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Mush To Judgment

I know my boyfriend loves me, but I can’t get him to understand the difference between “thoughtful” and “romantic.” He’ll surprise me with socks I need (thoughtful), but not flowers I don’t (romantic). He pointed out that he didn’t buy me just any socks, but the Cadillac of hiking socks: a special wool blend to keep moisture away from my feet, woven without seams at the toe to prevent blisters. This was very thoughtful of him, but why couldn’t he make me little cards or cook me a special dinner? (Both are romantic things I’ve done for him.) He does do nice stuff for me, like scrubbing the bathtub then running the bath for me, and he always asks me how my day was (and is genuinely interested). It’s just that he’s never given me flowers, candy, jewelry, etc. -- the stuff that says “I love you” in a way socks just can’t. How do I get him to express himself romantically?

--Missing That Special Something

Let’s take a moment and read the average man’s mind: “Sex, sex, sex, red meat, sex, sex, sex, beer, sex, sex, sex, Cheetos, sex, sex, sex, baseball, football, sex, sex, sex” get the idea. A whole lot of sex, a smattering of sports, a side of beef and processed food, and zero mention of’s “Heartfelt Rose Bouquet With Candle.”

So, how reasonable is it, really, to expect a man to “say it with flowers”? Men do tend to comply -- maybe because when they hear “say it with flowers,” they get the subliminal message loud and clear: “because it’s cheaper than building a guest room onto the dog house.” In other words, men who speak through plant life might simply be telling you how much they care, or they might be sending a subliminal message of their own: “Floral white flag!” or “Bed -- it’s not just for sleeping!” or the all-too-popular “I was just joking about wanting to have sex with your best friend.”

A man who instead “says it with deluxe tube socks” is telling you all you should need to know: he cares about areas of your body which do not jiggle and are not commonly encased in lingerie. No, your boyfriend didn’t give much thought to how nasty socks look when you stick them in water in a big vase, but he actually interrupted his regularly scheduled thoughts of sex, sex, sex, touchdowns and beer to worry that you might get a blister or sweaty feet, then took steps to prevent it. And not only that. He scrubs the tub. He gets down on his hands and knees and scrubs the tub for you.

Sadly, the world’s greeting card-industrial complex does not stay afloat by suggesting that romance is also about a guy noticing that his girl’s freezing and putting his coat around her, leaving her the big piece of chocolate, or expressing concern, with Comet in hand, that her heinie might touch a less-than-pristine tub. That last action alone, on your boyfriend’s part, should be enough to cut your clamoring for “that special something” for all eternity. It should be, but it isn’t. No, you still (sniffle-sniffle) wonder why he doesn’t “care enough to send the very best” -- as in, the best heartfelt, yet deeply impersonal message a guy can get for about $2.50 and a ten-minute trip to the drugstore card rack. Hello? Did you miss that bit above? He gets down on his hands and knees and scrubs the tub. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.