Oh, Valentine’s Day. Is there a holiday more heteronormative, more capitalist, more soaked in expectation, and more exhausting to contemplate? I assure you I have read every critique, and I am here to say that if you hate Valentine’s Day I do not judge you or blame you in any way. So I hope you can greet the following confession in the same spirit: I love Valentine’s Day. For one day, the burbling fountain of my absolute mushball heart feels in sync with the world. No matter how chirpily cheerful I am, no matter how many absolutely heartfelt sappy sentimental love messages I text or mail or call to convey, I am at least briefly, not weird.
As a gay who also loves shopping, cute things and tiny pandemic excitements as well as Valentine’s Day, it is therefore my absolutely giddy duty to compile this list of Valentine’s gift suggestions for any of your many loves, however you prefer to Valentine, even if—or perhaps especially if—the deep and true love you’re showering with treats is yourself.
For the love who always knows what planet is causing your bad mood
Astrology babes tend to have their own primary star-gazers that they follow. But if you adore someone who loves oracles and signs from the planets, perhaps a subscription to Chani Nicholas’ excellent app would be a welcome addition? This queer Black investigator of all things interplanetary brings a refreshing lens to her predictions and prognostications. Is your love fond of pulling a card with which to consider the day? Perhaps quotes from the poetry of Lucille Clifton to frame their intentions, or, if they’re more whimsical (or more practical), try Get Your Deck Out tough love cards from Katie Abey for a daily vibe. If they’re always reading everyone else’s cards, maybe book them a reading with Cyree Jarelle Johnson of temperance tarot for an opportunity to focus on their own movements for a moment.
For the outdoors person you love, or even your love who just has to spend a lot of time outdoors right now
How about a Sitting Suit, designed by the eminently practical Danes as a one-size-fits-most item that, to my surprise, really does fit most (we tried it on humans ranging in height from 5 foot 2 inches to 6 foot 3 three and weighing from 120 up to 350 lbs and it wrapped the round and the slight equally well). It’s great to put over all their other layers for physically-distanced outdoor hangouts while keeping both cozy and stylish. Or if they’re more adventuresome, pair a Gather Sack foraging pouch from Daggerfish with a selection of videos from forager Alexis Nikole and get out there and snack on the whole of outdoors together. Smash & Tess has a new gender-nonspecific and massively cozy romper line that I love for being a cuddle-ninja at home, but also as an underlayer for outdoor activities, especially if you find that the wind sneaks in between your jacket and pants on a toboggan hill. Throw on some quilted Wren Fireside Hybrid slippers from Bespoke Post with absolutely essential tug-tie laces and you’re not only adorable but also warm for a dog walk or quick errand. It’s 2022; a romper and slippers are definitely an outdoor outfit if you want them to be. If they’re out and out out, Rumpl makes a lightweight, warm and stylish blanket in many designs (including rainbow!) with a clever clip that makes it a cloak for going from tent to campfire, or vice versa, for extra winter-camping warmth.
For your love who loves to be laid in luxury
I cannot overstate the deep deliciousness of sinking into a bed that just feels like acres of cool, soft bedclothes. You’re on your own to find the person or people with whom to enjoy them, but let me recommend Piglet in Bed French linen sheets for the sheer wonder of linen on your naked skin. When they get out of bed, wrap them in a hooded Peridot robe, sustainably made in the United States and available in sizes up to a 40/7XL, so if your lover is also a luxury model of curves upon curves they can be cozy. By the bed, stock a stylish Gigi 2 from Lelo, perfect for hitting whatever kind of spot your playmates are rocking or one of these new and frankly amazing small vibrators from Love. Not War. with swappable heads and 12 different speed/pattern variations (this new vibe is the sleeper hit of the season, mark my words). If you want as much of a delicious wake up as you had sleep, try the Barisieur, a coffee alarm clock that wakes you with the tones of your choice and a perfect pour-over, right next to the bed. It even includes a tiny fridge so your milk stays cold… ahhh.
For your littlest loves
Love the smallest ones with a combo of delightful nonsense and enriching activities. Osmo is a really fun way to draw, do puzzles and solve problems in a screen/real-life hybrid. You get a little hat for your tablet that allows Osmo to “see” what the kiddos are doing and a set of physical manipulatives (one of the starter kits is an outstanding Cool Auntie gift for anyone under 10). Or go back to paper basics with high quality Ooly arts and crafts supplies like markers, stickers and paints (they make a Hearts and Cuteness Bonus Box that I can honestly say my whole household would fight over). You can sign your little loves up for DrawTogether with Wendy MacNaughton for some queer art vibes (MacNaughton and her wife and collaborator Caroline Paul lead the class). Or your could set them up for tasty projects like making chocolate donuts with a kit from Bespoke Post (we love this queer, BIPOC-owned biz that elevates a ton of small businesses so much, they get two mentions) or a book like Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake! which offers a range of projects. For the tiniest friends, check out these hand-printed baby clothes by Studio Tokek, in wild and constantly changing nature patterns.
