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By Debra the Dating Diva

As much as you guys hate to admit it, February 14th is not just another day. It’s a day with meaning. A day you’re supposed to celebrate and express your love. A day Hallmark makes boatloads of cash. On the upside, it’s also a day when, if you play your cards right, your girl might just rock some retina-searing lingerie. To help your cause, here are eight real women‘s tales of the so-called most romantic day of the year. Hint: think effort, not candy.

Valentine’s Day, our way

My best Valentine’s Day was when we just spent the day together, hanging out outside and watching the couples go by trying to figure out how long they had been together. It was so much fun! We’d ponder, “Was it an example of the unfortunate first date fell on Valentine’s Day?” or “Had this been their 20th Hallmark Holiday?” My worst Valentine’s Day was when he tried too hard to impress me and we ended up waiting forever at a restaurant that was overpriced and had a set menu. It seems everyone goes out to dinner that night. So plan ahead with the reservation or avoid dining at a restaurant. Be romantic, be sweet, and don’t hate on it. If you think it’s stupid and you act like it is, it won’t be a good day for her.
- Carrie, comedian

Champagne, rose petals, Victoria’s Secret and cough drops

I had an especially romantic Valentine’s Day planned by my boyfriend. Even though it didn’t go as planned, it actually brought us closer. Rose petals. Champagne. Victoria’s Secret lingerie. I was definitely impressed by all his effort and attention to detail, especially considering that I came down with a terrible fever that night, the start of a flu. The next day he didn’t leave my side as I spent the day sucking on cough drops, sipping tea and sleeping. It was hardly the Valentine’s Day he had planned, but it’s then that I knew that he really cared for me. When he proposed four months later, how could I refuse? My husband still shows me daily how much he cares.
- Jessica, psychiatrist

Skip the flowers and chocolate and do something fun!

My favorite thing to do for Valentine’s Day is to have a romantic dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine. I hate dealing with the crowds and the food is never as good and is super over-priced! I would prefer not to get a present. I would rather take that money and plan a fun mini trip the weekend before or after Valentine’s Day. My most memorable Valentine’s Day was a weekend trip to Disneyland. It was perfect. We booked a room right across the street from the park. We had a blast at Disneyland and California Adventure and came back to the room whenever we needed a break.
- Jaylyn, advertising

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Cheap and non-cheesy

I think Valentine’s Day is a bit of a cheese-ball type of holiday that only profits corporations who sell candy, flowers and greeting cards. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for the economy, but not for me. I’d rather celebrate the day before or after, if anything, to avoid the crazy restaurant scene and inflated cost of flowers. My favorite Valentine’s Day was in college when I got together with a bunch of friends and polished off a ridiculous number of cheap bottles of Charles Shaw. It was so much more fun than any Valentine’s Day I’ve spent with a guy! Now my husband and I just treat it like any other day and save the special celebrations for when they come naturally.
– Janelle, physical therapist

Doted on by a guy I wasn’t into

The guy I was dating did everything a girl would love. He sent two-dozen long-stemmed roses to my work and when I arrived at his place for a romantic evening I was greeted with a single long-stemmed rose and champagne, even though he wasn’t a drinker. The table was set beautifully and included another dozen roses as the centerpiece. He cooked me a five-course gourmet meal, and dessert was chocolate-dipped strawberries and angel food cake with fresh berries and whipped cream. I was out the door by 10:30 that evening. The reason was simple. I just wasn’t into the guy. I was thinking it was time to break up, but I wanted to give it one last shot. A week later we were no longer together. Again, he did everything right; he just wasn’t the right guy for me.
- Randy, caterer

Make every day V-Day

Honestly, I hate Valentine’s Day. It just seems stupid, because in my opinion, every day is Valentine’s Day (or should be) when you’re in love. My current boyfriend Dave usually sends me flowers on a random day for no reason and that is much more meaningful than sitting in a crowded restaurant pretending to be all goo-goo eyed because Hallmark tells us to on February 14th. He calls and texts me just to say he loves me at random hours of most days and nights. Guys think we want flowers, candy and romance on Valentine’s Day.  I just want to be with my boyfriend regardless of what day it is!
- Kylie, fashion designer

It’s all about effort

I’ve never actually had a romantic Valentine’s Day, but I’d like to share a very romantic thing a guy did for me. We were chatting on the phone one night and I mentioned that I felt like having some strawberries. It wasn’t a request, just a thought out loud. In less than an hour he was knocking my door with a huge basket of strawberries. I really wasn’t expecting him to surprise me with this.  Keep in mind he came over at 1 am and no stores in Russia, where I live, are open past 9 pm. I still have no idea where he got the berries, but this was such a romantic gesture, Valentine’s Day or not. So  for Valentine’s Day, I’d hope that a guy that was interested in me would go out of his way to bring a smile to my face.
- Natalie, web designer

Long-distance love – give a guy some credit!

For last Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend and I were long-distance. I was living in New York City and he was living in Boston. I’d visit him often and every weekend we’d find a new place in Boston to dine. Since my boyfriend doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day, nailing down what exactly we would be doing was like giving a cat a bath … impossible. When I finally arrived in Boston, he picked me up from the train station and promptly took me back to his apartment. I was a little disappointed since I had a nice bottle of champagne in my bag to celebrate our love. Sitting in his bachelor pad with his messy roommate wasn’t my idea of a romantic night. But I had not given him enough credit. He sat me on the couch and said, “Since we go out to eat every weekend you’re here, I thought we should make this night special. So I’m going to cook for you.” He cooked filet mignon, my favorite, with a whiskey cream reduction sauce with fresh crab and shrimp in it. We enjoyed our Valentine’s Day inside, away from the hustle and bustle. It was perfect!
- Becky, content manager

And now a word from your author

I’ve done every version of Valentine’s Day, both single and with a boyfriend, and what I’ve found is that it doesn’t really matter what you buy or where you go. It’s about who you’re with and what you two enjoy doing. If a woman isn’t really feeling you, no amount of planning or romantic gestures will win her over and make a Valentine’s Day special. If she is feeling you, and you just listen and plan enough to do something that’s special to her, involves some effort and shows you care — which, let’s face it, you should be showing her every day anyway — you have a pretty good shot of seeing her in that red-hot lingerie, rather than seeing yourself out the door.

(Debra the Dating Diva is a Los Angeles-based dating coach and writer. When she’s not charming the men of Los Angeles or hitting up the hottest social events and outdoor activities, she’s cataloging her dating adventures and giving men the inside scoop on what women want them to know at her website blackbookbuilder.com. Got a dating question for Debra or her panel of ladies? Drop her a line at blackbookbuilder@gmail.com.)