Why So Many Men Scramble on Valentine’s Day

Listen to this episode

S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership.

S2: What’s the worst gift that you ever bought for your wife?

S3: I bought an ax one year.

S4: A wee, wee, wee, wee, an axe.

S5: Yeah. So I bought her a Viking replica from Cold Steel, which is star watching Vikings. So I thought that was a very well inspired gift. It did not go very well. I have it. She did not use it on me because she is a gracious woman. Credit to her, but she was pretty upset. She just kind of was like, OK, interesting. She she laughed at it and she was like, so what’s the real gift to Toronto Restaurant?


S6: So as you can see, Jay means, well, he’s been married a few years now.

S7: And so when it’s time to celebrate, he’s starting to default to the usual fancy restaurant paired with maybe some jewelry or that one year that he wanted to be sweet. So he buys her a replica battleaxe. But with Valentine’s Day is exciting, kicks in and he waits for the last minute.

S2: That’s probably familiar to a lot of you guys. Right. This year, Jay promised himself he’s going to make it count. He’s been asking friends and scouring the Internet for tips to make this one a memorable one.

S8: Well, Jay, you’ve come to the right place because I just so happen to be a Valentine’s Day master.


S9: Hello and welcome to MAN UP, I’m your host a minute mile, and on this show we crack questions big and small about manhood. This week, why so many men struggle with romantic gestures and what we could do about it.

S10: Hi, Mehta. Hi, Amy. So you let guess who’s coming? What’s going on?

S2: Valentine’s Day, the time year that I get to shine. Wait. Maybe you remember my wife, Meeta. She’s a regular on man up at this point. It’s just a little embarrassing to be called out like this. But let’s use it. I want this coming V-Day to be a success just as badly as Jay does. Best option here is to have her help me understand where I went wrong. Think about it. Think about it. OK. California was great. I got us a reservation at the restaurant you’ve been talking about without even telling you. Oh, I put this a hotel room.


S11: Well, it was great on paper, but do you remember how the night actually quieted down? We got to the restaurant. We were hungry at all. They came. They take our order and we were just like looking at each other blankly. Yeah, I think we like ordered something immediately packed up and left.

S12: And then we tried to get to like you like booked us at a hotel that was supposed to be close to a spot that we like to go to.

S11: It turned out it was nowhere near that spot and we ended up taking like a long Uber drive to the spot, which turned out to not even be the spy. And then I had to work the next day. So I ended up staying the night at a hotel, but waking up super early to go home to get ready for wearing my bike.


S13: When you see it like that, it sounds like. You know, IEDs. You must have known. Yeah, I think you’re right. I’ve always just told myself that I was killer Valentine’s Day because I’m just so in love with you. And I just imagined that.

S2: I don’t know.

S13: I feel like I put in a lot of effort, but maybe effort isn’t what we need here.

S12: I think you got really excited about the ideas and that was the end of your plan. Like, for example, if I was gonna surprise you like that, I would have packed a overnight bag for you. I would have like double checked about the distances in the spaces like where are we actually staying? Where are we gonna go out? Time the dinner I like.


S14: It was just you know, it was like, I understand, like you actually got an A for like idea.

S13: Oh, that hurts so bad. Well, I appreciate the truth. And that’s what we’re trying to do or trying to uncover that. Well, Tim, I told this guy that I was going to be talking to later, that I was like the king of Valentine’s Day and we were going to plan his date together.

S2: Mm hmm. Can you help me understand what would have made the date better? What’s what’s a good approach you want?

S15: This is gonna sound so like boring, but like practicality, like you don’t want to, like, do something that’s gonna make.


S16: Like their life harder. Right.

S15: So, for example, if, you know, Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday and your beloved has work the next morning. Maybe you want to plan. You know, like save like the late night owl for the weekend and plan. You know, like a really cute night and where you all like to watch a movie, but you have like candles lit everywhere. You make it all cozy.


S12: Like I you know me, like I love Cocina, like Kosi just makes me happy. I don’t like for Valentine’s Day. Like soft things, warm things, cuddly things.

