And it shouldn't be expensive, either. Just because the businesses insist on commercializing Valentine's Day to disgusting extremes doesn't mean that you're obligated to buy into it.

Valentine's Day is a celebration of romance, first and foremost. And the best gifts you can give your loved one are often remarkably cheap financially. A few gender-neutral ideas:

  1. Cook a multi-course dinner and enjoy it by candlelight. You'd be surprised at how un-complicated the actual food needs to be; any dinner is more romantic by candlelight, up to and including Chinese take-out.

  2. Set aside some time and oil to give a full-body massage, complete with soft music and candles. (Don't expect immediate reciprocation, but make sure to savor the smiles and stretches of your partner as they unwind.)

  3. Take a long walk in a park or forest preserve nearby, regardless of the weather. Talk about the things you enjoy most about taking one.

  4. Bake and decorate sugar cookies together, then feed them to each other. In tiny pieces. With a bowl of Cool Whip nearby.

  5. Get a blank piece of stationery and write out your favorite love poem (Shakespearean sonnets are a good starting point) complete with an appropriate drawing -- a flower, two people hugging, etc. Trace an appropriate picture if you have no drawing skills of your own. Decorate the envelope in which you present it the same way.

  6. Prepare a tape or CD-R of your favorite slow songs, or compile one together. Dance to them together in your living room.

  7. Better yet, borrow or rent an instructional video for rhumba or nightclub two-step and learn to dance it together. Then find a couple of songs from your CD collection that fit the dance perfectly.

I personally guarantee that your significant other will remember any of these gifts far, far better than if you'd simply gone the cliche route and bought red roses, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, or gone out for dinner to your favorite restaurant yet again.

It's interesting see that jbird's writeup seems to assume that Valentine's Day is strictly one where men do things for women. (And increasingly this assumption is shared by the big corporations as well.)

I find this annoying, Valentine's Day is about celebrating shared love, not placing one half of the couple on a pedestal. If you have to remind someone that you love them on Valentine's Day, then why don't you the rest of the year? Being together is the important part. (My Lady and I agree with mblase's writeup, the meal and other accoutrements are not as important as the sharing.)

To supplement mblase's writeup, I suggest that you also check out 20 ways to pamper your lover without spending a fortune.

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