Our cable TV has been out since we got back from Florida on Saturday. I haven’t really missed it. We haven’t been watching much on actual TV lately, as we’ve been streaming more. (You’d think I would cancel the cable service. But it’s bundled with Internet and our land line. Canceling the TV part would save us approximately 8 cents per month. So what’s the point?) At any rate, the cable’s been out, so I haven’t been barraged with ads for chocolate diamonds and the like. (And what kind of bullshit is a chocolate diamond anyway? Chocolate diamonds are actually industrial grade diamonds that weren’t good enough to get mounted onto an engagement ring. Hello DeBeers marketing machine!)

But I’ve never been the one to get caught up in the hubbub of Valentine’s Day. I am not a hater that shrieks about it being a Hallmark holiday. I just really don’t care enough about it. Sure, Todd and I have celebrated it casually. Maybe dinner. On occasion he’ll get me a present. But it’s definitely not a big deal. The last few years we’ve taken to donating blood on Valentine’s Day, figuring we can each share love with the 3 people who will benefit from a pint of ours. (But we just donated in January, so we’re not eligible again yet.)

On the first Valentine’s Day we spent together, back in 1998, he took me on a sleigh ride in Vermont and presented me with tickets to Phantom of the Opera. Which was very romantic. Go Todd. I took him one year to dinner and a show in Boston. But then we decided that it would be celebrated with a blood drive. So, Todd and I are totally at peace with a low key Valentine’s celebration. (Last year, for example, I was in Seattle meeting with my publisher, Booktrope, before I signed. A book deal is the BEST VALENTINE’S GIFT EVER, by the way.)

But past boyfriends have tried to make Valentine’s a big deal. I remember getting dumped before Valentine’s in the past and joking “He just didn’t want to buy me a present.” My college boyfriend had an elaborate Valentine’s date planned. I had a car on campus, and so did he. His roommate did not, so he loaned his car to the roommate. We took mine. I did not allow him to drive because my parents warned the hell out of me “Because of the insurance DO NOT let ANYONE ELSE drive this car EVER.” I was a good girl. So I drove us on my surprise Valentine’s date.

He gave me directions as I drove. We pulled into the parking lot of a looming structure near campus in Lincoln, Rhode Island. I parked and we walked in. I heard people cheering inside the open ceiling building. “Is this a concert?” I asked. How did I not know this venue existed so close to campus?

We walked in, climbed the stairs into the main part of the arena. I stood on tiptoe over the crowd. Who was playing tonight? I don’t hear music. Maybe they’re on a break. I could barely make it out through the crowd. There were greyhounds running on a track below. Happy Valentine’s Day. Let’s go to the dog track.

The dog track? Really? This was the romantic date? Watching dogs kept locked in pens and sent out to run? I turned to my boyfriend with my mouth agape. Did he even know me? We’d been together for six or so months. And in college you have the time to hang out constantly with your significant other. So you tend to get to know each other. The dog track. Swoon.

It was winter. There was no ceiling on the track. I shivered into my jacket. The race ended, they were getting ready for another one. “Are you cold?” he asked. I told him I was. “Do you want to go?” I told him I did.

We got back into the car, he checked the clock. “Good, we’ll get to the next stop on time.” I asked him what it was, he told me to drive.

We drove all over Warwick, Rhode Island. Neither of us were Rhode Island natives. We got lost. We had no idea where we were going. And he couldn’t tell me because it was a surprise. So I drove us all over Warwick. After we missed the time, we went back.

“Let’s do this part tomorrow,” he suggested. We went back to campus. We hung out in my room, I think we got a pizza or something. He was disappointed. I assured him that I didn’t need some grand red heart laden evening. I just wanted to spend time together. No big deal.

The next day he drove. He got directions. I sat in the passenger seat and watched the world go by. We pulled into a movie theater in Seekonk, Massachusetts. He bought us tickets. I looked up at the marquee trying to guess what we were going to see to cap off the romantic evening he had planned the night before. There were a few romantic movies showing, probably one of those, right?


Groundhog Day. You know, the Bill Murray movie. Epic Valentine fail. I hated the movie. I sat there thinking “This is a movie you’d see on any other Friday night. This isn’t a Valentine movie. Valentine movies are supposed to be romantic, right?” He laughed at the show. I counted the red skittles out of my bag and ate those first.

Is it just me, or is Valentine’s Day a lot of pressure for the men? Todd and I used to try to alternate years to plan something. But then it was pressure for both of us to wow the other. For 1 day a year we have to amp up our game for our partner. And it’s BS, people. Instead of spending all your energy on one day, how about we spend a little energy every day to make each other feel appreciated. Screw the Valentine’s marketing machine. You don’t need to buy each other stuff. Treat each other to kindness. Tell your man he looks handsome when he’s on his way to work. Go out and start his car for him on a cold day when he’s running late. Smile when you see each other at the end of the day. Hold hands in the supermarket. Thank each other for something before you fall asleep every night.

Those little things add up to way more in the long run.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.