You’ve probably heard that women dress for other women, and the same theory of catty one-upmanship holds true on Valentine’s Day. Yes, even the most cynical lass wants to evoke jealousy in her gal pals on February 14. “Women are naturally prone to compete over their mates,” says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., author of Why Him? Why Her? “Plus, competition drives up her testosterone levels, increasing her libido.” Translation: Stick her with a stale present and she will second-guess your lazy ass. But drop an envy-inciting gift on her and she’ll be way more amenable to trying the “love harness” you bought on Craigslist. To ensure your V-Day pays dividends, we’ve created the ultimate cheat sheet for upgrading those mid-rung doghouse ideas into top-shelf sex investments.
1) Box of Chocolates
Upgrade: Throw her a chocolate tasting party. For a few hundred bucks, an expert will bring an array of chocolates to her home with wine and explain the nuances of the confections and the pairings. Many boutique chocolatiers, elite wine stores, and gourmet grocers offer the service.
Bragging rights: “He’s going to love how I work off all the calories.”
Last-minute save: Make her 2-Minute Truffles: Break a bar of dark chocolate in a bowl and pour in 7/8 of a cup of almost-boiled heavy cream. Stir until melted, then stick in fridge. Once cool, scoop chocolate with a spoon and roll in cocoa powder.
2) Hallmark Card
Upgrade: To create a superior memento, upload your best couple photos onto shutterfly.com and design a personalized hardcover photo book. ($15)
Bragging rights: “Do you know how many trees he killed to express his love?”
Last-minute save: Create a virtual photo album. This isn’t nearly as impressive as a book, but still trumps a crappy card from 7-Eleven. Go on flickr.com, upload your favorite couple photos, and organize them into album form in seconds, for free.(Tip: Remove porn images from your desktop before showing her.)
Upgrade: Sure, one glance at her Victoria’s Secret set gives you a tingle (see page 14 for sensory overload). But to incite genuine panty-monium, give her an unmentionable from high-end lingerie boutique Kiki de Montparnasse. They sell everything from bras to cat suits to battery-powered “instruments of pleasure,” but even a great pair of panties (like the Muse Tuxedo, $175, at left) will put her in the mood to tear ’em off. kikidm.com
Bragging rights: “Oh, you’ve never heard of it? Cameron Diaz wears Kiki.”
4) Dinner Reservations
Upgrade: Make this 15-minute, four-star Spaghetti Pomodoro from Scott Conant, top chef at Scarpetta in N.Y.C.
Bragging rights: “He was so cute and only lost one finger!”
Last-minute save: Really? Just make the damn spaghetti.
1/2 pound spaghetti
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium shallot, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced
1/2 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Boil spaghetti in salted water.
2. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat. Gently heat shallots and garlic, browning slightly. Add tomatoes, crushed pepper, a little salt, and lots of love.
3. Cook until tomatoes soften. Add six ounces of boiling water to tomatoes. Toss with a wooden spoon, adding basil, butter, and Parmigiano. Get it nice and creamy. Insert in mouth.