S15: You know, like all of that would be like, you know, like a little dream come true. Yeah. Yeah. I think experiences together are really fun. That supposed to be like you and your beloved. So just doing something fun with them makes the day more memorable, right? Like a dinner and a movie is nice, but you can do that. You know, I’m like regular date night. So maybe just like, you know, a quick, like excursion will make the day more special. Leaving town for a little bit. Going to a place you’ve never been.


S16: Oh, I know. Exactly. Trying something new.

S13: On that note, was there anything else that you wanted to share with our listeners that you think might give them an edge on Valentine’s Day?

S16: Poems. Poems. They never fail. Poems can feel.

S13: There’s there’s such a thing as a bad poem.

S12: Yeah, but if it comes from your beloved and it’s like sincere, it can be funny, it can be cute. It can be corny. It can be bad. But it’s still a nice little touch. It’s just so valentines.

S17: Yeah. And on that note, let’s get it on.

S7: OK. Did I say that I was a Valentine’s Day master before I thought I killed it that year? I guess not, but that’s cool. Sounds like I need just as much help as Jay. But I’m thinking we can figure this out together. So what about like in the past, though? Like what is Valentine’s Day usually like for you?

S18: Oh, I got her flowers and I got her a canmake card. I am not very good at arts and crafts. I did not turn out very well. She was very sweet about it, but I could just tell she was not necessarily super jazzed about it. I’ve taken her to a restaurant. Primarily just restaurants, I think we were just going out places. These are the years of our planet and it’s done well some years. I completely forget about it and I don’t do anything until the day off. And it’s just like I get her a card from Hallmark.

S2: So let’s talk about that. Why do you think you forget to get her something on Valentine’s Day?


S3: I think you just. I just keep putting it off. It just seems like a little bit of a stressful thing. I’m like, I can do tomorrow. I can. I can. I got time. And I’m a cop is a perfect gift. And then it just does not happen. So I’m like, I’ll be free this weekend and I’ll think about that. And stuff happens that I’m not. And I just keep on going on that loop and then boom, it’s the day of.

S2: Okay. Let me ask you a different question. Is romance the type of thing that you set time aside for?

S18: Sometimes I forget about it. I just to be fully honest. But like, it’s not because I don’t want to think about it because I’m busy. And it sounds like an excuse, but I will sometimes sweep it under the rug. It’s not a natural thing for me.


S2: No, I mean, this is something that I struggle with, too. I’m also like a busy person, or at least they see myself that way. And what I’m budgeting my time for the day, a lot of it goes to work. Some of it it goes to like self-care. But it’s it’s kind of it goes against my instinct to set time aside specifically to to show affection to the people that you love. It’s almost it almost goes against my nature because I’m thinking about how I can be productive. Like what’s going to yield results.


S3: Yeah. Like clean cut things. Like if I know that if I do like a X, Y, Z, and, you know, it reveals me a good result, that’s what I’ll do forever. So I have to like switch it up just a little bit more complex. Mm hmm. I booked us a. I wanted to book us a romantic stay in a cabin and I showed it to her and she was a little concerned about the location of it and also the fact that it look like a murder cabin, which I didn’t even think about.

S18: It was like deep in the country of Texas. And she was like, I don’t think will be very welcome there. So that was the Vega. That was a very gifted a did not go very well. But I mean, we came up with something alternative idea to go to Austin. So she was OK. It was that.

S2: Yeah. So just try and be as honest as you can, and I know it’s hard, but like, really, what is like, why don’t you think you’re already putting enough time aside for romance?

S18: I think, honestly, it’s because I hide behind excuses of being extremely busy and it’s very easy to do, and I just now start calling myself out on the fact that it’s an excuse and not a valid reason.

S19: And I think that has been.

S20: That kind of really made me realize, like maybe I just put it on a backburner because I think it’s not something that is super important. And now as I’m getting older, I realize how important that really is. That makes sense. You like it’s becoming a priority versus when it wasn’t before as much of a priority. Now it’s priority number one, because I want to make sure that, you know, my wife is happy, that that’s important to me.


