Reaction No. 1: “You’re really lucky. I wish my [significant other] was like that.”
Reaction No. 2: “Maybe you only think your wife doesn’t mind that you don’t do anything and secretly she really does mind.”
Reaction No. 3: “I don’t know, I kind of like Valentine’s Day. It’s fun to have at least one romantic day a year.”
I can’t answer for my wife as to how she feels deep down inside, but in a typical year, we have this kind of conversation on or around Feb. 12:
SHE: So are we doing something for Valentine’s day?
ME: I don’t know, what do you think?
SHE: I don’t have anything in mind. But I haven’t gotten you anything.
ME: I haven’t gotten you anything either.
SHE: Should we just skip it this year?
Until our children were born, we at least exchanged cards—often homemade ones. But even that has gone by the wayside. Last year for Valentine’s Day, we went to Iron Hill Brewery in Voorhees for a snowy lunch, the kids (then ages 3.8 and 0.6) in tow. We could just as easily have gone to Triumph Brewing Company (138 Nassau St.; triumphbrewing.com), which plans to offer Valentine’s Day specials this year—Valentine’s Day 2016 falls on a Sunday—though probably not for 8-month-olds, so consider leaving yours with a sitter.
A perfect his-and-hers day for us, sans kids, would actually be lunch at a brewpub (for me) followed by shopping at an outlet mall (for her). You may not have heard that a new outlet mall, Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets, has opened in South Jersey. If discount shopping is your idea of romantic, hop in the car and put it in your GPS—you might see us there.
If discount shopping is not your idea of romantic, what about taking a stroll through Princeton’s very own downtown? Sometimes the most obvious answer is right in front of us.
It will surely be cold enough to merit a stop into Landau (102 Nassau St.; landauprinceton.com) to browse through their collection of wool mufflers or sheepskin mittens. And for nearly everyone but my wife and me, the answer to any Valentine’s Day question is always “jewelry,” so why not stop in to one of Princeton’s jewelry shops? Hamilton Jewelers (92 Nassau St.; hamiltonjewelers.com) and Dandelion Jewelry (47 Palmer Square West; dandelionjewelry.com) immediately come to mind.
One thing my wife has never asked me to buy her is a dark green Polaris necklace by Coeur de Lion, offered by Dandelion online for $245. You know, it would really look nice on her. But come to think of it, I have also never asked her to get me a set of stainless steel Tourbillon cufflinks, $485 online from Hamilton Jewelers, or even hinted at it. Maybe I should!
There is one crucial thing to understand about my wife that might make this all seem less far fetched. She doesn’t eat chocolate. (I also have an acquaintance who doesn’t eat potatoes, which I think is even stranger, but less relevant at Valentine’s Day.) So a key weapon in any person’s Valentine’s Day gift arsenal—and maybe we shouldn’t think of gifts as weapons—is unavailable to me.
When I was a boy growing up, though, I got chocolates for my mother for Valentine’s Day every year. Her favorites were chocolate-covered cherries. You can get your wife, life partner, secret admiree or mother a box of 15 cherry cordials from Thomas Sweet Chocolates (29 Palmer Square West; thomassweet.com) for $13.95.
One year for Valentine’s Day, when the Trenton Marriott (now Wyndham) was new, we were offered a free room for the night at the hotel. We took them up on the offer. Even though we lived only 15 minutes away, it was nice to have that on-vacation feeling so close to home.
If you’re in the mood to get out of town, but not really get out of town, why not do the same? The Nassau Inn in Palmer Square (nassauinn.com) would surely be a great place to check in after your day of downtown shopping. Before zonking out for the night you can walk over to Mediterra (29 Hulfish St.; mediterraretaurant.com), which is offering a $75, four-course meal on Feb. 14 ($35 extra for wine pairings). My wife raved about the short ribs I made one recent weekend, and they just happen to be on Mediterra’s Valentine’s Day menu. Hmm.
Or consider dinner and an overnight stay at The Peacock Inn (20 Bayard Lane; peacockinn.com), which as food writer Pat Tanner explained just a few pages ago, is having a $49 three-course dinner special all this month. Not on Valentine’s Day, of course, but it’s a day of splurging, isn’t it?
If my wife does have an indulgence, it is that she enjoys a good massage. So once the kids are a little older and we have time to think about ourselves again, I might just reinvigorate the romance in our lives with a gift card for her to Koi Spa Salon in Forrestal Village (koispa.com), where they also offer facials, nail care and makeovers. I doubt that I will suggest my wife get a Valentine’s Day makeover.
While they do offer men’s services at Koi Spa Salon, it would not be a great idea for my wife to get me a gift card. I don’t even like it when someone taps me on the shoulder.
I know what you’re saying by now: the least I could do, to prove that I am a good person or something, is to get my wife flowers for Valentine’s Day. Monday Morning Flowers in Forrestal Village (sendingsmiles.com) has two pages of available arrangements on its website and delivers to most areas of Central Jersey. Don’t wait until the last minute to order flowers—I may not send my wife flowers on Valentine’s Day, but I know that much.
And finally, for the person who has everything: an introductory flight lesson at the Princeton Airport (41 Airpark Road; princetonairport.com) for $199? It doesn’t sound too romantic to me to say “fly away” on Valentine’s Day, but I don’t judge.
So there you have it: Valentine’s Day gift advice from a married man who doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. My wife and I have our special relationship, but a thoughtful Valentine’s gift can make a relationship special. Good luck!