Guide for underachievers, overzealous
By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent
There are a few "Hallmark" holidays that are so built up and create so much expectation that it seems to undermine the actual day by creating a ton of pressure: Where are we going to eat? What should I wear? What present will win him/her over? My question: What is the fun in any of that? Especially if it takes the joy out of spending time with that special someone (or if you're really lucky, a few) because you've been dreading it. Let's debunk the Valentine's myths and get down to what's really important, at least from a female perspective.
Valentine's Day Myth 1: There must be a reservation at a notable/fancy/impressive/expensive restaurant
In what kind of world does a high price tag always equate to better? I think your Valentine will understand if the budget can't bend for that kind of extravagance if it is made up for in effort. I imagine that going to his/her preferred Italian spot with that really great wine you both love and live music of your sweetie's favorite genre is pretty thoughtful. Better yet, prepare all those foods yourself that you know always leave your Valentine satiated and smiling from ear to ear; it's economical and intimate. No matter how much the bill ends up being, sitting basically on top of another couple in a restaurant's effort to cram together too many love birds doesn't sound worth it.
Valentine's Day Myth 2: A Valentine's present should be a grand gesture
Again, bigger is not always better. Just showing that effort and thought were put into the present/gesture means more than some big obnoxious teddy bear with a huge diamond-studded bracelet attached. But hey, if that's what you're into, by all means win him/her over with lots of stuff. Personally, I'd want those flowers that I always stop to smell whenever I'm with my guy at the grocery store. You remembered my love of lilies? Now that's a grand gesture that means more than a dozen red roses.
Valentine's Day Myth 3: I need to compete for bragging rights
Human nature can let loose a primal, competitive spirit that causes us to carry the bigger stick, so to speak. How nice for so-and-so to have taken his girlfriend out to the fanciest restaurant in town. My boyfriend brought me breakfast in bed and watched my favorite shows with me...and enjoyed it! I think I'm pretty set.
Valentine's Day Myth 4: I need to spend time with my significant other/friend/partner
OK this one is not a myth. Quality time is something to be cherished, but that's true for any day of the week. If Valentine's Day sparks the fire under you to take action, I'm not here to argue. Again, you don't have to go for extravagance if your schedules or budget won't allow. Personally, if you made time for me amidst all the everyday tasks and chores on the to-do list, I feel like that means more than anything. Maybe I'm simple, but when is simple not a nice change of pace? Maybe this can actually be the time you two relax together and let the worries fade, even if just for an hour or two.
Now that I've debunked a few of the myths, here is a complete range of Valentine's Day activities, from the simplest to the grandest of gestures
Snuggle up with a movie and an array of yummy goodies
As mentioned previously, sometimes a relaxing night in with a great movie and wonderful company is just what Cupid wants. If good food is involved, too, I'd be sold. Prepare some of you and your beau's most loved snacks, and, in this case, the easier the better. He loves chocolate? Melt some of that rich, indulgent goodness and set out some fruit, marshmallows, pretzels or what have you and fondue it up. Fancy, no? Or maybe she's a cheese junkie: A wine and cheese platter appears way classier than the effort it takes to actually slice up some Gouda. This is easy, so just sit back and enjoy a hassle-free night with the one you love.
Cook together at home, or if you're really feeling adventurous, at a cooking class
Few things are sweeter than you and your honey combining creative forces to create interesting combinations for homemade sushi or getting a little messy rolling some meatballs together. This is the hands-on, togetherness approach to Valentine's Day, as it gives you both a creative goal that, and here's the best part, you can eat. Try a new recipe together because -- why not? Maybe a cooking class, like the ones offered at Fat Tuscan Café, can give you both some pointers for future meals. If anything, it sounds like an easy way to make a really intricate dish with professionals guiding you every step of the way, (hopefully) error free!
Go on a picnic
Wanting to get out of the house, but daunted by crowds of other lovey-dovey couples crowding your chicken piccata? Grab a basket, a blanket and, again the best part, yummy finger foods like sandwiches, grapes, and cheese and nuzzle up to your sweetheart with the sunset and stars as your only clock. This is also a pretty romantic gesture, at least for those who like the idea of switching it up in a more private setting with the sounds of nature and the wind breezing by (sounds like some ideal cuddle-up time, too). Tables are so last year, right?
Head to dinner and a movie or dancing
I consider this the if-all-creative-ideas-fail, no muss or fuss go-to Valentine's Day plan. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. A few helpful hints (because even this can be screwed up): Valentine's Day restaurant reservations can fill up weeks in advance, especially at the sought-after places like Mark's Prime Steakhouse, Ember's and Emiliano's, so if there is one thing to take from this it is to reserve in advance. Manuel's Vintage Room doesn't even take reservations, and they are one of the more intimate spots downtown. Also, in terms of a movie, reserving your seats by purchasing tickets in advance or even some research to guestimate how crowded those dance clubs will be cannot be stressed enough. A little planning goes a long way.
Try something new and a little daring together
What better time than the day of love to do something exciting always wanted to try and to do it with your Valentine. You may have been dying to skydive for the longest time and can't imagine doing it with anyone else. Note: This doesn't have to be a grand event; overcoming your fear of bats flying amuck at the bat center on UF campus at sunset is a feat in itself, especially with a certain someone holding your hand through the whole thing. Or how fun would it be to have your Valentine teach you how to ice skate or just roller blade (try Splitz) and laugh about that severe wipeout with, you guessed it, your special someone. Trying something new is a bonding experience, and it can be as romantic or bold or simplistic as you want.
Taking advantage of V-Day being on Friday: Pack your bags and hit the road
Hitting the open road with the wind in your hair and your gal/guy in the passenger's seat qualifies as taking Valentine's Day a step further. A change of scenery may be just what your mind and body needs. This takes some extra planning to make sure not only do schedules permit for a more stringent commitment but that your Valentine will also enjoy this venture, as you are going to be stuck with them for anywhere from a day to the weekend (or more, who knows). The trick is to keep it not too far from home, somewhere that sounds desirable for both parties involved, and can allow for some one-on-one time.