13 Ideas For A Venerable Valentine’s Day

Whether you’re coupled or single, striving to live “green” or currently calorie-conscious, we’ve got something for everyone this Valentine’s Day. Here are 13 great stereotype-free ways to celebrate.

By Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro

alentine’s Day is a polarizing affair; some love it and some hate it. Many couples have fond memories of it as a milestone moment in the relationship, while others associate the 14th with rote, by-the-numbers romance and bitter breakups. Hence, these two contrasting anagrams are perfectly emblematic of Valentine’s Day and all that it means: “livens any date”... and, conversely, “yes, valiant end.”

To help you manage your love affairs with great éclat come February 14th, we’ve assembled a baker’s dozen of tips to cover the full spectrum of ways to
Have the pastry chef arrange to hide a new bauble in the baked Alaska.
enjoy the day — regardless of your relationship status, budget or dietary restrictions, there’s something for everyone on our list. So read on, and bon chance in romance!

1. Give two weeks’ notice.
Like leaving a job or booking a flight, secure your dining reservations at least two weeks in advance for an on-the-town Valentine’s to remember. Wait too long and you risk munching on BLTs at the diner or being lumped in with the other chumps whose eleventh-hour thoughtlessness earned them a 5:45 p.m. reservation (if they’re even that lucky!).

2. B.Y.O. vintage.
Inquire about corkage fees at your favorite haunt, and for a small tariff, you can often enjoy a treasured bottle of wine from your own cellar. Not only can you commemorate last year’s special getaway to the wine country together, but you’ll save a few dollars off the typical markup given to alcohol served in most restaurants and put them instead toward other luxuries, such as door-to-door car service, a pair of fabulous earrings, or a corsage for your date.

3. Devise a conspiracy theory.
Involve your server, maître d’, or his best friend in some surreptitious gift-giving conspiracies, and you’ll be able to upgrade that simple, beribboned gift box moment into a decadent, silver-tray event. Have the pastry chef arrange to hide a new bauble in the baked Alaska for dessert, or enlist a sommelier to present your love note as a scrolled-up message in a bottle at the end of your meal.

4. Make it Vegantine’s Day.
If the letter “V” usually stands for vegetarian or vegan (regardless of whether it’s you, your sweetie, or both), look for chocolates made without animal products; dark chocolate’s always a good bet. And gluten-free red velvet cupcakes will tell your sweetie with Celiac disease that you’re a real keeper. Plus, if you still want to be dating come late April (Earth Day is 4/22), skip the high carbon footprint left by most of those overpriced, hot-house grown flowers and either buy locally or find a mail-a-tree service online (prices vary, though most are usually less than $10). Then, get ready watch more than just your affections grow in the coming months!

5. Roses are red…but go “green” with your gifts.
Choosing cards made from recycled paper and chocolate sourced from Fair Trade-certified purveyors will ensure that Mother Nature values you as much as your beloved does. Not sure where to look? When it comes to old-fashioned Valentines, homemade is best — cut out some construction paper hearts like you did in first grade for a truly personal flourish.

6. Keep the sentiments high-Val, but low-cal.
You know how leftover Halloween candy typically either winds up in the trash… or on your thighs? If you or your honey made a New Year’s resolution to shape up this year, then steer clear of tempting each other’s sweet tooth while counting
Confections aren’t the only appropriate expression of your affections.
calories. Confections aren’t the only appropriate expression of your affections: try sharing a bath by candlelight, some sweetly framed photos, or book a couples’ massage instead.

7. Enjoy a X-mas redux a deux.
Though it may be forgotten now, remember that the holiday hullabaloo was barely seven weeks ago. Any stocking stuffers abandoned on the checkout line due to budget cuts in December might do nicely as a small love token in February for your new love interest. Did your lover show any glee at someone else’s Hanukkah gift, or ogle a particular store window recently for goodies Santa missed on his delivery route? Pay attention to what he or she wished for and missed out on receiving, and be confident that your Valentine’s gift will be adored.

