t's the least romantic day of the year. It doubles the cost of every restaurant, it triples the cost of a dozen roses, it's checkmate. You can't win. If you ignore Valentine's Day, she'll be pissed, and if you show up with a bundle of chocolates and flowers, you're suddenly that dopey cheeseball we'd all (including her) secretly like to slap. So how do you thread the needle?
10 ways to avoid being a cliché on Valentine's Day...while also delivering the goods:
1. Avoid restaurants.
Reservations are brutal, your waiter will condescend, and, most importantly, you will feel like a schmuck for dining with a roomful of married couples who only go on "date night" once a year. You are suddenly a Dating Tourist. You might as well throw on an "I Love New York" sweatshirt and Statue of Liberty styrofoam crown. Instead, do the following:
2: Cook her dinner.
You will accomplish two purposes: saving money and improving the ambiance. Obviously, don't just default to Bachelor Meal 101, pasta and marina. Get creative. Research recipes that incorporate her favorite ingredients. (Ask. In advance.) Challenge yourself. Show effort. And if you're a lousy cook? Even better--she'll appreciate the gesture, and you'll come off as a hero. It's gentlemantly and chivalrous. It's also more likely to lead to sex. These two go hand-in-hand.
3. No "Coupon Books."
Remember these? They might seem cute. You get all creative, channel your inner 9-year-old, and make her a little Coupon Book with things like "Good for one free massage" and "I will do anything in bed--anything--anytime, no questions asked." Let's think about this. Not only is it the move of a 2nd grader, but when you really get down to it, you're giving coupons for sex. There's actually another word for this: prostitution.
4. Don't ignore it.
Maybe you think that Valentine's Day is the ultimate cliché and that, therefore, you can ignore the holiday altogether. All you've done is turned into a different kind of cliché. This isn't a new move. You're acting like a mob of anti-conformist high school students who all display their individuality by rebelling in exactly the same way. Lots of girls say that they hate Valentine's Day. Very few mean it. Maybe she will actually say, "Nah... it's no big deal, Valentine's Day is a Hallmark, stupid holiday anyways." Right. Just like you don't really don't care if she does that to you down there.
5. Personalize the gift.
What makes a cliché a cliché? A lack of specificity. Chocolates, roses, hearts--these are cliché because they're overly generic, they speak to Every Girl, not your girl. Get her a gift, and think about something that speaks to her. Pretend, for a second, that it's not Valentine's Day but instead her birthday. What do you get her? Go with that, and then cupid-it-up with red wrapping paper and shit.
6. Use flowers only as an "And One."
You cannot--cannot--just get her flowers and a box of chocolates. This will turn you into a cheeseball. If she is lactose intolerant, she will vomit and quite probably die. However, assuming your woman likes flowers, use them to accent another gift. If you know her favorite kind of flowers, go with that over roses.
7. Get her tickets.
Stuck on gift ideas? Think about tickets. Not necessarily tickets for something on Valentine's Day itself--again, overpriced, overcrowded, overflowing with gooey couples--but tickets for some night in the future. Here's why this works: it's more intimate and "datey" than your average thing you would give her, they can be packaged and presented on Valentine's Day (so you get credit), and it's something that you do together, as a couple. Which, for some people, is viewed as a good thing.
A little self-awareness can take the edge off any cliché. Simple but effective. So, let's say you do get her a dozen roses. Make a joke along the lines of, "I thought that this year, I'd be really, reeeally original and get you something no one else will get: roses." This lets her know that you're in on the joke. Whereas if you give her flowers, stone-faced, and try to act like some Romantic Ken Doll, she could burst out laughing.
9. Lower expectations.
If she thinks that you have nothing at all planned--and meanwhile you're slaving away on this romantic, thoughtful dinner with lobster consommé and crème brulee--she will be that much more wowed. Go the opposite route of every politician: under-promise, over-deliver.
10. Don't outsource your emotions to Hallmark.
If you think you really need to get her a card, you know what she'd really appreciate? Something written by you, not some puffy-faced middle-aged dude who works in a cubicle at Hallmark. It doesn't need to be fancy. You don't need a poem. (Please, do us all a favor and skip the poem.) And you don't need a bunch of flowery language. Just a couple of simple, straightforward sentences that have the virtue of being, well...yours.
Oh! One more thing. If you get her a box of chocolates, it cannot be in the shape of a heart, it shouldn't have a big picture of Cupid with an arrow, it should cost more than a buck-ninety-nine, and it can't be sold at an Exxon station.