Hello, young lovers! And old lovers. And middle-aged lovers, too. Heck, if you’re involved in any kind of romantic relationship, this article is for you. After all, it’s almost Valentine’s Day!
Ah, yes, Valentine’s Day, another holiday of ancient origin taken over by the sugar-mongers. Let’s see the hands: How many of you are thinking it’s just not Valentine’s Day without chocolates? Yeah, I thought so. I’ll continue my psychic act: How many of you are thinking “But chocolate makes you feel like you’re in love!”
Hah. I admit it’s not the ultimate authority, but it’s right about as often as the Encyclopedia Britannica, so I’ll cite it: Wikipedia says that phenethylamine, the “love chemical,” is metabolized too quickly for any significant quantity to make it to your brain. You may be getting a dopamine hit from it, stimulating your brain’s reward center, or you may just really like the flavor, but your chocolate jones is not a substitute for romance. Indeed, given what all that sugar can do to your health and your looks, it can be downright inimical to romance. Take it from a girl who used to steal to support a pathological chocolate habit (Is a pound a day enough for you?), the stuff will not make you sexy.
Not that I’m anti-chocolate. Nope, I eat a little sugar-free dark chocolate nearly every day. Turns out that while sugar is bad for you, chocolate is good for you. You may well have heard that chocolate is a good source of antioxidants, and that’s true. But it goes beyond that. Cocoa butter is full of stearic acid, a saturated fat that behaves like olive oil in your body, raising your HDL and lowering your LDL. Chocolate is even a pretty good source of fiber.
I’m just unhappy about the trend in our society for every holiday to become nothing but another Festival of Sugar. I also worry about those of us who are less than comfortable about our bodies substituting sweets for getting a little sugar of another kind. So I’d like to suggest a few ways other than chocolate to make your Valentine’s Day special.
- In the interests of feeling romantic, don’t just wear your sloppy sweats, okay? Romance is more likely if you’re wearing something becoming, if only because you’ll feel better about yourself. You deserve to feel pretty. Or handsome. You know, hot.
- Have a special dinner, whether you eat out or cook at home. We dislike the Valentine’s Day crowds, so I generally cook in, but I do try to make something beyond the everyday dishes. Last year I did seared duck breast with raspberry-chipotle sauce, plus asparagus and a spinach-strawberry-almond salad. Bought a better-than-usual bottle of wine. Put some candles on the table, too, will you?
- Have kids? Feed ‘em early, and cue up a couple of Disney movies. They’re to stay in the den unless the emergency involves fire, a broken pipe, or bleeding. No child is hurt by the knowledge that Mom and Dad are in love. And few things do quite so much for a relationship as the chance for a little quiet adult conversation.
- If, on the other hand, you can get the den to yourselves, you could watch a romantic movie. Or, ahem, a more-than-romantic movie, nudge-nudge, wink-wink. There are some movies that go no further than an R rating that still have some very hot scenes in them.
- How about a fire in the fireplace, and a good bottle of wine, while reading classic love poetry or even erotic literature to one another?
- I love flowers, how ’bout you? Twenty two years ago, Valentine’s Day just happened to fall exactly a month after That Nice Boy I Married and I officially became A Couple. We each surprised the other with flowers at work, and we each quoted the same movie on the card. We took it as a very good sign. (What movie? Blazing Saddles. No, I’m not kidding. Hey, there are worse things to base a relationship on than mutual comedic references.)
- Then there’s lingerie. Yes, I’m talking to you. You think you can’t wear it? Hah. Lane Bryant carries some very nice lingerie just for those of us who are not built like Victoria’s Secret models; so does www.hipsandcurves.com. (Warning: NOT SAFE FOR WORK: I do not recommend checking out Hips and Curves from work.) And for those of you who scornfully dismiss lingerie with “Lace is scratchy,” all I can say is that this has not been my experience. And I am indeed smiling as I type that.
However, I have to give you the gentle warning: If you’re hoping for some real romance on Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to go easy on the sugar-free candy. The gastrointestinal effects can be, uh, other than seductive. Make your Valentine’s gift basket last a while, okay?
(People often feel this is a huge, huge drawback of sugar-free candy. I hasten to disagree. I feel that having excellent quality sweets that rigidly enforce moderation is not a bug, it’s a feature.)
Too many of us who struggle with our weight feel we’re not sexy, we’re not hot, we’re not worthy of romance. Too many bury their hunger for love, their desire to be desired, under a pile of addictive food, a category into which chocolate can definitely fall. Go for the love. Go for the romance. Go for a little heat. You deserve it, you are worthy. And as a woman who is still deeply in love with her husband after 22 years, I can tell you that it beats chocolate any day of the week – and especially on Valentine’s Day.
© 2012 by Dana Carpender. Used by permission of the author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.