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A tactical guide to Valentine’s Day

Love is war — or is it a battlefield? Avoid the landmines with this helpful manual

February 14, 2020

11:11 AM

14 February 2020

11:11 AM

It’s that time of year again — we’ve made it to the one holiday where the sole societal expectation is romantic entanglement: Valentine’s Day, where a litany of traps lay waiting for men lucky enough to be in love. Landmines, outside the scope of the Ottawa Treaty, canvass that lonely day in February. In 1917 fashion, I find myself running to the front lines to warn you that the mission you are about to embark on is headlong into a feminine defensive retreat surprise attack (it’s helpful to be aware that most women have closely studied German World War One and Russian World War Two tactics).

Heed this wisdom, as this is West Point (Wikipedia) caliber advice:

Length matters

She may say that she is comfortable with a predator drone equipped with hellfire missiles, but what she really wants is the latest and greatest out of Northrop Grumman with laser capability and facial recognition — aka, she doesn’t want carnations or tulips or whatever Latin named nonsense is by the checkout aisle at Whole Foods. Today is not the day to cheap out or try to be overly creative. She wants long stem roses. And she wants the longest stems you can find. Less than two feet of stem, and you might as well as show up in your family’s minivan covered with college stickers. Tactical professionals buy sunflowers — the wild, towering kind, and graft the head of a rose to the top, creating six feet of stem. She’ll think you’re the greatest man to walk into her life — well, at least until her birthday, your anniversary, or Christmas. Much like the IRS, women have a curious amnesia where they seem to forget that just last month you performed for them some spectacular act of love. Nonetheless, your offerings must be renewed.

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The ‘We Can Just Stay In’ maneuver


Danger, Will Robinson. This is analogous to the guerrilla warfare tactics of the colonists in the American Revolution. When she says, ‘We can just stay in’, she is gauging, no challenging you, no daring you with several unspoken stipulations: Has he made reservations and if not, why not? And if so, where? These inquisitions are, of course, never vocalized, but apparent in the expectant look on her brows and narrowing eyes. Even if you are José Andrés (you are not), on Valentine’s Day, a retail $14 bottle of wine just tastes better to women with the upcharge at the new sickeningly bougie restaurant with a two-worded name synonymous with surf n’ turf. What is love really without arguing over parking spots, complaints about high heels, and sitting at a table adjacent to a bold young lad who decided tonight was an appropriate night for a first date? Avoid an obvious tactical error — make a reservation now to avoid the galaxy brain level of gaslighting and social engineering required to effectively pull off a ‘let’s stay in’ Valentine’s Day.

The prix fixe pre-set trap

Remember before the Battle of Actium when Antony and Cleopatra went to the trendy new restaurant in Alexandria advertising a special ‘Valentine’s Day’ menu? Me neither, because Antony was no fool (other than leaving Rome for a girl, but that’s an argument for February 15). Beware the allure of these advertisements, because what they really mean by ‘romantic’ evening is a prix fixe disaster with several traps laid right upon your dinner plate. The first is obvious. Unless you are dining on a yacht off the coast of Sicily with Shahid Khan, a prix fixe menu is the low cost inventory mover of the restauranting world — think Men’s Wearhouse but for charity galas. Expect room temp petit filet mignons, wilted salad, and store bought lava cake. Second, and more importantly, women resent prix fixe because it’s a total cop out. Nothing says ‘forever’ quite like ‘lets order the suggested wine bottle off this little menu insert’ and ‘no substitutions’. The Armada will begin to form even before the Spanish grilled octopus appetizer arrives.

Trojan horses and other accoutrements

Agamemnon and Co. had to roll up a nearly three story tall horse in order to gain access to Troy. And that was thousands of years ago. Do you really think chocolates, teddy bears, or heart-shaped nonsense is going to win her heart? Harness the words of Chinese general Sun Tzu (probably): ‘what’s good for the belly lasts but for a minute, what’s good for the soul lasts a lifetime, what’s good for a woman it’s difficult to say.’ Be creative, but not too creative; be sensitive, but not overbearing; keep it reasonable, but not cheap; expensive, but not such that you look like a spendthrift. You know, it might be wise to just ask her mom.

The Reynolds reversal

A sub-genre of the Trojan Horse is the Peloton grenade. Subscribing to a Peloton on Valentine’s Day is the moral equivalent of inviting all of Twitter over to your house to yell at you. But what to do if your relationship is spritely, it’s energetic, and outdoorsy? You have two options: (a) Bend over. That’s right, I’m talking couples yoga. That boutique wannabe Equinox studio with the weird tea lights and houseplants in the window? It’s absolutely hosting a romantic partners class ‘to explore each other’s bodies’ through a ‘guided practice,’ which for all it’s sexually-overt language is going to involve shoving yourself into some tights and sweating through several poses that make the consequences of holiday binge drinking hard to hide. If you are rebuked for even suggesting an exercise class, you must immediately resort to plan (b). The Reversal, named for Canadian statesman Ryan Reynolds, involves an offering of Aviation gin as an alternative. It’s an alcoholic shell game. Write that down.

Good luck — love is war. Or a battlefield. I can never keep up with the metaphor of the day.


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