In elementary school, every Valentine's Day eve I carefully tore out 16 CVS-bought valentines and sorted them into piles: one for boys and one for girls. I wasn't sorting them based on color of Power Ranger or gender of Rugrat, but by amount of romance suggested. "I love you" and "xo" cards were reserved for female friends, while "You rule" cards were OK to bestow on the boys. I was terrified the boys in class would think I was in love with them, the same way I'm afraid to celebrate Valentine's day in a casual relationship as an adult.
Since I was a child, my goal has always been to seem "chill" when it comes to crushes — though I'm trying to get over that. The other night I was on an early date at a bar with a very nice gentleman. There was an extremely intoxicated woman a few seats away, harassing the bartenders and patrons as she pleased. I could tell that she was very eager to talk to anyone and everyone in the tiny bar, and so my date and I did our best to avoid her eye contact because... no thank you, I know how that goes.
Eventually, Ms. Wayyy Too Much caught my date's eye, and asked my date and I if we were dating. (See? Too much.) In an effort to shoo her away, I grabbed my date's leg under the bar and told the woman, "Yes, we are." It. Was. So. SCARY! We had only been on three dates. Was he going to think I wanted to marry him? What if he thought I thought we were actually dating?!
A minute later, I chilled right on out. My date was laughing, and he congratulated me on my power move. He was not weirded out, and he even wanted to hang out again. It's OK to acknowledge dating as a relationship that is more than just acquaintanceship, even if you aren't official. My recent experience reminded me that it's even OK to flat out say that you're dating when you're not in order to get out of an unfortunate situation. Thats why I empower you to talk to the person you are "dating" this Valentine's Day about hanging out without making it awkward. Here are a few ways to approach the topic:
First, Decide How You Feel About V-Day
This year, that is. I know this sounds vaguely "woo woo" but I think being getting honest about your true take on Valentine's Day is vital to deciding if you should hang with your new cutie or not. Could you care less about the Hallmark holiday, or do you tend to expect your partner to pull out all of the stops?
If Valentine's Day is meaningful to you and you're in a new, casual dating situation of sorts, maybe take a breather and hang with some friends instead. If you could care less about the holiday, why let it get in the way of you and your "partner"'s busy schedules? If Wednesday, February 14 is the only day you can hang out with bae, and you don't really care about gifts and mushy cards and dinners, hang out with them anyways.
Next, Bring It Up Because You Are Woman
If you want to hang out with the person you're seeing casually on Valentine's Day, speak from the heart by acknowledging how awkward it is to hang out on the one day a year that explicitly celebrates couples. You could say something like, "I'd like to see you this week, but I'm only free on Wednesday, which is pretty weird considering it's Valentine's Day." Add a cute emoji and you should be fine. Plus, if your "person" freaks out at that benign comment, they're not for you anyway.
That said, don't pretend that you are only free Wednesday just so you can have a Valentine's date. That's a little bit manipulative, and suggests to me that you actually do care about this person and Valentine's Day, which means that you should get honest about your feelings sooner than later. Or skip the day entirely per step one, above.
If you're truly relaxed about spending the day together, you could also say something like, "Will you be my valentine?" on the morning of Feb. 14, and see if your sort-of-partner is down to do something relaxed and last minute. Or, you could pretend you totally forgot about the holiday, invite them over for Netflix-and-chill, and treat Wednesday like exactly what it is — a Wednesday.
All in all, I continue to espouse that honesty is the best policy when you are in a new non-relationship. Faking it 'til you make it is not a thing when it comes to being "cool with whatever." The feelings with always come out eventually, so why not take Valentine's Day as a chance to see where your partner's at. Even if you just text them, "U up?" at 10:30 P.M. on February 14.
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