is nice :) Good luck!
posted by spec80 at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

When I was in college, a good friend of mine's boyfriend took a job across the country. It was extremely difficult for both of them.

Anyway, she used to wear his bathrobe around his apartment when she would hang out over there because it smelled like him, and she loved it. Also, he was 6' 2" and she was just shy of five feet, and it amused both of them to see her padding about in this gigantic thing. So, for their first Valentine's Day apart, he mailed her his bathrobe.

Oh, the tears. You've never seen anything like it. I thought that was pretty great.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 11:26 AM on January 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

You haven't thought of doing a message in a bottle?

Write a simple love letter, wrap up and put it in an empty bottle of her favor drink. Enclose in bubble wrap. If you must, put dry flowers in the box.

Also, if that's too cliche, what's her favorite food that she could only get in the US and she can't get there? Buy it, wrap it, send it.

You don't have to be "creative"; you have to be "thoughtful". i.e. show that you've paid attention to her once or twice. That's really what Valentine's Day should be about, imho.
posted by Stynxno at 11:26 AM on January 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

An old friend of mine long ago had a boyfriend who sat down at one of those old tape cassette players and recorded himself singing (A cappella-no instruments) a whole tape cassette's worth of classic love songs (I don't remember just what songs, but songs like 'Love Me Tender', 'Suzanne'-that's a love song, right?-, 'Unchained Melody', 'Love Me Do', 'Ring of Fire', etc.). He gave her the tape with flowers and she was wooed. He was not a totally fantastic singer, but clearly he was trying to romance her...and somehow that was enough for my girlfriend to be totally thrilled. She played it for me and I heard a bit. This guy was seriously in love and totally taking his singing seriously. He got his point across to her loud and clear. It was like you couldn't laugh at it, because he loved her so very deeply and truly felt the words he was singing to her. I always wished someone would do something that romantic for me for Valentine's Day.

Another thing is, a book of Shakespeare sonnets. That is romantic.

Other than those I really don't know what else to suggest. I guess you could always propose....it would get the visa issue out of the way then, wouldn't it?
posted by mamaraks at 11:33 AM on January 24, 2008

What about a unique and special little box that you create of all the things she particularly loved about SF? If she likes rugby (and what Aussie, doesn't, really?) you could send her memorabilia from the SF Fog (our local rugby team, if you hadn't heard of it) so she can represent even when she's watching the Wallabies play.

Add that to a special little book on San Francisco as a promise of things to come- maybe buy her a book on the California coast, and write inside the flyleaf: To future road trips down the coast with you by my side, love, Autojack.

I know you said no chocolate, but really, is she going to be able to get Scharffenberger chocolate in Australia? Or anything nearly as good? Go over to Berkeley and get her the nibby bar and maybe some of the French caramels they carry in the store. O'yum!

Does she like to cook? Is she scared of cooking? The Bay area has a host of amazing cooks who turn out more cookbooks than you can shake a stick at. If she isn't especially great in the kitchen, get her the Art of Simple cooking by Berkeley's own Alice Waters (y'know, Chez Panisse?). If she's good at cooking, get her the Chez Panisse cookbook, again by Alice Waters.

These will be both useful (and so little about Valentine's Day is) and every time she uses them she will be reminded of you, the Bay area, and how creative and unique you are.

Does she like coffee? Does she miss Peet's? Since you're already sending her a box air express, send her some Peet's beans, too. A total Bay area unique experience and nothing like that is ever found in Australia. (Speaking slightly from experience, slightly from prejudice, you might also have to include a grinder in the box: I can't recall ever seeing them for sale in Oz or Melbourne)

Make this Valentine's Day about the little luxury items she enjoyed in the states and is just starting to miss in Australia- things that remind you both of the time you spent together and your hopes for the future.
posted by arnicae at 11:50 AM on January 24, 2008

Response by poster: There are some _great_ ideas in here so far! The little things are exactly what I have in mind.

OMG, Stynxno, your idea is way more apropos than you realize. She and I first met at a Police concert. That might have to figure in here.

We've only been together for seven months, but it was a bit intense because we found out in October that she was going to be leaving, so it feels like longer.

Budget-wise, I'm not going for over-the-top, but then again if something perfect jumped out at me, I'd probably spring for it regardless of price.
posted by autojack at 12:02 PM on January 24, 2008

I'd avoid the sonnets. They're wonderful, yes, but a book full of them isn't the same as reading one to her.

I was in a LDR with an American woman (I'm Australian) for a few years. One of the nicest things I got from her was a package with all sorts of goodies in it. Lots of American candy (candy corn! Reeses pieces! Junior mints!), things that were useful for my hobbies (kevlar for fire twirling), ridiculous things (a strange little duck that quacks when you pat its head), and a wonderful (and hand written, of course) letter from her.
posted by twirlypen at 1:20 PM on January 24, 2008

So she had to leave in December. It's Summer in Australia right now and winter in the States. Spring starts a few weeks after Valentines day, so you've spent a season apart. Do something around that.

She probably wants to be with you in person, really bad. She talks to you on the phone, but she misses all those little things you do, that nobody remembers to say when they have a conversation with a loved one who is away.

Like this year of evenings blog (eww, so sterile), put together a season of evenings thing. You could do a blog, you could just take pictures and put them in a photo album, or you can do it however you would do this sort of thing.

Look at your emails, your schedule, your bank account, and go through the time since she's been gone, and try to talk about the funny, cute little things that you realize you never told her about. How you tried to jump that puddle and totally got your pants legs all wet. How you bought baking soda instead of baking powder, and the lady at the register told you some annoying story about how that happened to her too :P

She misses you. Go back through the time she's been away from you and fill it in. I personally would include lots of pictures, even if you just go back to the area and recreate the scene by pointing to something.