For the beloved whose heart is indeed reached through their stomach
I’m wild for luxury condiments that uplift the everyday while lasting a long time, and there are some truly delicious new options including two grades of hot sauce from Truff (hot and hotter), pasta sauce and more all lashed with truffle oil. You might add roasted pistachio butter from small-batch roaster Fastachi or honey-roasted peanut butter from Hell’s Kitchen to a nice morning toast, paired with variety upon variety of tea from August Uncommon (with a clever and helpful guide to choosing flavours) for a Valentine that will last weeks. Or if you’re looking for the traditional Valentine’s Day chocolate, try SOMA Chocolates for delicious and super-high end delights or a Valentine’s assortment from Economy Candy, packed with every Valentine’s classic you ever remember enjoying and some new ones as well.
And the lovers for whom heart access is by… a different route
The nice people who spend all day designing and developing sex toys, bless them every one, have been working overtime recently. For people rocking an innie who like something inside, the folks at Womanizer have developed the Duo, an update on a rabbit-style vibe which combines their suction/vibration technology for the devil’s doorbell with a small-ish insertable vibrator in one cute (and highly variable) package. If they’ve got an outie, the Manta works as a singles or couple’s toy—it has silicone “fins” that gently cradle a disco stick while a very powerful vibration tickles their fancies. Pair it with a CBD-infused lube from Foria for a slippery, leisurely session, or with an exploratory box from Squirm containing some soft and some sharp sensation toys to play around with, plus a nice, soft blindfold (in case you have somehow reached your current queer age without owning one).
For your well-accessorized sweetheart who curates their outfits to the tips and tails
Of all the genders I can think of, it would be the rare few with no use for one of these hot collar clips with chain from Dapper and Swag, whether instead of a tie or instead of a necklace, or a sexy fashionable chest/body harness from Emma Alamo, like the Arcana or the Warrior. They also make strap-on harnesses, collars and cuffs if you need more function with your fine-ass form. Your cycling friends will swoon over these incredibly well-made and deluxe bicycle helmets from WOC-owned Thousand that come in two dozen colours, including the absolute gayest shiny rose gold. To finish the look, if you like to add a bit of scent, our friends at Boy Smells have branched out into fragrance with their really well-balanced Genderful line to make your friend or lover (or you!) smell great with lots of herbal notes and deep sexy finishes (I’m not yet ready to discuss whether it means anything that my favourite is Tantrum).
For your favourites whose favourite is basking in the arts
For the sake of making this category not 1,100 pages long, let me recommend a few superlative items for artists and a few for culture vultures. Got a painter? Indigenous-owned Beam Paints made with natural materials and extraordinary colours. A printmaker? Woodzilla lino presses in a rainbow of colours and sizes (A4 is a regular sheet of paper, FYI). A writer? Wrap together Charlie Jane Anders Never Say You Can’t Survive and Mathew Salesses’ Craft In The Real World and skip yet another notebook (though if they like writing longhand and you want to splash out, indulge them with a Remarkable2 tablet, which allows them to take notes or draw longhand and then auto-magically feed it to their computer as typed, editable and shareable notes for their writing group). Need helpful, hopeful, handmade print for your home? TenderHeart Press is here for you with quotes from great works of queer literature and beyond like “Sweet love, do not play it small. The world depends on your greatness.” Theatre buff? Many top tier theatres are still presenting digital work you can enjoy from anywhere, including Crossroads Theatre.
And if this year you only have a dollar in sticky scraped-together change for all of Valentine’s Day?
Memorize a love poem and recite it (here are a fewto getyou started). Fold a piece of regular paper into an origami heart (or two or ten or cover the bed in them). Leave little love notes in all their pockets, each saying a specific thing you like about them (their laugh, their sourdough, their hair in the morning, their generous ass, their generous heart) and do some of the shorts pockets so they remember in June, too. Carve a potato stamp and get some red paint at the dollar store and stamp the whole inside of the shower with hearts and flowers. Squeeze the sriracha onto their eggs or carve the peanut butter on their toast in the shape of a heart. Write a coded message that gives your sentiments word by word—page, line and word number—to a book you liked and give them your copy to puzzle it out with. Text them a naughty story sentence by sentence all day. Draw your initials together in a heart on the steamy bathroom mirror and send them a photo.