A Secret for a Happy Valentine’s Day: A Confidential Message to the Guy Who Was Just in the Elevator (and to Other Guys Who May Be in His Situation)

Happy Valentine’s Day, anonymous stranger-and-possibly-neighbor. You are having, so far, a good Valentine’s Day. I could tell because I was in the elevator with you and your date. She likes you! You had given her a good bouquet of flowers, a dense bunch of reddish-purple blossoms in a simple paper wrapper from the florist. Not some four-foot-long cellophane torpedo of baby’s breath and too many roses, announcing to her, I know nothing about you except that you are a woman, woman . You aren’t stupid.

You probably didn’t notice who else was in the elevator, because you guys really were excited to be going out with each other, on your Valentine’s Day date. Not in a gross, pawing, demonstrative way, not at all. Just hand-holding and leaning into each other—like you’re comfortable together, but still caught up in the rush of being physically close. Still new enough that your date was wearing a red party dress for the holiday, and a tailored coat (your pants were…unfortunate? But that can be fixed). It was an occasion. She didn’t even glance at the three-year-old boy who was with me in the elevator.

So then you two walked outside, into the mild February evening, looking up together at the still-pale clouds in the purpling sky. Her bag slid off her shoulder down to her elbow, and you reached down and lifted it and put it back in place. A helpful, familiar gesture. You walked a few steps toward the corner. Her bag slid down again. You reached down and hitched it up onto her shoulder again.

OK. Here goes. If by some remote chance this message actually reaches you before the night is through: carry her bag . She’s cradling the flowers in the other arm, and that’s clearly throwing her off her usual stride, and the bag is just going to keep sliding off her shoulder all night long, wherever you go. Take the bag.

You are young. You might be so young that you are a little weirded out by the thought of striding around the streets of the big city carrying a woman’s handbag. Get over that, now. It’s not even some crypto-homosexualist designer Freudian-vaginal phantasmagoria. It’s a slumpy cotton tote, which is why it won’t stay up.

She is young too, so young that she might not even expect that you would offer to carry her bag. (And you should—obviously?—offer before you grab. But not some feeble hoping-she’ll-say-no kind of offer. You mean it.) So she may not consciously be annoyed that she keeps dropping her purse, because she’s got to carry these flowers and the purse, while you go ambling along empty-handed, traveling light. She may not resent you for it. But she is going to be annoyed anyway. The longer the evening goes on, the more you stroll the streets of the mild and glittering city, the more annoying the bag will be.

This is not the emotional trajectory either one of you wants.

Take the bag. Happy Valentine’s Day.