I’ll Love You Tomorrow ~ Valentine’s Day for No One


Valentine’s Day. My husband, The Frenchman, looks elegant in his dark suit, eggshell-colored shirt, and knotted aubergine necktie. His polished shoes shush against the carpet’s thick pile as he walks among the tables of the Incredibly Romantic Restaurant. He pulls out a plush, rust-hued chair. Soon, a muffled pop precedes a curl of vapor rising from a bottle of Dom Someone-or-Other. A meal garnished with rose petals and gold leaf, shaved truffles and jewel-toned caviar begins.

None of this, however, is for me.

Nope. I’m at home in our cluttered Manhattan apartment, eating mac-and-cheese that’s truffleless—and, let’s be honest, quite Kraft-like—while washing it down with a tumbler of milk in the company of our seven-year-old. I’m wearing my most comfortable, least glamorous sweatpants and a shapeless, spattered shirt. My husband, dressed to the nines, is at work. A sommelier, he’ll pour bubbly for canoodling couples until the Incredibly Romantic Restaurant closes. Late.

Before you play a violin of any size under my window, perhaps I ought to mention that I’ve never been particularly sentimental about this holiday. My most memorable Valentine’s Day was in fifth grade, when a girl I only sometimes played with gave me a huge box of chocolate Turtles; all I had for her was a store-bought card with a certain cynical cartoon cat on it. With few exceptions, I have no love of heart-shaped things. Plus, when The Frenchman and I got serious, it was obvious right then that his choice of career meant I’d be stag on “couples” holidays. He will never, ever get Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve off. I know better than to ask.

And really, that’s OK. I get a lot done while he’s at work: phone calls, e-mails, our annual tax returns. To an outsider, my evening must sound pretty pathetic, but between you and me, he’s the one to pity.

Expectations run high this night, and there’s more pressure than usual to ensure that service at the Incredibly Romantic Restaurant comes off without a hitch—or maybe I should say with a hitch, because there’s bound to be at least one marriage proposal in the offing. My husband insists he doesn’t mind the bridegrooms, but frankly, I think a square velvet box lurking beneath a silver cloche on a plate puts everyone on the spot. There are so many ways this could go wrong. Imagine a wine bucket stand overturned by a man dropping awkwardly to his knee, or, much worse, a clueless busboy delivering a diamond-studded course to the wrong table. And then there’s plain-old unrequited love, waiting to rear its ugly head in public.

Thanks, but no. I’ll take the lesser stress of plating my son’s peas in such a way that they don’t roll into the cheese sauce. And if I have to act as chef, server, and dishwasher combined, at least my dining room has one seating only.

Back in the Incredibly Romantic Restaurant, tables are turning at an accelerated rate, and although love blazes front of house, all that’s really burning are my husband’s blistered feet. The setting may be sumptuous, but several hours in, all The Frenchman wants to do is hail a cab.

Of course, I’m eager for his return. By nine o’clock I’ll have waged the toothbrush battle, read the bedtime stories, and I’ll be back in front of the computer. But waiting up is out of the question. The last reservation will arrive late, and because the table is now theirs for the rest of the night, they’ll do what the other couples before them couldn’t: they’ll prolong…every…moment. The Frenchman will need every ounce of sangfroid to not give them the boot. It’ll be three in the morning before he crosses our threshold—only to find me, the object of his affection, passed out in bed with a book in hand, drooling on the pillow. No doubt a letdown to a man who spent the past 12 hours steeped in other people’s passion.

What if things were different? What would we do if he actually had Valentine’s Day off? The truthful answer is nothing.

It’s not that we’re lacking in romance, or that we don’t enjoy a night out. In fact, we relish it. When our sitter arrives, I’ll put on lipstick, dry my hair for a change before leaving the apartment, and walk through a spritz of perfume to link arms with my husband as we head out the door. We’ll go to a jazz joint that serves barbecue with linen napkins. I won’t nag him about wearing a tie on his day off, and he’ll forgive me for gawking like a rube at the illuminated city, so seldom am I out past dark these days. Like other couples, we hold hands across the table. Perhaps more than others, we appreciate the wine glasses filled by someone else.

Although we don’t need an excuse to make date night happen, we have two anniversaries: one marks our American civil union in January, the other our fancy church wedding in France at the end of June. Those days are unique to us. Plus, with two shots at it each year, there’s really no pressure to get it all just right. So by mutual assent, we skip the en masse Hallmark celebration of love pre-printed on the calendar.

