You’re nervous. You wake up in a cold sweat. Your face is damp, but that could either be from the sweat or the drying bubble of spittle still dangling from the corner of your mouth. You toss and turn in your sheets. The cool side of the pillow is nowhere to be found.
Steady there. Ease up. Simmer down. Relax. It’s just a day; a drop in the bucket.
You’ve never had your heart curb stomped on Valentine’s Day. As far as you know, the woman you’re dating hasn’t either. There’s no recognition of past trauma. In fact, the only conversation you’ve had about Valentine’s Day is that it’s coming up this weekend. No biggie. She’s probably not expecting much.
Or is she?
Sure, it’s already Tuesday. Normally, when it comes to romance, you’re more of a tactician than a sleight of hand illusionist melting minds and hearts with your gifts of spontaneity. You’re a carefully orchestrated fireworks display, not an IED. You are a planner. So this year, instead of getting all worked up about this shit, use the time you have left to plan, meticulously, for a bit of failure.
1. Try to Make a Reservation
Go on, try it.
What you need to do is make a show of yourself trying to hide that you’re about to make a phone call. Leave the room, make a conspicuous reach for your phone, do a doubletake, look behind you, make eye contact, and shut the door. Give her visual evidence of making an effort, and when you get laughed off the phone, return to the room with your head down, and kind of upset. Not overly mopey. Not on the verge of tears. Just, you know, sad. Don’t oversell it.
If she asks you what’s wrong, break down a little. Show some vulnerability. Sell the circular reasoning of, “This day isn’t about me. It’s about you. It’s about us, together.” She might buy into that. She might tell you not to worry about it; all she wants is to be with you. If that happens, you’re out of the woods, my friend.
If she doesn’t ask what’s wrong, or if somehow that sentiment of Valentine’s Day being about her is the only part of what you said that rings true to her, don’t give up just yet.
2. Ask Her What You’re Doing For Valentine’s Day
When you come back to the couch, or wherever you’re returning to her from making the call, casually but not sarcastically ask her what the plan for Valentine’s Day is. Three things could happen here: Her head might explode, she’ll open the conversation up for a serious discussion of the many faults and misconceptions of what Valentine’s Day actually means, or she’ll somewhat cryptically, though very pointedly say, “Oh, I don’t know. What are we doing for Valentine’s Day?
If she gets mad, quickly brush it off as a joke. Say you have it all planned out which you do but don’t tell her it’s not the plan she’s hoping for.
If the conversation reaches the point of agreement and compromise of not doing much of anything for a day neither of you are particularly interested in, then good. Small things will work from here on out. Play it safe with genuine sentiment, but don’t overdo it. Stick to the classics: chocolates, giant bears, flowers etc.
But if she plays that cryptic card, then the game is still on. Proceed carefully. Stick to the plan: homecooked dinner for two, dessert, watching a movie, and snuggling.
3. Prepare the “Food”
The meal: It has to be carefully misprepared. She might be doubting your abilities as a chef already, or you might have already shown her you’re more than competent so she’s expecting something great. But play it safe. Nothing extravagant. Don’t try to burn the house down. Well, you could, but that might seem too over the top, and you might end up having a romantic dinner at a diner.
Note: Being able to laugh off the disappointment is critical. You laugh, she laughs, and you remember that one unfortunate Valentine’s Day, where everything just happened to go wrong, forever as one of those romantic, off color comedic anecdotes you can flaunt in front of other couples.
But if you’re not going to burn down the kitchen, then mispreparing the meal has to be a careful orchestration of nuanced misfires: wilted, mushy greens in the salad; rubbery seafood or underseasoned, bone dry chicken; crunchy rice or too many pinches of salt in the potatoes; and for dessert, a brownies stuck to the pan topped with freezerburned, sugarfree ice cream. It won’t kill her, but it’ll remind her of your other virtues. Or it will remind her of your other shortcomings. It’s a crapshoot, but the idea here is to disappoint her without having to shoulder the blame.
4. Pick A Movie, and Then a Backup
This might be the trickiest maneuver to execute. You could approach this from a couple of different ways. Keep in mind everything that has happened up until now. Has she laughed at any of the failures? Has she seemed despondent or generally down in the dumps? With this movie you have an opportunity. You can either save the night, or put the final nails in the coffin.
Your first instinct is to find a movie that’s going to suck the romance right out of the night. Does she look like the marrying type? Gone Girl makes marriage look fun. Does she cry easily? Bring on the waterworks with a little Simon Birch.
But it might also take knowing her a little more than you actually do. Does she love Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally (two classics you might actually save the night with), but hate her in You’ve Got Mail? Strike a balance. Watch Kate and Leopold. It’s terrible. Or go the other way with it and watch Against the Ropes or In the Land of Women, both of which are terribly misguided attempts to keep Meg Ryan around, and just generally bad movies.
Does she love Grease? Check out Two of a Kind where Olivia Newton John and John Travolta reunite for a movie where Gene Hackman plays God. She’ll love it. Really. She’ll love it.
Is she fawning over Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey? Bring her down to earth with his hit BBC performance in The Fall because who can actually say no to creepy torture, sex, and Gillian Anderson?
You have the power to save the night. That also means you might convince her that not all Valentine’s Days are wholly terrible which, to be clear, just isn’t true. Whether you use that power to further wreck the night, is entirely up to you. At this point, she’s expecting either option. If she looks really pissed, just pick out her favorite movie and bludgeon yourself through yet another viewing of The Notebook. It’s really not that bad if you just keep Ryan Gosling from Drive in mind the whole time. It works.
5. Make Her Wish She Had a Snuggy
If you’ve picked a movie that she wants to watch, and she’s thinking she might be able to turn you into a man who loves Valentine’s Day, get ready for the world’s worst cuddle. Be prepared to compromise your values. Ignore everything John Stamos taught you.
Don’t play the spoons game, and if you do, always lose at it. Be an ill fitting little spoon, and be an inattentive big spoon. Let your arm dangle uncomfortably over her side. Don’t be afraid to dig your elbow in every now and then. She’ll get the point.
Wrap yourself in a shroud of discomfort. Literally. Wear uncomfortable clothes. Wear an itchy sweater that will scratch her face or arms. Pick the worst blanket better yet, put all of the blankets in the laundry. Tell her you don’t have any blankets, and if she suggests something from the bed, suggest just going to the bedroom. You can watch movies in there, can’t you?
Be sweaty. Eat something foul. Make your breath hot and uncomfortable. Do just enough, and she’ll sit on the other side of the couch.
While she’s sitting on that other side of the couch, waiting for you to brush your teeth, or get a breath mint or listerine or gum or something anything! she’ll think about this whole night. She’ll pick it apart, bit by bit. Maybe she’ll get to the bottom of it. Maybe she’ll recognize the long con. But what can she say?
Remember, you’re not trying to ruin your relationship (of course if you were, this plan, if approached more deviously, could very well do that for you). The point of this carefully arranged nightmare is to make her realize how stupid Valentine’s Day is; how much pressure the world has put on your shoulders to make this night special for her. It’s ValentInception: you’re only planting the seed. You’re giving her the idea that this day isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and maybe she’ll thank you for it. Maybe she’ll hate you for it. This is a high risk/high reward operation, and since you’re really hellbent against a day that only requires that you show someone you care about them, I assume it’s a risk worth taking.