Swept off her feet
John Norberg, humor columnist s

Me: "That day is coming up again isn't it."

Buddy: "There are lots of days coming up -- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. What day are you talking about?"

Me: "Saint Romantically Challenged Day."

Valentine's Day was last Friday. The only reason I know this is because it was advertised on ESPN during the games. I think ESPN does this as a public service announcement to let men like me know the day is coming up.

There are important days every year I try to remember. One of them is Valentine's Day. The others are our anniversary and my wife's birthday. I can find our anniversary date inscribed inside my wedding ring, if I can get it off. My wife's birthday is on her driver's license so I check it when I think it's getting close.

But Valentine's Day always sneaks up on me.

The problem with Valentine's Day is that a man is supposed to be romantic on this day.

What does it mean to be romantic?

My wife's idea of a romantic dinner is just the two of us in the dinning room, candles, soft music, our best china, and silverware, linen tablecloth and napkins, haute cuisine and fine wine.

My idea of a romantic dinner is turning off the basketball game on the kitchen TV while we eat.

Romance is for those Italian guys or the French and Latin. These guys are hot blooded. I'm a Norwegian. Norwegians are cold blooded and we eat a lot of herring. Women generally do not want to kiss a man who has been eating a lot of herring.

I'm not the only one who is totally lost in the romance department on Valentine's Day. A lot of other guys have the same problem.

You might be romantically challenged if you buy your wife candy and eat half of it before you give it to her.

You might be romantically challenged if your idea of buying your wife flowers is giving her a package of petunia seeds.

You might be romantically challenged if you take your wife out to a romantic dinner and use the drive thru lane.

You might be romantically challenged if you take her out to a Valentine's Day dinner and order the two-for-one special.

You might be romantically challenged if your wife says she'd like a Chateaubriand and candlelight dinner and you wonder when she started eating candles.

You might be romantically challenged if you give your wife a romantic movie and it stars the Three Stooges.

You might be romantically challenged if you buy your wife a black negligee and it's five sizes too big.

When we were young and first married I would ask my wife what she wanted for Valentine's Day. She would say, "Surprise me." So I did.

And after three or four years of that she decided it was much better to tell me what she wanted instead of my surprises. I think the turning point was the "Take Me To The River" singing fish Valentine's Day surprise.

Me: "What do you want for Valentine's Day this year?"

Wife: "I'd like a battery-powered, stick turbo vacuum for the wood kitchen floor."

Me: "You want a vacuum for Valentine's Day? This is a trick isn't it? Even Norwegian men know you don't get a woman a vacuum for Valentine's Day."

Wife: "I love you. We have been married for almost 34 years. I know you. The only thing I want from you this Valentine's Day is that vacuum. And please, I beg you. None of your surprises."

Buddy: "What are you giving your wife for Valentine's Day?"

Me: "A vacuum cleaner."

Buddy: "If you need a place to stay you can use my place for awhile."

Marshall Field said, "Give the lady what she wants." And he did okay. So I figured this was pretty much a gift to me, an easy Valentine's Day gift to buy.

I got her the vacuum. On Valentine's Day I looked around the house for a pretty gift bag to put it into. I use gift bags because my giftwrapping has resulted in some minor tragedies. The only bag I could find that was big enough for the folded up vacuum had balloons on it and said in huge letters, "Happy Birthday."

But it was red so I figured it was okay.

I gave her the Valentine's Day vacuum in the red, balloon Happy Birthday bag.

Wife: "This is wonderful. It's just what I wanted. It's so romantic. And you do know it's not my birthday don't you?"

Me: "I'd have to see your driver's license to answer that."

Wife: Would you please put the vacuum together for me? It looks a little complicated."

Me: "Sure thing."

Wife: "And when you're done, would you vacuum the kitchen floor for me?"

I'm beginning to think the vacuum itself wasn't the gift she had in mind.

Thirty-four years.

And I'm still getting outsmarted by this woman at every turn.

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