S2: I really understand you there. There is a lot of my life where I keep putting on the backburner. Not just romance. And yeah, it’s powerful to acknowledge the fact that it’s an excuse, not a reason. What is that changed for you since you’ve decided to not use it as an excuse anymore?

S20: It puts the blame back on me, not blame it. It puts the ball back in my court and lets me realize that it’s not the fact that maybe I can’t do it. It’s just the fact that I don’t do it.

S21: And that’s a hard realization, because at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. I think. Right, for a spouse to be happy regardless of gender. Like what? Charolais shit is just what we want. And if that doesn’t work out, it’s a it’s not a good result. So forget it.

S22: Also, we want to we should change what we’re doing after the break.

S23: We’re both going to get that expert advice that we so badly need. But first here, up, man up. We still need your help to figure out what we’re talking about. Next, we’re looking for folks who wouldn’t mind coming on the show to explain how they, too, are a work in progress. Or maybe you know someone who could use some help. No subject is too big or too small. Either way, give us a call at 8 0 5 6 2 6 8 7 0 0 7. That’s a 0 5 man up 0 7. Or you can always e-mail us at man up at Slate.com. Stick around.

S24: It’s Valentine’s Day, just horrible. It should just go away because of the pressure that it puts on couples.


S25: I think what’s more important is what happens in the day to day. Then what happens on a specific day?

S2: This is Lori Gottlieb. She’s a psychotherapist and the author of an advice column in the Atlantic called Dear Therapist. And she knows exactly why. For some couples, Valentine’s Day could be a huge flop.

S25: It often leads to disappointment because people’s expectations were not met. And a lot of times these expectations were not communicated and they thought that their partner wouldn’t telepathically know exactly what they wanted. So, you know, I think that it’s really important to understand, you know, what is it? How do you guys want to spend Valentine’s Day together and to really be in tune with what your partner does? And also does not want. Sometimes people do something extravagant and the other person feels like, oh, I really didn’t want to do that. What I really wanted to do on Valentine’s Day, which is like stay home and have a romantic dinner and, you know, whatever they wanted to do that was different from, you know, now they’re being dragged out on the town and they didn’t want to do that.

S24: Yes. So it sounds like you think Valentine’s Day doesn’t matter.

S25: And, you know, I don’t think it doesn’t matter. I think it does matter to a lot of people. But I think that if you’re just doing some grand romantic gesture on Valentine’s Day, but the rest of the year, you don’t show each other how much you love and appreciate one another, then Valentine’s Day, you know, doesn’t really feel important. I think it’s important for most people because it makes us step aside and say, hey, I really want to pay attention to this. Maybe I’ve been busy at work, maybe I’ve been distracted. Maybe we haven’t told you this. And it really helps people to focus on, oh, I need to take this opportunity to make sure that I’m communicating to you how important you are to me.


S24: Yeah. Yeah. And there’s also like a lot of pressure coming from outside. Like, I would hate for my partner to feel like she’s been missing out on something. So that’s the only reason why I take Valentine’s Day seriously is because I’m terrified of her riding the subway, because we’re in New York and she’s sitting next to someone who has a thousand roses and she has none, you know.

S25: Right. I think it’s really important that the person that you care about, you know, make sure that that gets communicated on a day that’s dedicated to that. Yes, absolutely.

S24: So I wonder if you have any hucks like are there ways that men who have trouble showing intimacy, other easy ways for them to get into the habit of showing it more often or more clearly?

S25: First of all, I think that’s a stereotype. I think that so many of the men that I see will say I can’t tell my partner that, but I really wish I had this in my relationship. So I think it’s really important at one hack is very you know, it’s very much like common sense is. Talk to your partner about what you want and what you need to. And so many men are free to do that. They would rather eat glass than have that conversation.

S24: Thank you for that visual. I wonder if there’s a way for people who are listening in at home or maybe have no idea what to do for Valentine’s Day. I wonder if there’s something that is easy and actionable that people something that.

