En español | February 14 — the dreaded day — is almost here.
Why dreaded? Because, let's face it: Valentine's Day is the one day of the year when lovers just can't win. If you failed to do something memorable last year, you'll be scrambling to make up for it this year. And if you did come through last year, you may become a victim of the high expectations you created 12 months ago. Not to worry — Pepper's here to save your bacon. Really, I am! You see, I happen to believe in Valentine's Day and, indeed, in every day that celebrates love. These special occasions open up a partner's heart, creating the goodwill and passion needed to shore up a sagging relationship or keep a solid one upright.
I can almost feel your pushback from here: "But Valentine's Day has become so commercial!" Yeah, well, so have Christmas and a dozen other holidays, but they can still satisfy, right? So let's take Valentine's Day seriously this year, and try to make it both loving and lasting.
Knowing that some of you are Plan-Ahead Pollys while others are Last-Minute Lorenzos, I've drawn up two lists of suggestions for how to celebrate the holiday.
For the Perfectly Prepared Paramour
1) As soon as you can, send an email — or, better yet, mail a handwritten card — that says something like, "To My Sweetheart: Looking forward to Valentine's evening with you!" While you're at it, why not make it a formal invitation? "Your presence is requested at X restaurant at Y time. Dress: Provocative." Or "Please present yourself at Spa X at Y time for our couples massage. Libations to follow."
2) Give a precious gift: time. Deliberately carving out time that the two of you can spend together is a touching gesture. Your note announcing this move might say, for example, "I've cleared the decks on February 14 just for us. Let's plan a day together."
3) Reservations at a romantic restaurant are laudable, but have you thought about a special location within it? There may still be time to request that table at the window or that private one in the corner. To really wow your sweetheart, have a favorite bottle of wine waiting at the table, with a card attached saying "I love you" or something equally personal and romantic. Feeling flush? Slip inside the envelope two tickets to a play, a concert or a destination (even if it is "only" a local hotel room).
4) Make a CD of love songs (or buy one) and have it waiting on the dinner plate or pillow. Serious romantics can pair this with a book of heart-stirring poetry.
5) Find out what live music is in town, then make a plan to go listen — or dance! — to it. If all the local bands are booked, find someplace that will inspire you and your partner to hold hands and kiss. Want to drink more than a glass and let go of a few inhibitions? Schedule a limo or car to pick you up at evening's end; it will make your special someone feel that way — and keep him or her safe.
For the Panicked Paramour
Never mind how you came to be empty-handed at the eleventh hour; just follow these steps to recover!
1) For that romantic dinner at home, pick up some votive candles and dot them around the table to transform your dining area. Or stop at a big supermarket and buy twice the flowers you ordinarily would; roses are traditional, but orchids last longer and add an element of surprise.
2) You waited too long to get a restaurant reservation, and you don't feel like cooking. Don't flip out; instead go to a gourmet store and get a few choice delicacies: artichoke hearts, jumbo cooked shrimp, pâté, perhaps even caviar. For dessert, you can't go wrong with some fabulous vanilla ice cream and an insanely great chocolate sauce.
3) Come home with a plan to watch a great date-night movie on Netflix, or pick up a classic (When Harry Met Sally, An Affair to Remember, The Princess Bride) at the grocery store. Then it's merely a question of adding all the essential trimmings: popcorn, champagne, a few roses, pajamas for all parties. Don't forget the final touch: drawing your partner a hot bath.
4) If you're heading home from the airport on Valentine's night, or you happen to pass a mall en route, stop at a shop that carries great body lotions and perfumes — Body Shop, Sephora, Target or the like. Inside, take a slight detour and pick out some special lubricants; many a product in this category is labeled as a "his and hers" pack. ("Fire and ice" pairings can also be fun to try.)
5) Buy a fancy box and fill it with IOUs for personal services you know your honey would savor. (Do I really need to say more than that?) Happy Valentine's Day!
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