I’m not one to complain. Three out of the past four years I have had a girlfriend on Valentine’s Day and enjoyed some romantic holidays filled with chocolates, candles, dinner and the whole works. Yes, those were great nights. I’m also old enough to realize that, while I have no one on this particular February 14th, I won’t spend the rest of my days alone. Still, my lady left me flat a few days after New Year’s and I’m feeling pretty lonesome. So how will I encounter cupid and his insidious arrows, the ubiquitous sayings and trimmings of love, this mid-February? With any luck, I’ll meet the holiday with grace, dignity and pray like hell that it’s over as quickly as possible.
So what is this holiday, Valentine’s Day, really all about? Guilt and money-that’s right I said it. If my fellow men are anything like me, they spend a great deal of their time conspiring on how to keep their women happy, planning out birthdays, Christmas and plain old surprises. Valentine’s Day, however, is something else-it’s the romantic equivalent of tax day. All men, and most women, believe that Valentine’s Day is just another opportunity to sell chocolates, roses and jewelry. One year I saw how big a business Valentine’s Day is. My girlfriend worked for a florist and spent the entire day, well into late in the evening selling, arranging and wrapping flowers. Her boss made thousands of dollars that day-just like the IRS on April 15th. However, just because our wives and girlfriends know that Valentine’s Day is just another commercial holiday, that doesn’t mean they’ll ever let us get away with letting the 14th of February with no gifts, dinner or fan fare. No man in his right mind lets Valentine’s Day pass without shelling out some hard earned money for some small, overpriced token of his esteem. It’s more about love than extortion.
You see, I do consider myself something of a romantic. I think that making a big deal out of your significant other’s birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s Day is a nice thing to do, but it takes little thought to be sweet and gentlemanly on three days out of every year. Real love is about finding new ways to express just how you feel for your lady love throughout the year.
One day a few years back my girlfriend spent the summer a thousand miles away working at an internship in Florida and we missed each other terribly. I had planned it well in advance but waited for a completely random day in the middle of the summer. I called her during her lunch break and we chatted for a few minutes. I pretended like nothing happened while, unbeknownst to her, a dozen long stem roses were being delivered to her work. When she came back to work she found all of her coworkers smiling and went to find the bouquet sent from me all the way up in New Jersey. Now roses are not an original present but the moment and delivery was. I made my girlfriend feel so special and loved in a way that no box of chocolates on a day she’s expecting them could ever accomplish. One of the most important elements to that particular surprise was the fact that for that one day she was the envy of all the other girls at work. I guarantee that some the boyfriends of those particular girls heard about my surprise that very night.
Being a romantic, for me, requires scheming for completely original ways to wow the women of my life. Sometimes this means packing a picnic lunch in the trunk of the car or stashing it among the rocks at the beach for an impromptu picnic on no day in particular. Being truly romantic requires personalizing your gifts with originality and stamping them with some element of who you are. But there are many easy romantic ideas that I have sprang on different girls with the same element of success. The most romantic gifts, on the other hand, are individualized to the particular girl. To do this you must pay attention.
Creative gifts can be really nice. I do a little sculpting and have made cheesy little figurines of my girlfriend. They are no masterpieces but they did contain elements personalized to the particular girl. A poem, song or photo collage can often capture the same effect. Effort and taste can so often make a better gift than money. But what about the men out there with no romantic inkling whatsoever? That’s what God created the internet for. Scour the net for the most romantic gift or dinner ideas imaginable. Ask your friends; ask the other women in your life what they like. Be open minded, creative and adventurous as often as you can. Believe me, I am not advocating letting Valentine’s Day pass without showing your girl that you love her. By all means buy the best gift you can and take her out to feel special. While you’re enjoying this romantic holiday, however, remember that if you don’t make being romantic more of a full time job, she won’t be your girlfriend for very long. But then what do I know-I’ll be watching cable and eating a TV dinner this Valentine’s Day.