S25: Yeah, something that’s personal between them is always much more impactful on Valentine’s Day than just like here’s your hear your generic flowers or teddy bears. Right. Right. So something personal and I don’t just mean in terms of like a gift. I mean, you know, just something to say. I see you. I you’re important to me. I know people like on Valentine’s Day, they’ve done things like that. In one case, the woman really wanted to do this dance thing. And he was like, I’m never doing that. And and yet he took her to that place and they did it. And they both have the best time. That’s true. You know, other people will do something really extravagant, like a hot air balloon. Right. You know, whatever. It just it’s sometimes these experiences say much more than the flowers and the teddy bear.


S24: Just make sure that your partner doesn’t have vertigo or fear of heights before you take them at a higher balloon.

S25: It has to be something that you actually know. Yes. Because a lot of times people guessed wrong. And then the person to pretend that they’re having fun and they’re not. So make sure that going away to ruin the night. Yeah. Make sure that you know that this is something that they will really enjoy.

S24: Yeah. Well, here’s like a very romantic gesture that I’ve done that seems so simple. But my wife goes crazy for it. If I physically hold up my phone, power down and then put it in my jacket and my jacket up, she goes crazy.

S26: Like that’s like the easiest thing to do. And she appreciates it so much.

S25: I was going to say women everywhere are swooning now to that image. Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. That is so romantic. It says you are my priority.

S27: But mostly it’s knowing that evening while you’re out or whatever you’re doing, maybe you’re staying in. Maybe you’re cooking dinner for that person and that is the gift that they want. So whatever you’re doing, it’s it’s making sure that you guys are connected. So it’s not just here’s your gift or his experience, but are you guys connected? You know, that night. Are you both feeling loved or are you both feeling that glow? I think that’s what everybody wants is. I see you. I hear you. I chose you. I choose you. However you communicate that.

S7: So everything that Laurie is saying is making sense. But the one thing that I keep thinking about is how it’s thundered all about just one day. It’s about all year. A lot of our partners probably wouldn’t care about Valentine’s Day if we were more present and communicative throughout the year. But I’ve got to admit, I mean, Valentine’s Day is kind of fun. I’ll take any excuse to go all out. And it seems worth it to get it right this year. So now all Jane, I got to do is plan the perfect date. And Lori says that that starts with getting personal. So I got to talking with Jay about what his wife is into.


S28: She reads, She loves a 90 day fiancee. She enjoys home renovation. She, like, built me a desk this year. It’s awesome. She loves pastels. She also she’s a mom. She. But that’s not like all the she just like by like spiking. She’s mentioned that she wants to do that as well. 50 this year. I she she loves the outdoors. She loves the walks that we take together. She loves picnics.

S26: And it might be a little, isn’t it? She also loves really fancy food. Oh, man. So there’s a lot that we can work with here, man. Oh, yeah. For years. Good for like the next five Valentine’s days at least.

S1: I hope so. I hope so. OK. So what were you thinking you were going to do so far? What do whatever options?

S18: I was going to take her to a restaurant in downtown. And then after that, take her on a nice romantic walk and then maybe do movies as well.

S1: OK. So that’s a good base. I love the idea because she loves the outdoors so much of maybe looking on Groupon or Facebook events or anything like that to see if there’s any like good outdoorsy events coming up soon in your area and maybe booking, maybe booking you guys for some kind of trip. You don’t necessarily have to do it on Valentine’s Day, but give showing her like a certificate in email that you did sign up for something that might be really nice. What you think?

S18: I think know actually would work for the wall. I did not even think about Groupon.

S1: Yeah. So there’s a lot there that you could do. You know, there’s also because I’m thinking about like power tools and and making furniture. Do you think she’d be interested at all in like more stuff to make furniture with?


S18: I have bought her a drill in the past and she has enjoyed that gift. Was one of my successful birthday. Yes. Oh, cool.

S1: You know, I’d be really charming, I think, if you were to try and make something yourself, maybe like a little box. To present something in. And just to show her that you’re interested in maybe making furniture together. It sounded like spending time together is maybe a good way to show affection with her. So I wonder if you’d be down to maybe make something small and. Not shabby or whatever. Yeah. And maybe that’s like a nice gesture to show her that you might be interested in learning from her how to make some stuff out. Works really well. Yeah. Maybe there could be like a note on the inside or a poem, or maybe even some chocolates. Making your own box of chocolates could be really fun.

