Dating: Reservations at the super-fancy/can’t really afford/won’t like the food/you’ll figure out how to pay the credit card bill later/restaurant; roses; fancy chocolates dusted with things that shouldn’t be on chocolate
Engaged: Jewelry, (bonus points if it’s heart-shaped); Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Khalil Gibran poetry books; flowers, but not roses; thoughtful cards with sappy messages and long, handwritten notes
The Marriage Years…
Year One : Hitting refresh a thousand times to get tickets to a sold-out show, that band that whose song was playing the first time you kissed, or that restaurant written up in the Times; dressy dinner out at an expensive but slightly more affordable restaurant; store-bought cards with short, handwritten notes
Year Two: Reservations at that Thai place that’s kind of pricey but not too bad, you’re saving money for a down-payment so that’s fine right?; flowers; store-bought card with “I love you” and single initial
Year Three: Oh my God, I’ve had such a shitty week at work, let’s just order pizza, but the good kind not Dominos; decent bottle of wine; retro candy in a heart-shaped box, store-bought card with name inside.
Year Four: Mangy, half-dead flowers from the Bodega on the corner; card from the same
Year Five: Waaaaaayyyy too much wine, card from the Bodega on the corner, but hey, it has a heart on it, right?
Year Six: Offer to take the baby from hell who never sleeps out for a walk so your partner can have a nap; take-out whatever, I don’t care, you choose.
Year Seven: Homemade card from the” baby” which you pretend is from both of you but really you forgot it was Valentine’s Day, covered your toddler’s hand in paint, pressed it onto paper, threw some glitter down and took a nap.
Year Eight: Dinner–for three– at a chain restaurant that serves the one food your toddler eats; watered down cocktails; Cars for the 205th time
Year Nine: RIGHT I AM BOOKING A SITTER AND WE ARE GOING OUT GODDAMMIT dinner at an overpriced restaurant which still doesn’t cost as much as the sitter, where you sit and talk about how tired you both are and how you’re going to afford to pay the sitter. A glass of wine and oh, shit, did we have sex last night?; card from a non-corner store.
Year Ten: Nothing. You/your wife just gave birth 3 months ago and there’s still a lot of resentment floating around…
Year Eleven: Your in-laws take pity on you and babysit the kids while you go out to the restaurant around the corner; reservations are for 6, home and in bed by eight thirty; card, a single rose
Year Twelve: Family dinner at a local restaurant. The food is good. The wine is good. The bill is good; homemade cards from the kids to one parent; seething resentment from the other and some mumbling about I have to do everything
Year Thirteen: Over-priced “I’m sorry” flowers from a florist, a store-bought card, short but heartfelt message handwritten inside
Year Fourteen: Exotic chocolates from the airport on the way home from a business trip
Year Sixteen: Dinner out at the swanky restaurant that serves the food you actually like. Reservations at 7; a bar of chocolate as a joke, store-bought card, a new dress or shirt to wear on your “date”
Year Seventeen: Store-bought down to the wire card that’s not really a Valentine’s Day card but is sappy enough you can just about get away with it.
Year Eighteen: Arguing about something in the car and the guy on the radio mentions it’s Valentine’s Day and you both shrug and ask each other “You good?” and you both are
Year Nineteen: Sending your spouse a schmaltzy message about the romance of Valentine Day’s Past, which sort of doubles as a card, right?; tulips
Year Twenty: A hastily mumbled Happy Valentine’s Day in the morning and a Facebook/Instagram update
Year Twenty-One: Fuck it, let’s just open the bottle of champagne we’ve been hanging on to since 2016; homemade cupcakes
Year Twenty-Three: Dinner out, kids watch themselves, too much wine, laugh about the crazy times when the kids were little and remember that glitter card; cry that kids don’t like Lightning McQueen anymore; too much wine
Year Twenty-Four: Sober because you have to pick your teenager up from his first Valentine’s Day Date at a fancy restaurant he can’t afford; store-bought card with long, heartfelt message
Year Twenty-Five: Dinner for two at the first restaurant you went to when you were dating, all those years ago, which you still can’t afford.
Happy Valentine’s, Anti-Valentine’s-It’s Thursday, let’s just order pizza Day!