Valentine’s Day No-Nos

February Men's Room column

Dear boyfriend, husband, of other variety of male (or male-acting) life partner,

Your significant other has instructed you to read this because you have either sorely disappointed her in the past, or, if your relationship is new, you’ve proven to be the kind of guy with a high probability of screwing up your first Valentine’s Day together.

I know what you’re thinking: “How dare this guy tell me how to celebrate with my lady on the year’s most romantic day!” Slow your roll, pal. I’m not here to lecture you on what to do on Valentine’s Day. I’m just going to tell you ten things definitely NOT to do:

  1. Don’t do nothing. Even if she routinely mocks Valentine’s Day as just another “Hallmark holiday,” pay that no mind. You have to do something. Anything is better than nothing.
  2. Don’t say, “I’ll do whatever you want to do.” On this one day, take some initiative, my brother. Be bold. Make a freaking plan for once in your life.
  3. Don’t cook for her. Unless you’re a professional chef or a kickass amateur, do not subject your lady to your once-a-year foray into the kitchen to make overcooked chicken with past-the-expiration date pre-grated Parmesan.
  4. No steakhouses, all-you-can-eat buffets, or sports bars. Not on Valentine’s Day. Not even if it’s where you met. Not even if it’s where you proposed. Up. Your. Game.
  5. Don’t pick out expensive jewelry without help from her friends. Just because she claims to love the rose gold, heartshaped brooch you bought her last year doesn’t mean she actually likes it. She’s just trying to spare your fragile feelings. If you buy her something ugly and expensive, she’s going to wear it. Remember, it’s supposed to be a gift, not an obligation.
  6. Learn a lesson from the guy in that Peloton ad and don’t buy her exercise equipment, a gym membership, and, for God’s sake, no diet books. This should go without saying, but honestly, all ten of these should go without saying.
  7. Don’t use a coupon, Groupon, or gift certificate at dinner. A two-for-one discount does not good foreplay make. On February 14th, she wants reckless physical abandon, not cautious fiscal discipline.
  8. Don’t select a plastic-wrapped bouquet from the picked-through leftovers of your low-end grocery. If your bouquet includes a miniature balloon, a Disney copyrighted theme, or flowers dyed colors that don’t exist in nature, pick again.
  9. Don’t get on your phone during dinner. Not to check the score of the big game. Not to Instagram pics of dinner. Not even to calculate the tip. Take a night off from the electronic pacifier, and instead, take a long look into your lady’s eyes.
  10. And, finally, don’t eat a huge meal. There are plenty of other nights to gorge on carbs and crash on the couch before 9 p.m. Your circulatory system is your friend; don’t overtax it. Consider a salmon fillet or grilled chicken over a Caesar salad. Remember, you’ll need to be in top form later. Tonight’s your big night, stud muffin.

Dylan Patterson is a writer and filmmaker who teaches English at Cape Fear Community College.

To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to

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