Put it all together in a diary-type thing, whether in a book or in a photobook type thing or a blog. A blog would be cute because then she could comment on each entry. You could make it a private one (I think blogspot allows that) and then she can go through your season without her and laugh at you and be entertained by you and shake her head at the things you tell her about. And then it's like she's there with you, having a conversation. And then it's a little time capsule you both can go back to.

But the in-hand, print version would be cool to have too - can't get deleted, and it's something she can hold and look at and show friends.
posted by cashman at 2:34 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Melbourne has a quirky restaurant in a tram, and the tram system kind of maps to the San Francisco trolley system (only without the hills).

Obviously you can't have a romantic meal in it with her right now, but maybe you can make a booking for the next time you're over? That way you show you're thinking about your visit and planning nice romantic stuff?

Have them call her out of the blue to let her know you've booked it?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:46 PM on January 24, 2008

OMG, Stynxno, your idea is way more apropos than you realize. She and I first met at a Police concert. That might have to figure in here.

um, you *DO* know that the Police are touring Australia at the moment, don't you?

it might be too late to get her a ticket, and it mightn't fall on VD, but...?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:15 PM on January 24, 2008

A few online suggestions:

redballoondays.com.au - awesome experiences and stuff. You could send her on an adventure.
rosesonly.com.au - the default flower fallback.
posted by kaydo at 4:27 PM on January 24, 2008

Seconding (thirding?) the Police bottle thing.

Don't send her on any adventure on her own that would have a Valentiney flavour! It sounds really giving "here's an experience for you", but she's going to miss you even more when she's on that hot air balloon ride all on her own, missing you. It will just highlight the distance - not good in LDRs when you're working towards connection.

DH & I lived on separate continents for a while. I still had half his clothes in my closet, so I had that connection with him. It really helped when he was away.

No matter what you give her for Valentines day, she's going to cherish it. Just no soft toys/stuffed animals, even if they are ironic. Never send soft toys as a present to anyone over the age of ten.

Why not send her something that's a bit of American iconography? DH loved the Stetson cowboy hat I sent him. Suited him, too! He'll never wear it, but he's dead chuffed he has it and cackles with glee over it even now.

DH & I would send videos to eachother. Not just *those* kind of videos, ahem, but ones where we'd sing and read poems and talk to eachother. I'd receive a parcel from him and would film myself opening the box. I'd get back from a British foods shop, after stocking up on marmite & baked beans because he was coming over in a week, I'd take the camera and show him the piles of groceries I got for him. He'd do the same when I came over.

He'd call when he'd get back from the pub at night and sing love songs to me... Forever Autumn by Justin Hayward being a particular favourite. I'd never heard the song before he sang it to me. There have to be songs like that she hasn't heard (or that you haven't that are Aussie faves)

Aside from the necklace he sent me one year for Valentines, few of the presents he sent still survive the transatlantic move. The memories, though... live forever.
posted by Grrlscout at 2:49 AM on January 25, 2008

Aww. My boyfriend and I spend long holidays apart (it's summer holidays now but we'll be back together in two weeks yay!) - we both study in Australia but I go back to Malaysia for the hols, and we miss each other terribly.

What does she like? Flowers et al are nice (honestly, and I'm not sure my boyfriend gets this yet, any gift is awesome), but the most thoughtful gift is something that relates to her. Is there anything she's been wishing for? Anything that you can tell she would love but is too shy to ask? I'm the gift-giver in our relationship and I often buy Mark things that remind me of him. Magic cards (he's a MASSIVE MtG geek), stuff with pandas, Danish stuff, whatever.

Mark writes me silly poetry. It's the best cheering-upper ever. The first holiday we spent apart, he sent me a love letter by post. Thing is, it arrived at my Malaysian house after I'd already showed up in Brisbane (as a surprise for his birthday!), so it had to make a roundtrip back, but it was a lovely gesture all the same. He even did a wordsearch/crossword thing for me (I returned the favour). Maybe you two could do something interactive like that - a puzzle or game that incorporates something about the both of you.

Aerogrammes are love. That's how my parents communicated for about 3 years - my dad skipped out of Dhaka to do his Masters in Turkey literally the week after their wedding. This was back in the day when phones weren't available; my mum longed for those aerogrammes.

Mark and I share links online very often. Could you make a website for her?

I'd be careful about sending anything plant- or animal-based through the post though. Australian quarantine law is very strict and you don't want your present confiscated! If you do go down the flowers/edible things/etc route, order them off an Australian website and get them to deliver. My best friend (who is still in Malaysia) sent me birthday flowers that way. Use eBay Australia too - I bought Mark a big box of lollies as a surprise for very cheap. It was meant to last him 3 months, but silly boy ate them all in one week!

Good luck; hope you have an awesome Valentines. Tell us what you went with.
posted by divabat at 6:35 AM on January 25, 2008

Oh, and I disagree with Grrlscout: soft toys are fun. Mark's a collector and I try to get him one from my travels.
posted by divabat at 6:38 AM on January 25, 2008

Hmmm... Long distance relationships are tough. As divabat (I'm the mentioned bf, btw) said interactive things are cool. Does she have a hobby or particular activity she does often? You could write a story about that, or make up a game.

Just want to reiterate the stringent customs rules in Australia. Sending plant/animal/food material is not really a good idea.

I find the best things remind rather than increase the missing feeling. It's a very fine line. Something like a silly poem can remind, while an 'experience' alone, as others have said, can increase the missing feeling.

There's no universal answer, all rel'ships are different. I reckon a personal touch and some thought are the essentials for a good gift. You can put a valentine's twist on it, or just let the present speak for itself.

posted by cofie at 3:35 AM on January 27, 2008

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