The unedited (better) verison of my Valentine’s Day column

North Valley Survival Tips for Valentine’s Day.


As a married guy, and someone who’s romantic skills are questionable to say the least, I had to dig deep to find the right sort of things to put in a survival guide for V-Day. I mean, gosh, it sounds like D-Day and conjures up images of husbands and boyfriends storming a beachhead amid mortar bombs and grenades and rushing through barbwire and metal blockades to get a good table at your favorite restaurant, and so on.

If this is what comes to mind when you start planning a romantic evening for your significant other, then perhaps a few tips couldn’t hurt.

–          Survival Tip #1. –You’re not Tony Soprano. Nor the queen of England. Make a reservation. Don’t be overconfident or think that you’re connected like some goon from Goodfella’s. I get it, some people don’t want to be beholden to a schedule and think spontaneity is the only way to be romantic, but if you were truly spontaneous, you wouldn’t be out on V-Day trying to make up ground in the trenches… call ahead.

–          Survival Tip #2. – Always prepare a Plan-B. Restaurant owners and managers are going to hate me for this one, but you should have a second reservation, at a different restaurant, and at a later time. What happens when you get to his or her house and they are still trying on dresses, or doing curls in front of a mirror, or in the middle of a bad hair nightmare? You’re late… that’s what happens. Plan ahead. While being completely unburdened by time, as mentioned in Tip #1, is ill advised, it’s best not to have to watch the clock in agony. Besides, it will give you last minute choices on the type of food or restaurant.

–          Survival Tip #3. – Limit your consumption (Part 1).  Drinking too much is not romantic. You aren’t funnier or a better dancer and are statistically 10 times more likely to get caught leering at your server’s physique… just stop it. It’s okay to have a drink to loosen up and get a little groove going on, but you have a long battle ahead and you will need your faculties to carry you through the night. Remember, we’re in it for the long haul and no one wants to go home early, or alone. Pace yourself. P.S. I made that statistic up, but it’s still true.

–          Survival Tip #4 – Cab it.  Many of the other V-Day warriors will ignore tips 1-3 and therefore be a danger to you and your date. Aside from that, traffic is frustrating and will kill your mood if you get stuck behind a grandmother for 15 blocks. Your date will be 44% less likely to discard his or her clothing if they see and hear you berating an elderly couple on the 101. Again, my statistics are a total fabrication and still, somehow, accurate.

–          Survival Tip #5 – Have dessert prepared and ready at home. It might be presumptuous or bold, but I like to have a plate of chocolate covered strawberries in the fridge and a bottle of white wine or champagne chilling at home, next to some candles and rose petals. If the date goes south then it will be nice to move all that to the bath and polish off the drink and dessert by yourself while you reflect on what went wrong.

–          Survival Tip #6 – Limit your consumption (part 2). No buffets, all you can eat, or family style restaurants. Unless you are taking an escaped circus bear out for dinner, you don’t need to pack away three pounds of meat and cheese. Just stop it. Do you want to invite your date home to watch you sleep it off, or do something that will be fun for both of you? If you are taking a bear out for dinner, I recommend completely ignoring Survival Tip #3 as well, because everyone knows it’s way more fun to watch a bear ride a unicycle, after you’ve had a few.

–          Survival Tip #7 – Discuss allergies ahead of time. This comes from personal experience. You don’t want to take someone to a place that has wall-to-wall shellfish if they might go into anaphylactic shock. One time I cooked dinner for a woman who has peanut allergies. I unwittingly ate a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup to curb my appetite while the food was on the grill. One little kiss later and we were in the ER while she transformed from a smoky brunette co-ed, into Louis Armstrong. Needless to say, ole Satchmo never called me back, and that date cost me a ton in medical bills. P.S. Never call a dying girl Satchmo.

–          Survival Tip #8 – Keep the natives happy. Line up two, nay, three babysitters and a doctor who does house calls, don’t leave anything to chance. If you have no children, this rule applies to your roommates. Find some way to keep them out of the house, even if it means changing the locks, better that than you find them in the bath eating your strawberries and crying into a glass of your bubbly while listening to Fiona Apple.

–          Survival Tip #9 – Keep it simple. Don’t go too far overboard with extravagant multilayered event planning, No one wants to go on a scavenger hunt for hours or be out in public until their feet blister. As a general rule, when someone asks what you did for Valentine’s Day, you should be able to say: “Dinner and _ __,” or “_ __ and dinner.” Everything else exciting, like what happens when the chocolate strawberries and champagne are done, should be omitted from proper conversation. P.S. It should be stated that neither of those “__ _’s” ought to be “a movie,” unless it is at a drive-in-theatre and you don’t care about actually watching the film, or potentially getting arrested. P.S.S. If you are adhering to Tip #4, this might also cost you a lot of money and embarrassment with the Taxi Company.

–          Survival Tip #10 – Think about what you’re doing to your body. This should be common sense, but chose your food wisely. You don’t want to be fighting a fart all night, or afraid to breathe, in the close confines of the cab. Mexican food is never a good choice if you hope to see someone naked any time soon. The chicken Caesar salad at Hillstone is the best thing I have ever put in my face, but it will murder your breath for no less than three days. I don’t know what they put in it, but it should be illegal, for a multitude of reasons. Most Italian food, as well, has enough garlic to ward off insects and vampires, as well as a good night kiss. Incidentally, do not use the word fart on your date or your breath won’t matter.


I hope this helps as you all go out to do battle with other couples and your own reckless impulses on V-Day. Please be sure to message me via my website and let me know how it goes.


M.D. Thalmann

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