We don’t know who St. Valentine was, either — but if he lived in Philly, here are the 30-plus non-sucky and non-sappy ways he’d hail the holiest of Hallmark holidays
WE GET IT: The last time you were into Valentine’s Day was probably, oh, 1972, when some junior-high hottie slipped you a candygram during homeroom and a sloppy kiss before gym class. Since then, February 14th has probably been little more than a thorn in your side or a blip on your BlackBerry, what with the jacked-up prices for flowers, and those cloying diamond ads popping up everywhere from billboards on the Turnpike to the pages of this very magazine.
But if you’d only look in the right places, you’d find that Philly is rife with romantic activities for every couple, from naive newlyweds to horny hipsters and perma-stressed parents. So screw Paris! Screw New York! And screw the whole Brotherly Love thing. This Valentine’s Day, see the city through the sexy and sincere advice we scored from the area’s top love experts, and turn Wednesday the 14th into the first day of your new-and-improved love life.
Doctor’s Orders: “Don’t set the bar too high during your first year of marriage,” advises Center City sex therapist Alex Caroline Robboy, founder and CEO of Philly’s How To Have Good Sex Inc. Newlyweds, she says, should use Valentine’s Day as a chance to do something out of the ordinary and interactive — anything from going to a shooting range to ice-skating to taking an intimacy workshop. Or, though it may seem counterintuitive, go on a double date. “People are on their best behavior when other people are around, and being in a group will up your sexual longing for each other until you can peel off and be alone,” Robboy says. “And you can always do the whole wear-no-underwear-under-your-skirt-and-tell-him-during-dinner thing, to give you both something to look forward to later.”
Philly Mag’s Rx: Shooting ranges may not be your thing (Are they? Try Philadelphia Archery & Gun; 215-551-4544), but you can hit the ice all around town: Call for open-skate times at Penn Ice Rink (215-898-1575), the Skatium (610-853-2225), the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone (856-488-9300), or Ardmore Ice Skating Rink (610-642-8700). Feeling super-sporty? Try the climbing wall at Go Vertical (215-928-1800), or customized duet Pilates sessions at Northern Liberties’ Lithe Method (215-928–1662). And for double dates, nothing beats the group-friendly vibe at Philly’s trendy high-end bowling alleys, Lucky Strike (215-545-2471) and North Bowl Lounge & Lanes (215-238-2695). Of course, you still have time to enroll in one of Robboy’s intimacy workshops on the 10th or 14th, at which, she promises, you’ll learn new ways to, ahem, really please each other. (Pre-register online at sextherapyinphiladelphia.com.)
FOR LONG-DISTANCE LOVERS
Doctor’s Orders: If a surprise visit is out of the question, be present every other way you can — online, on the phone, via the mail. “Call and play your partner’s favorite song over the phone; e-mail a picture of a travel scene that reminds you of him or her; and send a series of small presents, or a gift certificate to a favorite store where they are, so they can treat themselves even though you’re not there to do it for them,” says Bryn Mawr’s Stanley Clawar, head of the sociology department at Rosemont College and director of Walden Counseling and Therapy Center. And if your partner gets turned on by sounds, find a good time and place for some phone sex: “Just make sure the kids aren’t around when you call.”
Philly Mag’s Rx: On February 1st, mail your partner your gizmo of choice: a prepaid cell phone (Virgin Music at 30th Street Station stocks the always cute “Slice” by Virgin Mobile), or a video camera to attach to his or her computer (your closest Best Buy or Mac store will have one), with an invitation for an urgent conference call on the 14th.
FOR BUSY WORKING PARENTS
Doctor’s Orders: “Modern life conspires against busy working parents’ sex lives, which is why Valentine’s Day is a great chance for them to think about how to keep ‘the erotic pot’ bubbling,” says Pennsylvania Hospital’s Julian Slowinski, co-author of The Good Sex Guide. For a satisfying connection, Slowinski suggests couples at this stage in their relationship think about which of the “T” ingredients — time, talking, touching and trust — have been lacking, and what they can do to get them back. “Think of the day as an opportunity to pause and to plan something special together — away from the kids.” Philly Mag’s Rx: Check in to the Sofitel (215-569-8300) to take advantage of its new Emily Post Institute-trained “Romance Concierge,” Sara Erdmann. She’ll help you plan just the kind of rendezvous you’re looking for, from a $165 “So in Love” package that includes satin sheets and chocolate-dipped strawberries to a $255 “So Romantic” getaway with red balloons, love poems, roses, games, fondue and more.
FOR SINGLE GUYS AND GALS
Doctor’s Orders: “Don’t throw yourself a pity party,” says Arlene Goldman, the Rittenhouse-based co-author, with her husband Michael Broder, of Secrets of Sexual Ecstasy. (She met Michael at an Art Alliance singles party on Valentine’s Day 20 years ago!) Judith Coche, founder and director of the Coche Center and author of Couples Group Psychotherapy, suggests singles treat themselves to a day at the spa, or explore quirky parts of the city, like Chinatown or the Italian Market. Or, Coche proposes, give back to others: It will take the focus off yourself, and you just might meet a like-minded do-gooder along the way.
Philly Mag’s Rx: Give blood. Work at a soup kitchen. Cheer up some kids at CHOP. Or just stop by the Bellevue Gourmet Food Court between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for its “Hands to Heart” event, where, for $7, you can make yourself (or someone else) a valentine; all money raised will go to the American Heart Association.
