Ah, Valentine's Day! Is there a better day of the year? Is there a more lovely holiday? A time when you are reminded how much you are loved. A time when you are showered with flowers and gifts. A time when you have nothing but optimism about your future, your relationship, the perfect bliss you have been able to achieve.
Everyone who feels that way, raise your hand. Ok, you're all dismissed -- go off and enjoy your perfect holiday.
The rest of you: read on. I intend to salvage this day for you. Whether you're single or approaching your twentieth anniversary, here are a couple of blueprints for the perfect Valentine's Day.
Single and Looking: No, no, no, no. Just don't be single and looking on Valentine's Day. Be single and loving it. Be single and the life of the party. Be single and the coolest, most independent woman since Pippi Longstocking. If you're single and looking on Valentine's Day, the desperation will roll off you in waves and you will find yourself attracting Men Who Are Single And Looking. Men Who Are Single And Looking are even more bedraggled a breed than Women Who Are Single And Looking. Avoid them at all costs.
Single and the Coolest, Most Independent Woman since Pippi Longstocking: Ok, now we're talkin'. The independent woman on Valentine's day throws a party, or at the very least organizes a group of friends (mixed sexes, preferably) to go out. She does not throw estrogen around the room trying to pick someone up. She does not make any bad jokes about being single on Valentine's Day. She does not feel sorry for herself. She enjoys herself thoroughly and goes back to looking for a date tomorrow.
Just Started Dating: This is clearly the trickiest Valentine's Day scenario. You've known each other for a couple of weeks and you need to acknowledge the day somehow but just aren't sure how much. I know several couples who've acknowledged it by both fleeing town -- not together -- thus rendering the entire issue moot. If you're not the Ignore It And Maybe It Will Go Away type, then just focus in on a nice, but low-key evening. No fancy French restaurants -- just plan to go out for a comfy dinner. And have a cute, inexpensive present for him, something silly that reflects some inside joke the two of you already have. The kind of gift that says, "Oh, I happened to see this and thought of you" as opposed to "I struggled over finding you the perfect thing, and I'm going to be hugely disappointed if your present isn't just as good."
We're In Love Love Love: I.e., you're in the early throes of passion. Ok, count your blessings -- you are the people Valentine's Day was made for. You can go all out with the big, romantic presents. You can have a fancy, dress-up dinner. You are guaranteed going home to some good, sweaty, naked fun. Hey, you don't need my help. Live it up and enjoy.
We've Been Together For Practically Forever: I.e., the throes left you behind some time ago, and the last time you experienced something romantic it was on Melrose Place. Go read the previous section. Remember what that was like? Remember how fun it was? Why is it you never have time these days to go all out and pay attention to each other like you used to? Well, Valentine's Day was made for couples like you, too. Here's the perfect excuse to go all out for each other again. Tell him you've decided you want to do Valentine's Day right this year and that you're going to organize a perfect evening for him. At the end of the night tell him you're going to start a yearly trade off: next year he has to plan.
You've Decided You Can't Stand Him/Her A Second Longer: Try to stand him just a few seconds longer, ok? Do not break up with him on Valentine's Day. Do not break up with him the day after, either. A comfortable rule: Thou shalt not break up within five days before or after Valentine's Day. Trust me on this one. It's a small price to pay to not be referred to by every single one of his friends and family for years as: "that schmuck who broke up with Cynthia on Valentine's Day."