By Tiffany Razzano
It’s finally happened.
I’ve fallen prey to a Hallmark holiday.
Until now, I’ve never done much for anyone for Valentine’s Day. Never purchased flowers or chocolate hearts or cheesy greeting cards.
Sure, some years I went on weekend getaways with my paramour of the moment, maybe a drive out to the Montauk lighthouse or up the New Hampshire coastline. But these jaunts had less to do with romance than they did with my compelling wanderlust. Most of the time, I’m not even dating anyone around this time of year.
But there I was last night, in my kitchen at 1 a.m., using cookie cutters to create heart-shaped slices of polenta. I was prepping my Valentine’s Day dinner — a vegan, gluten- and soy-free feast that coordinates not only with my animal-friendly diet, but also with my girlfriend’s dietary restrictions. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past decade or so of dating, there’s nothing romantic about accidentally sending your date into anaphylactic shock.
For some reason, romance has never really been on my radar before now, which is surprising because I tend to be ruled by my emotions, make impulsive decisions, and fall hard when I do actually fall for someone. Somehow, I’ve taken on the role of the hopeless romantic without actually being romantic. Does this mean I’ve just been hopeless?
These days I’ve established a pattern of easy, seemingly effortless romance with my girlfriend. Often, I don’t even realize they’re romantic gestures until after I make them. Usually I think of something that might make her smile – even if it’s just a little bit – I get excited about it, and then make it happen. Really, it’s all about making me happy. It’s an incredibly selfish brand of thoughtfulness.
My first pre-meditated romantic gesture with her came early in our relationship, when I learned that women you’re dating don’t like to find you stumbling around downtown St. Pete drunk at 2 p.m. It takes quite a bit to bounce back from that when they’re already aware that you have a rather pronounced history of abusing alcohol. (It’s not really abuse; I usually just whack it on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper so it gets the idea of exactly what it did wrong.)
She wouldn’t talk to me the next day. Usually a sheepish, lopsided smile and a charmingly witty comment was enough for most women I’ve dated. This one would require a bit more effort.
So I decided to get her a flower.
Having never purchased flowers for anyone before, I had nothing but questions. Do I get one flower or several? Do I go with the romantic fallback, roses? Or do I find something more unique and meaningful? Do I have them delivered or do I hand them to her myself? That was assuming she would even see me.
It turned into a massive research project, the duties of my actual job ignored for the day. I created an Excel spreadsheet of floral possibilities, compiling dossiers for each one after Googling them to learn about different types, costs, meanings, color choices. I polled my friends on Facebook, texted them, IMd them, called them on my lunch break, gathering a variety of opinions.
Despite the amount of research I’d done, I was still feeling clueless when I got to the florist. I left work a half hour early in order to get there before the shop closed, rushing in with only minutes to spare before the door was locked and my romantic gesture would be delayed another 24 hours. By then I’d likely have a whole new plan; it was imperative to take action in the moment of inspiration.
The woman behind the counter looked at me wearily. “Can I help you?”
“Help is exactly what I need.” I looked around the shop, overwhelmed by the colors and options, and worried I might actually send her a flower that accidentally said, “Let’s be friends.”
“I need to make a subtle, romantic gesture— something simple, understated and meaningful. It can’t be so simplistic it’s lame, though. But I also don’t want anything so obtrusively creepy that it frightens her off. What do you have for me?”
“Well, do you know her favorite flower?”
“Believe it or not, it’s never come up in conversation.”
“How about a rose?” She continued to clean up the counter, obviously wanting to head home for the day.
“Do I seem like the kind of girl who would give a rose?”She sighed. “Ok, why don’t we just go look at some flowers in the case?” She grabbed her keys and slid open the glass door of the main, central case. She pointed at a handful of pink and white flowers in a vase. “How about a lily?”
“Oh, so that’s a lily.”
“Or how about this,” she said, gesturing to a cluster of colorful flowers in orange, purple and yellow.
“Well, which is more romantic?”
“They’re both romantic.”
“Yeah, but which is more romantic? Which one do people like to receive more?”
“People tend to like them both; it depends on taste.”
“I’m thinking you might have to make this decision for me. How about this — which one would woo you if you were the one receiving it?”
“Go with the lily. It’s more elegant.” She took one from the case and handed it to me.
As she rang me up, I asked, “So, now what?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean… do I just put it somewhere, as is, or do I hand it to her wrapped up?”
“Do you want it wrapped up?”
“Not really, then it might look like I got it in Walmart. Although, now it just looks like I stole it from someone’s garden or gravestone.”
“Just lay it wherever you want to leave it for her. Or hand it to her.”
“That’s how this romance thing works? I just put it there? On the ground?”
“Or wherever you want to leave it. Trust me, it will be fine.”
Seemed simple enough. I walked outside deeply inhaling the scent of the relationship-saving lily I was holding.
As I got behind the wheel of my car, I remembered something I’d read on the Internet during my earlier research and ran back inside before she locked the door.
“One last question. Are lilies poisonous to animals? Because I think killing her cat would probably ruin the subtle, romantic gesture.”
Lilies are perfectly safe, she assured me; later, I found out that she lied. She’s lucky no animals were harmed in the making of this romantic gesture.
I left the flower on my girlfriend’s doorstep with a short note, actually a limerick I’d written; she texted me to say it was beautiful — the flower, not the limerick.
A week later, she texted me to say it was still blooming, and invited me over. We sat outside by her pool and chatted for a while before she took my hand, and quietly said, “I missed you.” Simple. Understated. Meaningful.
“It’s because of the flower, isn’t it?” I told her I’d nearly made the mistake of getting a completely unoriginal, boring rose.
“I’d have taken a rose. Roses are classic — you can’t go wrong with them. And just so you know for next time, I’d also be happy with diamonds. Women like these kinds of things.”
“My suggestion is that if women like these kinds of expensive things they probably shouldn’t date writers.”
That was nearly three years ago, and we’re still together. And I’ve since bought her both roses and diamonds, because as I said, it’s all about making her smile.