Look, I get it. You’ve got four assignments, three interviews, two rehearsals and an email that you just can’t seem to respond to. Compared to the ever-growing list of things that students have to do on a weekly basis, something like Valentine’s Day can probably seem a little low on the priorities list. Unfortunately for you, our society has created a multi-million dollar industry based solely on commercializing romance. Therefore, once a year, you are on the hunt for all of the roses, chocolates and stuffed bears that your significant other could desire.
But as your residential relationship guru, holidays built on love have a special place in my heart. So this week, I am going to let you in on how you can crush Valentine’s Day and take the ick out of this year’s romantic holiday.
Now, if you are a student, there’s a good chance you prefer an organized list, and I aim to please. I did this by separating Valentine’s Day into three separate categories: gifts, sentimentality and experiences. If this guide were a triangle with all three options up for grabs, I’d say pick two and you should be good to go.
As much as we hate to admit it, gifts are the backbone of Valentine’s Day. Not only are presents a great excuse to treat someone you love to something nice, they are also a succinct reminder of exactly how well you know your significant other.
Here lies my first piece of advice for gift-giving––stick to what you know.
I am one of those individuals who would absolutely love a singing telegram from the Case Men’s Glee Club (now available for $5 in the Tinkham Veale University Center). However, I know a ton of people who would be mortified to have someone come and sing to them in class. Your partner’s little quirks are what make the relationship enjoyable, but they are also the key to getting a good present.
If you had more time, I would tell you to take notes about the things that your significant other comments on over the months approaching the holiday. But since you don’t have much time, I would recommend you take a moment and think of all of the things that make up your partner. Do they have a specific ritual that they like to do? Do they have an individual they admire? Do they have a particular style that you can work with?
With a little effort and some thought, these questions can lead you to find the perfect gift. If your partner is a “gym rat”, maybe the latest workout gear or protein recipes are in order. If you know that your partner admires strong women or loves hilarious comics, perhaps you could check out Michelle Obama’s award-winning book, “Becoming,” or the effortlessly funny autobiography by Trevor Noah, “Born a Crime.” Thinking about the ins and outs of your special person will make you feel closer to them, but will also ensure that your gift is far more than just a monetary representation of your love.
Now, if you’re looking for a mindless present to avoid some of the stress of the holiday, I understand. Sometimes you just can’t think of anything, it happens to the best of gift-givers. For a last-minute resort, there are gifts that are applicable to just about anyone because they are simply pleasant surprises. For instance, fuzzy blankets, self-care items, snack baskets and hobby supplies are all great presents that will, at the very least, satisfy the basic tenets of the holiday.
Unfortunately, sentimentality just isn’t something that can be faked. I could tell you all of the details of how to write the perfectly crafted love poem or give you the perfect message for your homemade card, but if your partner knows you at all, you’d be outed as an imposter immediately. Luckily, since I am a sucker for sappy love, I feel no guilt about giving you some ideas on how to make sentimental gifts all your own.
One of my favorite sentimental items is a message jar. It’s cheap, easy and the only requirement is that you can think of a lot of things you love about your partner. Which, if you’re reading this article, you can hopefully do. Basically, you find or decorate a nice container, and fill it with 20 or 30 things that make your partner special. The container is not incredibly important and can be found at thrift stores or the dollar tree for pretty cheap. The true gift is the message. Maybe their smile lights up your day or their butt is the most sculpted thing since Michelangelo made David. Whatever it is that you find so enamoring about your partner, write it down.
Another sappy thing guaranteed to warm even the coldest heart is compilations. Music, photos, videos––we are nostalgic creatures at heart. We love it when people remind us of our most cherished memories. Maybe you make a photo album of all of the pictures you’ve ever taken together. Or maybe you create a whole set of special songs that make you think of your loved one. Do you know why ’90s mixtapes never truly went out of style and instead transformed into Spotify playlists? Because they are a cute way of chronicling the best of our relationship and showcasing that you are consistently thinking about your partner, even when it might not be apparent. So break out the glue and glitter and get to crafting, writing, mixing and making. I believe in you.
Valentine’s Day experiences are probably one of the most difficult things to organize at the last minute, but definitely the most rewarding. Now, your thoughts are probably going straight to dinner reservations––and that’s okay. A romantic dinner is a classic for a reason. But if you truly waited to think of something for the holiday, there is a good chance that most of the reservation places are already booked. You have two options after that––call around for a couple of hours and hope that someone can squeeze in another couple on the most coupled day of the year, or come up with something new.
If your heart is still set on dinner, make a day of it! Go to the market or shopping with a partner and pick out the perfect meal. Maybe the thought of Italian pasta gets you going, or you can’t wait to add a bit of spice with Thai food. Either way, it’s a collaborative project that brings you closer together and fills your tummy.
Here, I cannot emphasize enough that you should remember the ambiance! Sometimes it’s not what you make, it’s where you make it. On my freshman year Valentine’s Day, I had a friend come over and borrow every bit of low-lighting I owned––along with all of my fresh flowers––just so he could impress his new girlfriend. As I straightened his newly pressed tie, I couldn’t help but gush about a man who was truly making the most of what he had available to him, even if all that he had available to him was me. If there was ever a time to break out the candles and the Marvin Gaye, it’s now.
Should your interests lie outside of the realm of cuisine, there are plenty of options for cool and unique experiences. If you are a more art-inclined couple, I highly recommend either nude drawing or a boudoir photography session. Besides being excellent foreplay for the eventual spicy part of every Valentine’s Day, these fun experiences will remind your partner how beautiful or handsome you find them. If you’re not an art-inclined person, I am a huge fan of day trips for romance. Find an affordable small town Airbnb and find something cute to do together. It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe you both like hiking or antiquing or you just want to explore somewhere new. Remember, sometimes grand gestures can come from the little things.
As a final note, there is a chance that your significant other claims they don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day––this is a trap. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend you go all out against your partner’s explicit wishes, but even on a normal day people like feeling appreciated and loved. Offer a sensual back rub or spend a couple of extra minutes doting on your significant other. Giving just a little bit more love will ensure that your partner feels special on a day when everyone deserves to feel a bit of love.