Given our schedules, it might take a while before we get around to toasting our romance, but with a pair of momentous occasions to mark, plus 362 other days of the year to choose from, it’ll happen. On February 14, you can count ours—happily—as a reservation for zero.


    1. The One! I’m sure we must have some kindred tales to share, being the “significant” in the life of a food-industry man. So glad you liked the piece. Thanks for taking time to let me know. (That sort of kindness is of course what makes you The One in the first place.) Happy Valentine’s Day.

  1. And my French husband, the most romantic of souls, is a true cynic when it comes to Valentine’s Day. He hates it and every single year as the hearts begin popping up in boutique windows and all over French tv, he turns on me, waving his arms, and stoutly declares his total disdain for this faux holiday that the French have sadly and inexplicably adopted from the Americans. I’m not sure if he blames the gullibility of the French or the clever marketing prowess of American admen, but hate Valentine’s Day he does. Yet, year after year, he goes out of his way to do something for me, leaving me a small, sentimental token of his love, some small gesture, a bouquet of tulips or a pile of cooking magazines, just to make me smile because he knows I have a weak spot for this silly, commerical holiday. Ah, that’s love. And he does the same all throughout the year as well. Lovely, wonderful story…. you have me smiling.

    1. Jamie, you’ve given me the gift of a smile in return with your clin d’oeil toward French husbands. Their genuine protests about Valentine’s Day ironically make those little gestures that they perform in spite of themselves way more romantic than if they were actually on board with the holiday. Your husband, the Feb 14 cynic, sounds incredibly sweet. Thanks for taking the time to read this post and for commenting. I really appreciate it. I’ll be sure to raise a glass à votre amour on Monday.

  2. I loved every word of this post. So very refreshing to see someone outline their out of the ordinary situation and relish in it.

    1. Thanks so much, Christine, for taking the time to read my piece. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I do try, whenever possible, to delight in the unusual circumstances in life—even if they’re mine and occasionally frustrating. I really appreciate your comment.

  3. Loved your article. After working 12 years in the restaurant business, the last place I want to be on Valentine’s Day is in a restaurant – as you said, not because I don’t enjoy an evening out. The large tables have been removed to put in more deuces and 4-tops, and every waiter has twice the number of tables they normally do, plus the kitchen is slammed. No thanks! My first Valentine’s Day with my husband was also the first time I made him dinner – when to his surprise and relief, I said that I didn’t want to go out. He still says it is the best dinner he every had!

    1. Deborah, Thanks so much for leaving a comment to let me know that the article resonated with you. I’m so glad. Clearly, you can really relate to all of it, especially from The Frenchman’s perspective. Lord what you all endure so that others can have their “must do” night out.

      I find it funny and charming that your husband was surprised and relieved that you didn’t want to go out. And wonderful that your first dinner made for him at home was on Valentine’s Day. That’s something to celebrate, clearly.

      You may want to keep it as your own couple’s secret, but I’d love to know if you remember what you made for him… and if you ever repeat those dishes.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      1. Hi Allison – I think he was surprised because being a “city” girl he thought I might be expecting him to have a fabulous restaurant booked for us – and he didn’t want to let me down, as he was unfamiliar with the city at that point in our courtship.

        I do remember what I made as it was only 2 years ago. We had only been dating for a couple of months, so I was still used to cooking for only one. I chose a tried and true (easy) favorite–Chicken Marbella from Silver Palate, a mix of wild rice/brown rice and asparagus roasted with a tiny bit of olive oil and a touch of fresh grated parmesan–only I was so nervous that I forgot to serve the asparagus, as it was in the broiler and “out of sight, out of mind.” We discovered the asparagus when we were cooking the chocolate souffles for dessert and the smell of the asparagus started to fill the kitchen! We still laugh about it to this day!

        1. That is hilarious about the asparagus! And clearly you had better things to look at than those once-green stalks. Out of sight, out of mind indeed. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  4. My boyfriend and I met on a Valentine’s Day pub crawl, and this Valentine’s Day will mark our two year anniversary. Last year we saw a play at Community Theater. To celebrate this year, we’ll be hiking to the tide pools on the island of St. Croix (where we live). We try to do something nontraditional. I like to think of it as “taking the holiday back from Hallmark.” Even so, I don’t complain when he brings me flowers!

    1. Yes, yes, yes, and yes to anniversaries, tide pools, seizing the day… and of course flowers! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing something personal with us. Happy island celebration to you and your love.

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