8. Cure that blah-sé attitude.
By now, some New Year’s resolutions have already fallen off the radar. Can you nudge a blasé attitude toward Valentine’s by registering for a local tai chi class or taking Mandarin Chinese lessons together? Anything that cures winter blahs should be welcomed, too, so creating a kit for making tropical drinks (complete with a hula skirt and floral lei) or a gift card for a mani/pedi with its promise of hot colors on the fingers and toes will last a lot longer than a simple box of truffles.

9. Sniff out a bargain.
At the florist, an extortionate markup on nosegays is akin to playing a dynamic game of chicken with your wallet, but who will blink first? The shopkeeper with a huge stock of inventory to sell… or the savvy lover who doesn’t want to get ripped off? Unless money is no object — or a grand gesture is needed to jump-start a stalled affair — there’s nothing wrong with choosing a single, redolent stem or a small but fragrant bouquet of non-traditional blooms. Moreover, many a white-walled bachelor’s pad could do with its own display of pistils and petals now and then!

10. Host a heart-y soiree.
Valentine’s Day is the ideal time to host an at-home candlelit affair, with you playing the roles of host, chef, and romantic lead all at once. If you can’t ditch the roommates, then perhaps it’s time to host an intimate dinner party complete with couples arriving arm-in-arm in evening wear and noshing on sexy hors d’oeuvres. Instead of the usual reds, pour some atmospheric wines: Château Calon-Ségur is a Bordeaux with a heart on the label, or choose selections from the Saint Amour Cru Beaujolais region. For something unexpected, concoct purplish drinks made from violet-hued liqueurs, like Parfait Amour and Crème de Violette.

11. Whip up some spread sheets.
When it comes to a balanced romantic checkbook, every accountant approves of extra expenditures in the boudoir come Valentine’s. Besides, cold nights make for ideal spooning weather, so re-affirm your affections between the sheets. FYI, chocolate melts at body temperature, so dessert can always be taken to go… but be prepared for the consequences on laundry day.

12. Glow solo this year.
Single on the 14th? Grab some like-minded friends for a sassy metro night on the town and embrace your singlehood. Whether you choose to dine directly at the bar or hit the clubs, you’ll find the usual crowds pre-pruned for your enjoyment: couples are off nuzzling somewhere, and the more melancholy singles are likely at home. That leaves the nightlife to those fun-loving extroverts who aren’t ashamed of flaunting their unattached status. Or, to really go for it, leverage the power of Valentine’s Day to find a date online. Change your profile, declare that you’re seeking a V-day partner in crime, list your proposed V-Day itinerary — and see who bites at your blind-date offering.

13. Agree to disagree if one of you is anti-V.
Valentine’s Day should never garner the same attention and expense as birthdays, anniversaries, and other big milestones that are traditionally worthy of celebration. Some see Valentine’s as just another day on the calendar, while other view it like a Wall Street banker’s mandatory bonus for the past year’s fiduciary efforts. If this sounds familiar, then honor your character and your relationship’s vibe accordingly. If you’re the opposite of some rah-rah romantic or get easily turned off by consumerist stampedes, skip any grand gestures. One of the secrets behind successful relationships is to establish some early precedents: dealing with familial functions, acquiescing to lover-imposed vice cutbacks, watching cheesy movies, tending to her toy poodle’s needs, entertaining his football buddies…and now, you can add your unique view of Valentine’s Day to this list of traditions.

Phineas Mollod traded his J.D. for the editorial life and is often found riding the congested E train with his wife and daughter in New York. Jason Tesauro pushes pen and ink by day and leads the lifestyle seminar series by night, ne’er far from his sweetheart and a Brady Bunch houseful ’o tots in Virginia. Together they are the authors of The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice and The Modern Lover: A Playbook for Suitors, Spouses, and Ringless Carousers.
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