On Valentine’s Etiquette – So, What’s a Guy to do that Ain’t got a Clue?

“What’s a boy to do?”

Ah, Valentine’s Day―another holiday that manages to inspire warmth and contempt in the masses. Whether you’re stupid crazy in love, in a new happy fog, or unwaveringly single, there apparently is some form of Valentine’s Day etiquette to abide by so that you don’t offend or piss anyone off―or worse, single-handedly take the fall for all failed relationships out there.

I recall my son, when he was nine, asked me if he was my Valentine, to which I emphatically replied, “Yes, of course sweetie. You are my one and only,” which as a mom of a young boy, naturally made me beam. It also precipitated my next question (in the form of a post) as to whether or not I should hint at the chocolate. Now, of course I was kidding…or was I? He was just barely nine.

A few comments later, this post turned into a tangled thread, masking itself as dialogue, but resembling more of a game of telephone gone awry. The point was that my nine year old son seemed more aware of a holiday that I rolled my eyes at the mere mention of. This over-commercialized day that I didn’t buy into―a day associated with heart-shaped candy displays, chocolate, red roses, and more chocolate; not to mention all the disgustingly happy, giddy in love couples, all of a sudden appealed to my senses. The sweet innocence of my son’s question, apparently stimulated my palate, and made me wonder if this wouldn’t be the perfect time to teach him some early holiday etiquette―if for no other reason, to learn what chivalry used to mean before it bit the dust!

In my sassy attempt at humor, I seem to have struck a chord with a male friend, who is as opinionated as I am, if not more, and possibly my male equivalent when it comes to defending our gender rights. Being challenged is never a bad thing, but a never-ending pissing contest over an opinion, only makes you more opinionated, plus my aim sucks. My friend seemed concerned that I teach my son, “that men receive Valentine gifts too! It’s not a one way street” he said. “It is the teaching of Valentine etiquette that is the issue.”

Good point Confucius, and very true.

So in an effort to listen more openly, “focus, and stay on the issue at hand,” I decided to do a bit of my own research on Valentine etiquette. Here it is, straight from the experts, the Emily Post Institute, an organization that’s been teaching etiquette, civility and raising polite kids since 1946. Granted, Emily Post is now dead, but nonetheless, the wisdom of Peter Post, one of her four great-grandchildren, carries on, even if a tad outdated.

According to Peter, author of the Emily Post Institute, and Essential Manners for Men, whether you’ve been married to the same woman for 25 years or have just started dating, rule number one, on Valentine’s Day is: “It’s all about her, not you. The smart man plans ahead.” (ahem)

So, what’s a guy to do that ain’t got a clue?
•  Single? You are hardly alone. Love the ones you’re with. Get a group of friends together and go out for dinner & drinks. Don’t feel like being around smug couples? Host a dinner party of your own.

•  Newly dating? Something simple is better than nothing, but don’t overdo it, or you may be bordering on creepy-clingy territory. A simple floral bouquet or a long stemmed rose has the same impact. Imagine how irresistible you’d be looking like that.. (see above) The wide-eyed look would need some practice.

•  Long-term relationship? Cook a romantic dinner at home. Candles, chocolates and the right mood music in your own environment can set the tone for a romantic evening and be even more enjoyable than going out. Love notes and texts, don’t hurt either.

•  Can’t cook? Make reservations…the sooner the better.

•  Mind your table manners. You know what that means. ie: chewing with your mouth open, bodily sounds, holding your fork like a medieval weapon. Impress her with your fine self―a little finesse, hold the door, pull out her chair, order a nice wine. Get out of your comfort zone. It’s one day, for god’s sake!

•  Not into the traditional romance? Do simple things for each other around the house. They are good reminders that you still care.

•  Just because she doesn’t drop hints about flowers, it doesn’t mean she isn’t expecting them, and although she may tell you not to worry about it, c’mon now…we all know that’s not what she really means. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and order some flowers.

•  Valentine’s Day not your thing, but it is for your significant other who is drooling all over the chocolate and candy heart displays? “Your job is to be considerate,” according to the Emily Post Institute. “Getting her some flowers and taking her out to dinner won’t kill you.” (and if it does, at least your eulogy will be nothing short of  honorable..that’s got to be comforting.)

•  Care about someone deeply, and haven’t told them how you feel? Now’s your chance. This is as easy as stealing a kiss under the mistletoe.

•  Love someone and can’t be with them? Tell them via phone, voice message, text, email.

While embraced as a day for all you lovers, let’s face it. Valentine’s Day has always been more about the ladies. Many women try to reciprocate their love and respect to their men, and they mean well, but most guys could easily do without the teddy bears, roses, or anything with the word, “love” on it. Most guys would prefer you didn’t bother at all, but for those of you men who do appreciate gifts, it wouldn’t hurt if you came back with a hint of your own…as long as it didn’t involve a big screen TV!

Bottom line, if you’re a decent guy, good manners and proper etiquette should go hand-in-hand. There are no rules to study here. If you think before you act, (constantly telling my son that), act selflessly, and you’re sincere—you will empower and enrich your relationship.

Think intimacy. Think romance. Think love. A little extra effort goes a long way, so why not make it count.

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