Valentine's Day is a stressful holiday for adults, whether you're single and stuck watching 50 Shades of Grey on your couch, or in a relationship and feeling pressured to come up with a "perfect" date, or starting something new and not sure whether you're at V-Day status or not (the worst!) Back in the day, though, Valentine's Day was a great opportunity to overindulge on Russell Stover chocolates, watch Rugrats' Valentine's Day specials, and send your crush secret heart-shaped cards in class. Now, though, Valentine's Day is a good time to give nostalgic gifts, so at least that'll cut through all the happy couple noise.
Indeed, even for grownups, Valentine's Day is a prime excuse to sate your sweet tooth with abandon via childhood treats like candy hearts, gummies, and the aforementioned Russell Stover's. It's also a great time to give your, lovers, loved ones, crushes, friends and other objects of affection small tokens from a simpler time, one in which boyfriends didn't routinely break up with you a couple weeks before Valentine's Day so they could spend February 14 playing video games with their buddies while you stuck a straw in a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and marathoned Arrested Development.
Anyway, here are some good buys:
1. Necco Sweethearts
Necco Sweethearts, $2, Target
I'm not sure whether these are nostalgic or just necessary, but it is against the law to celebrate Valentine's Day without forcing someone to eat candy hearts. These babies are chalky, hard to chew, and odd-tasting—what even is the white flavor??!—but they also effectively convey old-timey messages of luuuuurve, like "Fax Me," and, um, "Call Me," which has also been phased out IMO.
2. Valentina and Valentino
When I was a kid, my parents gave me a little Valentine's Day gift every year, thereby tricking me into believing the holiday was a happy day for treats and plush toys instead of a celebration of Single's Awareness. One year, I got Valentino, a special Valentine's Beanie Baby with a beautiful, soft heart. The next year, Valentino got a mate, Valentina. Like all my Beanie Bears, I encased their tags in plastic and stuck them on a shelf in hopes that they would accrue worth, which, I am certain they did not, but they are still adorable, and available online for your gifting purposes.
3. Romeo + Juliet Movie Poster
Baz Luhrrman's 1996 masterpiece Romeo + Juliet was THE hottest love story of my youth, in part because Young Leo has never looked better, but also because tragic romance seemed really appealing in elementary school. IRL, it is definitely NOT, but the film (and soundtrack) lives on in the hearts and minds of many a millennial. Gift your Shakespearean partner with a framed or unframed poster while playing "Kissing You" on repeat. You can thank me later.
4. Miss Piggy Kissing Kermit the Frog Salt Shaker
An equally tragic love affair, Miss Piggy never quite won Kermit over, despite multiple relationship go-arounds and plenty of attempts at wooing. Though it's definitely time to Miss Piggy to move on — girl, you deserve an amphibian who worships you — you can relive the duo's better moments via this fantastic ceramic salt shaker set.
5. Lisa Frank Puppy Love Binder and Notebook
Lisa Frank is probably the most recognizable '90s icon at this point, having blessed many a millennial woman with a lifetime supply of sparkly stickers and unicorn art over the years. Puppy Love was always my favorite of her designs (because, puppies, duh), hence my excitement over this fantastic binder and notebook set. You might not use this one to hide love notes you'll never send to your third grade object of affection (Harrison Ford) but it makes for a decent budgeting ledger. ADULTING!
6. Disney Lion King Sweetheart Simba & Nala
Disney Lion King Sweetheart Simba & Nala, $53 to $65, Amazon
Someone bought this toy for me and my little sister when we were kids, which, if you think about it, is kind of weird. But anyway, I had Simba, she had Nala, and when you touched their magnetized noses together, they "kissed." It was cute. 20-plus years later, it's still cute.
7. Framed Titanic Poster
8. Choose Your Decade Retro Candy Box
I didn't realize how era-specific come candies are, probably because my local bodega exclusively sells candy manufactured in 1992. But apparently treats like Candy Buttons, Lemonheads, Good 'n Plenty, and Chuckles are harder to come by in the 2010s, so it's worth snapping up this retro candy box to gift your millennial Valentine with lots of fun cavities.
9. Now That's What I Call Music! 4
There are approximately 972 "Now That's What I Call Music!" iterations today, but this compilation, released in 2000, is the best one. Jam with your date to classic bangers like "I Knew I Loved You" by Savage Garden, "Meet Virginia" by Train, "Waiting for Tonight" by Jennifer Lopez, and, most importantly, "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" by Eiffel 65, which makes waaaaay more sense now that we've confirmed aliens walk among us.
10. Beauty and the Beast Magic Rose
Long before Emma Watson put on the iconic yellow dress, there was the OG Beauty and the Beast, in which an animated, signing Belle and Beast introduced legions of young children to the theory of Stockholm Syndrome. This recreation of the cursed rose that transformed a selfish prince into a beast is a great gift for Disney enthusiasts, Angela Lansbury fans, and dudes who never ask you any questions about yourself on dates.
11. A Goofy Movie Valentine's Card
Roxanne (voiced by the great Kelli Martin) was Max's crush in the seminal 1995 cinematic offering A Goofy Movie, and though the above image was definitely NOT in that film (which predates American Beauty by about four years), it makes for a funny V-Day card. Or an unsettling one. I can't really tell.
12. Casper Enamel Pin
13. Wax Lips
14. A Walk to Remember DVD
Of all the teen tearjerkers to grace the early aughts, this was the most defining. Shane West and Mandy Moore's doomed romance had everything: bad boys, good girls, a high school musical production, cancer, Jesus. I listen to the soundtrack at least once a month. Force your loved one to do the same.