Ah, that time of year again. Can you sense it on the wind? It’s suspiciously pink. Chocolates in a cardboard heart. Hastily purchased bodega roses. Not at Feste. I’m over the obligatory jewelry. Tired the trite two-top reservations, the prixe fix, the molten lava cake. Ok, I will never be done with molten lava cake, but you get the picture.

I have the unique and distinct pleasure of having been with my partner/husband/lover/soulmate/dog co-parent for 18 years. We met when we were 18 years old, running against each other in a student council election at Vassar College. The stuff of romance, right?

(Here we are the year we got married. Babies.)

This will be our 19th Valentine’s Day celebration together. Some of them have been truly fun. Trips to escape the snow. Adventures with friends. Sexy getaways just the two of us. Dinners I’ve loved. Drinking and laughing over a table in surprising solemn restaurants. I don’t understand why some people treat Valentine’s Day like Sunday Mass. Isn’t it a great date night? Why is everyone whispering over their four-course dinner? Andrew and I are regularly the worst behaved people at these dinners.  Me wearing something appropriately flamboyant, one full wine pairing deep and very rowdy. Andrew overordering and wondering loudly if he should get a fernet. Dreaming and reminiscing. It’s fantastic.

Some have been misses. Andrew is great at everything, truly a connoisseur of so many things. You can leave him alone in a room with a note pad and a problem to solve, and he’ll emerge with an army and a new fortune 500 company. I’ve never seen him play tennis until last year, and suddenly he’s a 4.0. But gifts are his Achilles heel. I definitely received a pizza one year. We still laugh about it. He laughs nervously. I laugh maniacally. But we laugh.

Some have been spent apart. I remember a particularly grueling Valentine’s Day evening. I was installing a massive pop up in Galeries Lafayette overnight, and I came back to my hotel as the sun came up to roses in my room from my stateside love. Swoon.

Some have been crushing. My father died on February 15th after a few heartbreaking days in the hospital, and we spent the evening of Valentine’s Day on floor of an ICU, holding each other and my siblings in fear, grief, and sadness. All of our celebrations now are mixed with grief and loss.

You would think that after all these years the romance is on the back burner, but I can tell you that the joy of having grown up together and having developed deeply independent lives means that being together is always a treat. We spent most of our adult lives traveling for work, living apart during the weeks, not seeing each other, so every night we have together is a delight. It’s like dating all the time. My romance with my husband is the greatest gift of my life. 

That being said, as much as I love a date night, I think Valentine’s Day is bunk. Yes, I love the camp, the kitsch, the schmaltz, and bring on smut, the over-the-top pink, the red, the racy.  But I hate the expected, the cliché. I will not turn down anything with caramel in the middle, but I will reject the checklist of flowers, jewelry, and a card.

(This is how I show up to all meetings and events in the month of February.)

May I suggest something different? Skip the performative romance. Find love in a festive place. #RiRiforlife. This time of year, we fancy ourselves connoisseurs of all the love languages—who decided that gift giving was important than quality time, amiright? Seasons of love, indeed.

If Andrew can give me a pizza and still be happily married, you don’t need to be Casanova to pull off a nice evening at home for your partner. My tip? Keep it simple, focus on only one thing. If you’re a confident cook, leave the drinks and décor to professionals. No one wants their partner stuck in the kitchen doing a million dishes, so choose a lighter one dish meal with a couple easy but decadent snacks to start. A little caviar? Some shrimp cocktail? Ricotta and toast? Whatever you like.

If you’re helpless in the kitchen, there is nothing wrong with faking it until you make it. Get a great rotisserie chicken from the store—you can easily quarter it, reheat it in the oven with a little olive oil, some fresh rosemary, and lemon. I like to serve it with frites (let’s be honest, they’re frozen French fries) and fresh lettuces. The meal looks fancy, but you’ve only doctored it up. I won’t tell your partner if you won’t.

Get a great bottle of wine and easy flowers delivered. Skip the bouquet, you don’t have time to style it—opt for one mid-sized arrangement as a gift and one small for your table. Turn the lights out, light a million taper candles, and admire how great your partner looks in candle light.

Also! There is nothing that says this day needs to be about a meal. Go do something great together. Play a cheesy board game, light a fire outside and make negronis, set up a tent on your couch and watch old movies together. Pick up bodega flowers together and see who can make the best arrangement. Buy bodice rippers at CVS and read the most eye rolling parts out loud to each other. Pack a picnic and hike. Have a lot of creative sex. Laugh at how bad you’ve gotten at rolling joints. Microdose. Make margaritas at 11:30.   

Two might be company, but three’s a party. Eight might even be a real great time. Growing up, my parents always had these over-the-top Valentine’s Day parties, and I think it’s time everyone just leaned into this concept. Why are we all just celebrating this holiday alone? GROUP LOVE, y’all. While I apologize to my mom for implying that she was hosting swingers’ events, I stand by this.  Host a dinner, a campy romantic soiree, a blush-toned bacchanalia of a brunch. People want to hang out. Bring a night out, in. 

Looking for love in all the wrong places? What a time of year to be alive. I think this is the perfect time of year to put down your phone and party. Invite all your most eligible friends, those people you promised to introduce someday but keep forgetting to. 

Single and not ready to mingle? Fuck roses, give romance novels. We love a smutty book club this time of year. Bridgerton is back in March, y'all, but until then try Julie Ann Long. Thank me later. (Fans self...)

Still not feeling this? It’s your Valentine’s day, you can cry if you want to. We have all the goodies help you have a good old fashion anti-lovefeste for you and your crew. Blow it out big.

Whether you're having a LoveFeste, MeFeste or UsFeste, we'd love to help make your V-Day that much more festive with a few of our favorite products. We've got all the blush and bashful (IYKYK) hosting and party supplies to help you host your best event yet...even if it's your 19th.  

February 02, 2022 — Brenna Gilbert