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Health & Sex

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Decoding Men's Oddball Love Signals

His gifts are terrible. He talks when you want him to listen. His idea of a date is take-out pizza on the couch. Is this your guy's notion of affection and romance? Well, actually, yes.

It's the Thought That Counts...Right? continued...

Which brings us to the lingerie.

Perhaps the most controversial of all man gestures, the giving of lingerie is an enigma wrapped inside — well, not a lot of fabric. The Ipsos survey mentioned above found that 22 percent of men give lingerie for Valentine's Day, yet only 2 percent of women want to receive it. Lord knows, all you're thinking when you open the box and dangle these doilies by the spaghetti straps is, Does he seriously expect me to spend the 20 hours on the StairMaster it will take for me to even consider wearing this?

Understand, though, that when men buy you lingerie, it's not at all meant as some kind of triple-dog-dare. It's our way of saying, "I think you're every bit as sexy as the mannequin I saw in the store window on the way home." (And c'mon, have you seen the mannequins they have these days? That's about as high as a compliment gets.) This, at least, is how Benson, a 34-year-old computer engineer from Seattle, sees it.

Benson and his wife, Lisa, a yoga instructor, have been married for eight years. During that time, Benson says, Lisa's supply of white cotton underwear — what he refers to as her "Eastern Bloc underwear" — had reached Stalinist proportions. "Lisa's a beautiful woman," he says, "but somewhere between clothed and naked, I would find myself facing a brunette potato farmer. So I started buying her lingerie in earnest so she would have underwear on par with her own beauty." Today, Lisa owns roughly one set of lingerie for every day of the month. And while she might have been somewhat apprehensive at first about this spate of skivvies — fearing that every garment required a Jenna Jameson-like act of appreciation — she now sees the overflow of underthings for what it is: a Shakespearean sonnet writ in silk.


"For her birthday right before we got engaged, I told my now-wife, Kathryn, that my gift for her was expensive and indestructible. It was a KitchenAid mixer. I don't remember if I wanted her to think it was a diamond ring, but the fact that she saw the humor in the situation is surely a sign of love." —John Heetderks, 32 Germantown, MD

"I've never bought my sweetie lingerie because I think she likes picking out things that she believes I'll enjoy — and rightly so! That said, I just love being with her — wearing lingerie or not." —Peter Bonilla, 47 New York City

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