Man in the Kitchen: What Does He Really Think About Valentine’s Day?

Man in the Kitchen: What Does He Really Think About Valentine’s Day?

valentine's day
© Ian Rinefort/Unsplash

My wife and I have never lived together. It’s been a commuter marriage since day one. You could say every day is Valentine’s Day for us. I hear a rumor, however, that it’s not that way for everyone. Which raises the stakes on this most feared of holidays for the male of the species. Talk about performance anxiety.

How do you show your loved one that she truly counts on a day that we annually dread until the chocolates are gone and the roses have wilted?

I have dug deep into the recesses of the male psyche to compile The List.

commuter marriage
Ken Carlton and wife Geri on annual holiday in France for quality time together. Photo courtesy of author

5 Ways To Say I Love You. Do Any of Them Work?

1. Sex

We can nudge you awake in the gentle light of the early morn to say, “Love you so much.” One might argue that is as much for us as it is for you. Alternatively, we can save the romance for late at night after the dishes are done and the kids are asleep. The message? “Still love you, even though our days are long and the struggles many.” Or perhaps you don’t care when we do it, just do it BETTER? – more feeling, more spontaneity, more something? On this topic, every guy I know would welcome creative comments from longtime-married readers. (And if you are newlyweds or ensconced in a relationship that is less than one year old, please disregard the previous. It will make no sense whatsoever and good for you!)

A busy, working mom explains to INSPIRELLE how to get in the mood when you are too tired for sex.

French dinner party
© Andrey Bayda/123RF

2. The Huge Night Out

Speaking strictly from a man’s point of view, this can feel amateurish or even apologetic. The fawning waiters, the oysters and Chateaubriand, the Michel Legrand soundtrack playing tinnily over the bubbling murmurs of the love-besotted Valentine’s Day crowd. Maybe if you have young children and have not been out in four months, a babysitter and a little silly fun have their merits. But generally speaking and left to their own devices, I’m not sure how many men would book the best table in town just because their phone reminded them that February 14th was coming up.

Read one busy mom’s post in INSPIRELLE on how to make date night special at home.

© Diego-ph/Unsplash

3. The Expensive Bauble

My day job is writer. So is my night job. My wife is just happy when I get paid. Mind you, I’d love to spring for a super unique piece of vintage jewelry. Lord knows she’d be surprised. However, the idea that you can show your love with a Platinum Visa card and a hastily wrapped box feels a bit shallow. Perhaps just better to watch the Rowan Atkinson/Alan Rickman gift wrapping scene from “Love Actually,” curled up on the couch over a really pricey bottle of wine?

© Unsplash

4. Embarrassing Office Deliveries

This is a sticky wicket for men. We’re starting at a loss because the assumption is that flowers are on the docket. So we send the fragrant bouquet and you get it in between meetings and emails and that crisis that ate up your afternoon? Yup, we’ve checked the Valentine’s Day box that says “Red Roses.” It’s sweet and pat and easy, but does that really say “I care?” Does it truly make you feel special?

Ken Carlton
© BLK Chai Photography for INSPIRELLE

5. The Loving Attentions of a Home-Cooked Meal

As INSPIRELLE’s “Man in the Kitchen,” of course you knew I was going to end up here. Why? Because what better way to say “I love you” than to administer to your most quotidian of needs. A tray of freshly brewed coffee and un pain du chocolat before you awake? And if mornings are too chaotic for this kind of affair, would anyone object to some loving attention over a midnight snack? Especially for those of us with young kids, can we keep your eyes open with a split of champagne, a tray of delicacies, a lowering of the lights and perhaps a candle or two?

Yes, Valentine’s Day is corny and clichéd and mostly overdone. If you’ve been together long enough, you’re probably expecting those obligatory roses. That’s sweet. But this February 14th I am lobbying for the stealth gift, the unanticipated.

Be it a hand-written note with your favorite croissant or a plate of gooey cheese and a knowing late-night look, it seems to me those little attentions, when least expected, can say it all.

Ken Carlton is founder and editor-in-chief of Beyondish, a food review and storytelling website. He is the author or ghostwriter of eight books, including the award-winning memoir, THE HUNGER, the story behind Greenwich Village’s celebrity hotspot, The Waverly Inn. Ken wrote the "His Point of View" column for Cosmopolitan and appeared as a dating expert on OPRAH. He still muses about food, relationships and parenting at his website, Food for Marriage. A New Yorker and Parisian at heart, he has scripted conferences in Paris for CNN and Fortune magazine. Ken and his wife, a professor, split their time between Brooklyn, NY and Chicago. You can follow him on Instagram @foodformarriage



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