As an unapologetic Aries, I am admittedly sometimes too stubborn for my own good. I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet impossible standards of "chillness," which are especially difficult for me to reach as I am decidedly "not chill." Thus, I become defensive. I try to prove to myself that I can do it all — plan an electric date night, then completely unplug in order to fully enjoy it. So, why did I go on a phoneless date night, on Valentine's Day of all days? Simply to prove that I could!
You know how your parents are always like, "millennials need to get off their freaking phones and face the real world!" They're definitely wrong, but also, kind of right — us Gen Y-ers can definitely benefit from a little phone-down time. "Having your phone around (even sitting on the table making no noise, or in your pocket) is distracting to your brain," Celeste Headlee, communication expert and author of We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter, tells Elite Daily. "Your brain is aware that the phone could ring or vibrate at any moment with a notification, so some of your cognitive energy is set aside preparing to respond. Your phone causes you to exist in a near-constant state of stress." As someone who has a brain that is hyperactive to a fault, this resonated deeply with me.
So, why leave your phone at home during a date night? "You'll enjoy the date more if the phone isn't part of your relationship," Headlee says. "The phone is distracting to the person you're talking to. You might experience withdrawals at first, but you'll get over it and be able to focus on your date."
I was convinced — a phone-free date night would definitely do me some good. I spoke with my partner about my plan and, as a hater of Instagram and fun, he wholeheartedly agreed. We chose Valentine's Day for the experiment, hoping it would amplify a day already devoted to love tenfold. Before we set out on our adventure, I asked Headlee for some helpful tips on how to enjoy a night out sans-screen, and she definitely delivered.
Try leaving your phone at home! Make sure you have directions to the restaurant or movie theatre Enable your 'do not disturb' message so that people don't wonder why you're not answering. If you don't think you can survive without your phone (spoiler: you can), make sure you at least disable as many notifications as possible. On my phone, only the alarm, text, and map apps are allowed to send notifications. If you turn all that other stuff off and you make a real of putting your phone out of sight, you'll find that you can vastly cut back on the number of times that you touch your phone.
Strapped with Headlee's knowledge, I went into Valentine's Day night with some much-needed confidence. Our plan was as follows: I had booked a room at the Freehand Hotel through HotelTonight, and we were to meet there at 8:30 p.m. I arrived earlier — the hotel was close to my office, so I went straight there to shower, set up, etc. (Pro tip: If you buy a bunch of candles, remember to also buy a lighter. FML.) We both decided that the date night wouldn't truly begin until we were together, so I had an hour and a half to scroll through Instagram, sob at a few Valentine's Day posts, and watch Game Of Thrones on my HBO-Go app (I swear this is not sponcon, I just really love this app). As I heard the door to our room begin to fidget, I knew it was go-time. I threw my phone into my purse, and closed my laptop. Let the games begin.
The first hour was easy. We exchanged gifts (well, he exchanged gifts. Mine didn't arrive on time. Oops!), read each other's cards, and spent an hour reminiscing about our first Valentine's Day together, three years ago. He had planned a surprise dinner for us in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and all I knew was that we had to be out of the door at 9:30 p.m., because our reservation was at 10 p.m. Yes, you heard that right. 10 p.m. It was a very European V-Day.
We watched the clock in our room like a hawk (G-bless hotels, honestly), and left right in the nick of time. It was easy to find a cab, since they seem to flock to hotels. My partner gave our driver the address and Shazam! We were en route. As it turns out, my partner had made a fabulous reservation at a hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant. I was elated! Unfortunately for us, the entrance to the restaurant was not marked, and without access to GPS or our phones, we were unfortunately very lost. We circled the block twice before realizing that part of the wooden wall that enclosed the building was actually a door. Easy to miss, especially without our BFF, Google Maps.
Dinner was lovely — we nibbled on a prix-fixe tasting menu in this private wooden bungalow and felt rich AF. It looked like we were eating in a tree house! Of course, we didn't have our phones to constantly distract us, so we engaged in witty banter for two hours straight! Very old-school. Both of us, however, remarked multiple times that we would have loved to have been able to record the experience, or at least take a few pictures to remember it by. I suppose this is an inherent product of becoming reliant on technology — with the present moment being ever-fleeting, we are constantly looking for a way to consecrate our adventures; tangible evidence that we had a life worth living.
As our dinner reached its conclusion at a hot 12:05 a.m. (on a school night!!), my partner and I geared up to return to our hotel room and hit the hay. Unfortunately for us, the street was totally void of cabs — it was dark and abandoned! Unable to call an Uber, and extremely unfamiliar with the landscape of Brooklyn, we roamed the city for about 20 minutes, searching for a cab or a subway station. We finally found a lone, lurking yellow taxi, which we rode all the way back into Manhattan. I lay down in his lap and fell asleep on the way home.
Hilarious to note: When we returned to the hotel, there was an incredibly loud concert being held on the second floor. Our room was literally shaking because of the bass. I went down to the lobby to complain, and witnessed vomit spread all over the floor. The girl who had just thrown up looked up at me with a half-smile. "Happy Valentine's Day," she said, before dozing off on her friend's shoulder. How romantic, I thought to myself. Even then, I wished I could have captured the chaos: The music blasting through the hallways, the guests swarming around the concierge, and the floors shining from the glare of freshly mopped up puke. But my phone was still happily tucked away upstairs, in my purse.
Thus concluded my phoneless Valentine's Day date night. Would I recommend this practice to friends and foes alike? Perhaps. It was nice to unplug from the performative voyeurism that is social media, especially on a day that showcases love like a reality TV show. It allowed us to focus on what we share together, instead of comparing our connection to other people's. But if I had to do it all over again, I'd at least do dinner in Manhattan, so I'd be able to navigate my way home. What can I say? No matter what I do, I have zero chill. Just call me BAE — big Aries energy.