Valentine’s Day your way

How to have a great day even if you’re single

By Wayne Bell

No sooner than Target and Walgreens were taking down the Christmas decorations, they were rolling out the endless Valentine decorations, gifts, and candies. There was a time in my life (and I would bet in many others) when Valentine’s Day provided some of the highest anxiety levels of the year.

When I was a kid, it was like Russian roulette from the loud speakers going through the public school’s intercom system: “Could the following students please come by the office to pick up deliveries? Megan Knight, Nick Ruple, Jennifer Bramlet, Cathy White, Vicki Young, those damn Ushery twins, blah blah blah…”

The pangs had barely begun to hit me before the loud speaker started up again with another laundry list of students who had had Valentine’s gifts sent to them at school.

My senior year of high school, I actually worked as an office aide. I watched the Vilonia Drug store truck deliver thousands of balloons, flowers and candies throughout the day.

One sophomore bought this girl, 200 roses to symbolize his ongoing love for her. I may be cynical, but my guess is that they are probably not together anymore and he’s probably out $200 of his parents’ money.

Eventually, my name would be called over the loud speaker. Sometime in the late afternoon; I think my parents planned it that way. Perhaps they just forgot that it was Valentine’s Day until around noon on the 14th. Who knows?

I always thought that forgetting it was Valentine’s Day was a far fetched idea until last year when my friend and beloved professor, Tom Frentz invited me out for Italian food at Pesto Café on February 14. All of his emails kept referencing February 14 and it wasn’t until we actually got there and had to wait two hours that I truly believe he realized that February 14 is also Valentine’s Day.

That’s when I realized that Valentine’s Day means something completely different to everyone.

If you work at a drug store, it means overtime. If you work at a fine dining restaurant, it means tips. If you are a relatively new couple, it’s a time to impress your other half with a sweet gesture. If you are well into a long relationship, it may simply be another day.

Valentine’s Day has so many varied meanings from the small kids in school waiting on the intercom announcements, to my friend, Dr. Frentz who sees it as just another day to enjoy Pesto Café.

I must admit that my feelings on Valentine’s Day have always been mixed at best. Yes, I realize that it is a media and market produced holiday. I realize that a rose is suddenly worth four times more than normal during one week in February. But there is a part of me that truly enjoys Valentine’s Day as a time to show the people you care about, how much they mean to you.

I’ve always been a bit cynical to the holiday, so much so, that a few years ago when I was seriously dating someone, we agreed to not do anything special on that “stupid day.” I thought I was fine until that stupid day arrived and then I had pangs all day similar to the ones I’d had in grade school waiting on that office announcement. But this time, I waited all day and my name wasn’t called. Yes, I realize that’s what we’d agreed on however, I should note that we are no longer together! Unrelated…or is it?

I realize that everyone has a different perspective on the day and because of that, I propose to simply show a few ways that you can enjoy the day whether you are single or coupled, rich or hmmm economically challenged like me.

1) A great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to stay home. If you are by yourself, it’s a great time to settle in with an old movie and a nice pinot. If you are in a relationship where perhaps money doesn’t flow abundantly (and it takes a lot of it to celebrate on this day) then simply cooking for each other and watching (or making!) a movie is a great way to express your feelings towards each other. Try picking an old classic that doesn’t have romantic themes running through it. Try checking out something like “All about Eve” or “Sunset Blvd.” Both are void of mushy romanticism and will provide for stimulating conversation.

2) A great idea is to actually go to the movies. Valentine’s Day falls a few days before the Oscars this year. When would be a better time to see something that has award show buzz all over it like “No Country for Old Men,” “Juno,” “There Will be Blood” or even that damn romantic “Atonement.” I personally can’t imagine a hotter sight than watching the painfully thin Keira Knightly prod around like a boney velociraptor before going home and enjoying a big bowl of pasta!

3) If you’re going to go out, skip all the hoopla. Some of the more popular restaurants can be slammed on that special day. Instead, try to seek out something romantic that also might be a bit easier to get into. Maybe try Mexican.

4) Take yourself shopping. I’m not suggesting that you go crazy buying out stores with tears running down your face with a bottle in your left hand and a chocolate bar in the other. Just pick out a nice item that you have wanted for a while and treat yourself. Buy some new jeans or get a new kitchen gadget. Just treat yourself to something special.

5) Avoid listening to anything ever recorded by Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys or Michael Bolton (well that one should be easy). Trust me…if you are fragile…DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!

6) If you’re a single take yourself somewhere where you can serve yourself in a quick environment. You can still have a nice meal without all the hassle and the expectation to tip heavy.

7) I’m a big fan of the Charlie Brown Valentine’s Special. It’s bound to run on or around Valentines Day, be sure to catch it.

8) A great activity that can replace going to a fancy party or show is to simply go to a great bookstore after dinner and curl up on an oversized chair and read. If you have someone to share this with, all the better. Might I suggest Nightbird Books? Nightbird is perhaps one of the most romantic places in Fayetteville. Get your other half and curl up in one of those red leather chairs in the upstairs section. You get to enjoy great company, fantastic books, and see what will one day be the floor plan for my dream kick-ass loft.

9) Watch something with Sissy Spacek like “In the Bedroom” or better yet “Carrie.” Neither will be leaving you with that “feel good, I’m in love” feeling.

10) Do what I plan on doing. Call up Mr. Vince Pinalto at La Maison des Tartes and ask him to make you a dream box of some of your favorite cookies. I recommend the Mexican Cinnamon, Butterscotch or the Dark Chocolate. Then take it home and enjoy the treats all to yourself. There isn’t a better time to treat yourself to something decadent.

If spending the evening alone isn’t your cup of tea, invite some of your single friends over and have a cookie and cocktails party. There’s not a better way to show people you care for them than to feed them. (P.S. Mr. Pianalto, bring back those damn pistachio biscotti’s, while you’re at it.)

The thing is: It doesn’t matter what you do on Valentine’s Day as long as you do something. I haven’t really talked over the options with my “special friend” as my mother refers to him. However, it doesn’t really matter. In the end Valentine’s Day should be a day when you show other people what they mean to you.

Bring someone a flower or candy or something to show them you care. You may be the only person who does that and you could turn their day around. Valentine’s Day can be really hard on some people. If they have recently gone through the loss of a partner or a bad breakup, Valentine’s Day can be dreaded all year long. However, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to sit around waiting for someone to call your name. Pick up that intercom and call it yourself!

Remember whatever you do, Target and Walgreens will be tearing that crap down soon to make room for the Easter stuff. I’ll be honest. I’ll take red and white any day over a bunch of pastel bunnies and boiled eggs. Happy Valentine’s Day Free Weekly readers!

Categories: Features