S3: Yeah, that sounds like a good idea actually. Yeah. Like this. Now I’m looking at a woodshop classes in my area and there is actually quite a few and there’s a couples team once or I could do, which is very exciting. Oh, that’s brilliant. I love that.

S1: Another thing that I wanted to kind of pitch you to see if you were you think might work on your date. Good to say you’re taking her to a place that’s meaningful. I wonder if a longer walk you can find a place where maybe you and your wife shared a moment together. Do you have some kind of relationship to that space that you’re gonna be walking around in?

S3: I was gonna take her to the park or we like went out on our first date where we actually met.


S1: I wonder if along the way there’s there could be some kind of plan tour where you plan on taking her to several spots and reminding her of of the time that you guys spent there together.

S18: Yeah, I haven’t actually. Now I’m having a I’m having a really good plans. This make this is completely change what I was gonna do.

S20: This is really, really cool. That’s really sweet. I think before I was getting really bogged down was a being a little bit ashamed that this is something that I have to really do instead of it coming naturally to me. And I think now I’m looking at it more of like this some really cool ideas out there. And I’m just really shutting myself up to really cool and interesting ways to really show my wife I love her.

S1: So remember, in the very beginning of our conversation, you were talking a little bit about how you don’t really calculate romance as part of your routine and that sometimes when you’re prioritizing your day, romance doesn’t always make it to the top of the list. And I know you want to change that. I wonder if any of what we’ve talked about so far is maybe giving you ideas on how to make it part of your routine.

S18: Nuther, do you mentioned it? It sounds sounds really silly, but it just feels like a physical easier to do it. So I think I’m going to just start. I think I’m going to do what I was gonna do for that one day. But instead of packing it like six, seven things in a one day, I’m also gonna do them like randomly at least like once a month. And if I need to set a reminder for it, I will.


S3: She does not need to know that I will make it seem spontaneous. I think that’s going to be really helpful.

S6: You’ve been with your partner for nine years. Yeah.

S5: I think it’s just different stages of life. You face different challenges. Work, kids. It’s. And it just becomes a little bit more challenging. It’s like juggling. You just keep juggling and adding balls to what you’re juggling. And then it just at some point you may shoot on drop any of them.

S6: So what are you going to do now to make sure you don’t drop and you lose balls?

S5: I’m going to make sure that the romance ball is one of the most important ones in my juggling collection. That’s your list. Know you only drop the things that don’t that you don’t prioritize. And if I prioritize it, I think I’m going to be okay. Awesome.

S6: It sounds like your wife is really lucky to have you, man.

S5: Thank you. Thank you. No. I’m very blessed to have her.

S6: As for me, I talked with Mehta and actually asked her what she wanted to do this year. Imagine that. I won’t spoil our plans in case she’s listening, but I think I nailed it this year. And if I didn’t? Well, I’m sure she’ll let me know. And that’s the show. Thank you so much for listening. If you’re enjoying it so far, please hit us with that good rating and your podcasting app. It’s a free show. So come on, it’s the least you could do. Also, we still need your help to figure out what we’re talking about next. We’re looking for folks who wouldn’t mind coming on the show and talking about how they, too, are a work in progress. So if you think that’s you. Call us at 8 0 5 6 2 6 8 7 0 7. That’s 8 0 5 men, up 0 7. Or you can always e-mail us at man up at Slate.com. And don’t forget to make sure you’re subscribed because we’ve got new shows every Wednesday. And believe me, you do not want to miss out. I’m serious. Man Up is hosted and written by me a minute might. It’s produced by Cameron Drewes. Our editors are Jeffrey Blumer and Lo and Luke Gabriel Roth is the editorial director of Slate Podcasts. And June Thomas is a senior managing producer of Slate podcasts. And as always, we’ll be back next week with more men up.