In my mind, the most romantic thing a man can do for his woman is give her a foot massage. Let me paint a picture. Say you are the guy. You are sitting on the couch watching TV while your gal is finishing up the chores in the kitchen. You are an evolved male so it is not as if you haven’t helped her put the dishes away. It is just that she is more persnickety about the kitchen, sees dirt where you don’t, and insists on wiping unseen bacteria off the floor every night. So you go over to the couch, sit down and reach for the remote. You are happily surfing channels when she finally comes and plonks down on the couch with a sigh. Now here is what you do (and this is the crucial part). Gently reach down and lift her leg on to your lap. Then begin massaging her feet. Do it offhandedly, while watching TV; don’t make a hue and cry about it. I guarantee you that it will melt your lady’s heart.
Right spot: It’s all that takes to pamper your girl.
The reason is simple. You see, women of this generation — and I include myself in this group — grew up with some messages hard-wired into our brains; and these don’t go away no matter how feminist we are. One key differentiator is that women are hard-wired to please everyone around them. I have seen strong, smart career women who have no problem laying off hundreds of workers in a company or making hard unpopular decisions in the boardroom bend themselves all out of shape once they come home and confront a sulky child, sullen in-laws and a silent husband.
Placing one’s feet on a husband’s lap falls into this category. I am sure that many women — from Bombay to Belgaum — routinely lift up their tired feet and place it on their husband’s lap while watching TV together. I am sure a larger number wouldn’t dream of placing their legs on their husbands, even if they are in an equal marriage. This is what is called a hang-up. And most of us Indian women have it.
When you, the guy, not only lifts our aching feet on your lap but also massages it, you are satisfying two feminine needs. You are giving succour to our tired feet; and you are allowing us to feel both deliciously naughty and supremely respected at the same time. It is also, in my mind, an incredibly romantic gesture — by taking her feet, you are taking ownership and giving it as well.
My cousin recently bought her husband a Rolex watch for his 40th birthday, so I am sort of romantically freaked out. I feel like I have to one-up them for my husband’s next birthday. My stress level has hit the ceiling. I want to buy a romantic gift to beat all romantic gifts, which, as any much-married person will tell you, is a non-starter.
Romantic gestures are a funny thing, you know. When we are young and in college, something as simple as a kulfi ice cream can become the equivalent of the Taj Mahal when your teenage heart-throb buys it for you. But gifts bought while dating do not count. At that stage in life, most of us will be satisfied by anything from the object of our affection, be it a stuffed elephant or a pair of socks in sordid pink.
Newly weds are a different matter altogether. It is that time in life when most gifts to spouses are actually things you do or buy for yourself. It is that time of life when you actually contemplate nose-hair tweezers; or a satin nightie in hot pink with slits where the cup should be; or a bikini wax. It is that time when you can say with a straight face — “I am going to give my husband a great gift tonight; I am going to spend the day at the spa.” Oh really, how nice for him.
I find that couples fall in two categories: successful gift-givers and the unsuccessful ones. I fall squarely in the latter category. I have never given a gift that my husband has not returned; or stored in a dark closet never to be retrieved. It is not that I am dim-witted (which, arguably, I am); it is just that I am short on instinct.
My husband has given me gifts that I’ve hated. But he has given many more that I love. Then again, men have an unfair advantage in this arena because there are so many things that we women like: They can buy us jewellery, clothes, perfumes, watches or all of the above and we will squeal with delight. The same woman will enthusiastically gift her spouse a dress shirt or pant only to be peppered with questions about whether the shirt is a traditional or athletic cut; buttoned-down collar or not; whether it has “pucker-free” seams in two-ply non-iron cotton (does such a thing exist?); and about the depth of something called a yoke, and the existence of an English collar, French cuffs and mother-of-pearl buttons. Who knew that buying a simple shirt was so complicated?
So I have decided that for his next birthday, I will do something romantic for my husband: I will allow him to watch cricket and I will place my feet on his lap and demand that he massage them.
Shoba Narayan is an authority on buying men’s dress shirts, particularly those with split-back yokes. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org