Hotness isn't the only Valentine's Day tradition at Vita.mn. Every February is also my chance to tell you what you might be doing wrong to celebrate this official lovers' holiday, and how to start doing it right. Here are some dos and don'ts I've gathered over the past year, to help romantics who may (or may not) have the best of intentions but utterly lack in gift-giving grace.
Don't: Give handmade coupons good for a massage or an hour of housecleaning. If you're the type of person who finds this a passable gift, then you're probably the type of person who will never make good on that little paper promise. Domestic coupons are what 8-year-olds give to their parents on Mother's and Father's Day.
Do: Pony up and buy a real gift certificate for a massage or housecleaning service. If you think your lover really needs a break but you're a little strapped for cash, watch sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for deals that would appeal to him or her.
Don't: Send an Edible Arrangement. This is not a romantic gesture, people. It's what salesmen send after landing a big client. Fruit skewered on plastic sticks and affixed to a head of lettuce doesn't express your everlasting desire, it expresses your very limited creativity.
Do: Arrange your own portable picnic and deliver it yourself. Fill a basket or a gift bag with some fresh cut fruit and cheeses (or PowerBars and Muscle Milk, or organic kale and kefir, or whatever your loved one is into) and take some time out of your day to brighten theirs. You might even get some parking-lot afternoon delight out of it.
Don't: Drop three bills on a five-course tasting menu with wine pairing when you can't afford it. Especially if you screwed up and forgot to make the reservation early, so you're stuck with a 5:30 p.m. dinner at a folding table the staff usually reserves for rolling silverware.
Do: Make the reservation well in advance (as in right after New Year's) and start tucking away some cash then, too. That is, if taking your sweetheart out for an expensive meal is really that important to the two of you. It might not be that big of a deal to your date whether you're gorging yourselves on lobster at the chef's table at Manny's or just bellied up to the bar with a plate of nachos at Eli's Food & Cocktails. Those nachos are pretty damn good.
Don't: Spend two paychecks on a cookie-cutter diamond necklace or a designer heart locket.
Do: Spend a little time shopping if you're buying jewelry. Tiffany & Co. may think they have the market cornered for awe-inspiring gifts at the Galleria in Edina, but StyledLife just down the hall is where it's at for unique stuff that says "I know you." With new and vintage jewelry and accessories in multiple price ranges, StyledLife has something for everyone, and you'll actually have fun shopping the store to find it. If you don't see what you're looking for, just ask. The stock room is sure to have the perfect mother of pearl pendant or antique emerald green cufflinks.
Don't: Ask if it's OK, just this one time, to video record your post-dinner, sheet-soaking marathon sex show, even if you promise it will never leave your iPhone.
Do: Go see a sexy show instead. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is playing at the Guthrie through Feb. 26, and if you've never seen it live, you shouldn't miss it. With all due respect to the late greats Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer-winning play is even more intense and passionate on the live stage. Tickets are $29-$68. Besides, you know you're just gonna lose your phone eventually, and who knows where that video will end up.