Feb 122012
Authors: Seth Stern

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. As your self-labeled romance writer –– for today anyway –– I’m here to ease the pain, terror and disappointment with a few things I’ve learned about relationships.

You’ve seen it on the job and in class: people just don’t like to put in the effort for a job-well-done. We are a society that largely gives up when things get difficult.

This is definitely reflected in the divorce rate, but I would also put much of the divorce rate on the fact the art of dating and establishing relationships has a cancer. That cancer is apathy.

So guys, consider this your guide to a successful romance for those in relationships, or courting with the intent to start one.

First and foremost, you don’t know anything –– not about women, jewelry or flowers. Hallmark does better than you likely will in expressing romance, but only you can reflect your feelings.

Incidentally, I have reasonable rates if you want me to translate your monosyllabic descriptions of her preferred body parts into something more romantic. Yes, I’m whoring myself out on Valentine’s Day eve, deal with it.

When you’re in a budding romance, gestures are key. When you’re ready to take the step of sending flowers, remember the florist does this every day and understands their craft better than you ever will, same for the jeweler.

A little bit of reconnoiter goes a long way; know the favorite flowers of every woman you’re emotionally close to, and definitely know what they’re allergic to or hate –– this is invaluable. Remember, you’ll get a pass on your first attempt as long as you retain the critical knowledge.

When you call the florist, explain the relationship, intent and purpose. This applies to all reasons: when a friend went through a tragedy a few years ago, explaining what effect I wanted was more effective than attempting to become a designer myself.

Roses may work –– they usually do, but they may not. But on certain days of the year, the gesture itself is crucial. Forget and perish. Use an online calendar to remind via email a day ahead of time that an anniversary or other significant event is upon you, and use the repeat annually feature.

Spoil her throughout the year. For the same cost as a decent flower order, you can get her a massage –– bonus points if you get a couple’s massage room booked, or a pedicure or something else she enjoys. Better yet, learn how to give a relaxing massage and do it yourself. Corny romantic schtick works and the payoff is ridiculous, but she can tell if you’re doing it to get laid or if you mean it, or she just may not care.

Join her in getting a massage or pedicure, pass on the manicure and act like it’s because you’re too manly for that while you bite your excess length off. It’s gross, but distinctively mannish, whereas you have –– and I can’t stress this enough –– no idea what you’re missing by passing on getting regular pedicures yourself.

You probably shouldn’t get polish, unless that’s what you’re into. But I promise once you’ve had a pedicure, you’ll not only never cut your toenails yourself again, you’ll start going regularly, and this generates massive points when you make it something you do together.

Pay attention. I know it’s difficult for the A.D.D. generation, but women will tell you virtually anything you need to know either through their behavior or conversation as long as you put in the effort to get to know them.

This, too, pays dividends. You may think hooking up on a first date with a gorgeous woman is as good as it gets, but trust me, you can’t put a measurement on how much better it is once you’ve actually taken the time to establish a friendship first.

Which brings me to my final piece of advice for both genders: beyond effort, what’s lacking in modern American relationships is friendship.

The brilliant Friedrich Nietzsche said, “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”

Absolutely accurate. The most passionate and rewarding relationships of my life have been with the two women with whom I became close friends and truly loved before anything physical took place.

You want a successful Valentine’s Day? Treat your date as you would want your best friend of the appropriate gender to be treated. Gay or straight –– makes no difference –– you’ll both be happier in the long run if you put in the effort before you get in bed.

Now back to your regularly scheduled cynicism, skepticism and pessimism.

S. Jacob Stern is a romantic and is as single as the day he was born. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters, date requests and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 2:16 pm

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