FOR ROOKIE EMPTY NESTERS
Doctor’s Orders: “Do something simple that you haven’t done together since before you had the kids, like going out for an ice-cream date,” Robboy says. And, she advises, “Plan a formal time to have sex sometime leading up to the holiday — but don’t tell your partner.” Translation: “Treat your partner as if she or he is someone new you’re dating. Think about it: Early on, you probably knew you wanted to have sex and would be ready if the opportunity came up, so you’d shave your legs and make sure your sheets were clean. But there was no disappointment if it didn’t happen, because you hadn’t voiced any kind of ‘plan.’” Do that again, Robboy says: Put all of your energy and excitement into seducing your partner, without adding pressure to the moment by plotting out loud.
Philly Mag’s Rx: Invest in super-luxe bedding from Kellijane (215-790-0233) or a brand-new bed from Duxiana (215-772-0959). And to re-create an old-school ice-cream date, head straight to Franklin Fountain for a classic New York egg cream or ice-cream soda (215-627-1899).
FOR SENTIMENTAL SENIORS
Doctor’s Orders: As Goldman points out, retirees have at least one advantage over the rest of us: the freedom to get away in the middle of the week without having to worry about work. (Despite your smug assumptions, according to Clawar — and a recent study — they’ve probably also had more sex than couples today will, thanks to the absence of e-mail and cable in the good ol’ days.) “Plan a getaway,” Goldman advises. “Or take a walk down memory lane: Look at your wedding photos, or just take time to ‘neck’ at your old haunts like you used to.” Philly Mag’s Rx: Don’t just look at your wedding pics; take them to Photo Lounge (267-322-6651), which can turn those photos into keepsakes — anything from jewelry to serving trays, coasters, bookmarks, digital scrapbooks, or a ready-to-hang 16×24 canvas print. And for the kind of necking you did as a kid, plan a trip to Jersey’s Delsea Drive-In; it’s re-opening in just a few weeks (856-696-0011).
FOR NEWLY DATING DUOS
Doctor’s Orders: “Do something flirtatious but low-key that won’t freak the other person out so early into a relationship,” says Goldman. Bring a single flower, a cute card, a small tchotchke that says you’ve been paying attention to what that person’s into — and want to get to know him or her better.
Philly Mag’s Rx: Hit up the closest toy store (or even the toy aisle at your local drugstore) for something silly but sweet — and specific to your interests, or, even better, related to a story your new partner has told you. Try the retro-inspired toys from Happily Ever After (215-627-5790), or the aisles of Silly Putty, Play-Doh and Legos at good ol’ Toys R Us (multiple locations; toysrus.com).
FOR ESTRANGED HUSBANDS AND WIVES
Doctor’s Orders: “The trick is to find a mutually enjoyable way to spend time without high tension,” says Coche. She advises estranged couples to agree ahead of time not to discuss sensitive subjects during their Valentine’s Day together, and to come up with an activity that’s hassle-free — going to one of Philly’s small theaters, visiting the aquarium, checking out a museum. When you’re alone, take time to give each other sincere, thoughtful compliments like “I love it when you laugh like that” or “I can always count on you to be my buddy, and I appreciate it.” And, she says, “Keep the long view in mind. We know that each year partners stay together, their investment in remaining together actually increases, because they share emotional history. Handle yourself today as you want to be remembered tomorrow, and you’ll see tension start to melt.”
Philly Mag’s Rx: Coche took the ideas right out of our mouths — it’s impossible not to lighten up during a tour of the Franklin Institute’s renovated giant heart or while taking in one of the Institute’s IMAX movies (215-448-1200). Adults probably appreciate Camden’s Adventure Aquarium more than kids do (856-365-3300). And the intimacy of small venues like the Arden Theater (215-922-8900) or the intrigue of the Rodin Museum (215-568-6026) will captivate even the most reluctant museum-goer.
FOR NEW PARENTS
Doctor’s Orders: “Use Valentine’s Day as a chance to make each other feel special and to add spontaneity to your life, which has likely become structured and all about the baby,” Clawar says. Take a personal day off from work, and plan a whole series of surprises — from little gifts left around the house to a scavenger hunt.
Philly Mag’s Rx: Make like adults — away from the bottles and binkies — and check out what all the A.C. hype for the past nine-plus months of your life has been about. Cruise the shops at the Pier at Caesars (thepieratcaesars.com), share fries at Starr’s most over-the-top Continental yet (609-674-8300), and check into the Borgata for the $599-a-night “Sweets for Your Sweet” spa package (think Dutch Mocha Body Buff, Chocolate Body Whip, and choco-covered strawberries). The Borgata’s “Rollers Not Strollers” policy may leave you in the dust most other days — but this Valentine’s Day, you parents can be grown-ups, too (866-692-6742).
Doctor’s Orders: Philly’s not the only city where cohabiting is at an all-time high. And what the boom in “living in sin” suggests, says Slowinski, is that people are staying together because they want to — not because they have to. Still, he warns, longtime dating duos are just as likely to get stuck in the same sex patterns as their married peers, which is why Valentine’s Day is a good chance to expand your sex life: “Experiment with sex toys, or watch an instructional sex video together.”
Philly Mag’s Rx: South Street’s Condom Kingdom (215-829-1668) and Rittenhouse’s Pleasure Chest (215-561-7480) have something for every fetish. Even classy Coeur (215-972-0373), lined as it is with upscale lingerie, stocks the buzz-worthy German Meamy vibrator ($47). And psst: Don’t waste time feeling like a perv — sex toys are so mainstream these days, you may just run into your boss or, ew, your dad while shopping.