Gentlemen, Here’s How to Guarantee Valentine’s Day Sex

Or, at least, how to not get dumped a week from now.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The holiday that’s been ruthlessly dragged through the mud, angrily lambasted for being “commercial,” “sappy,” “a Hallmark holiday,” “discriminatory,” a day that makes you “feel like you’re reapplying for your own job.” Say what you want about it, shake your fist at the sentimental plight of couples everywhere, but here’s the thing: If your significant other (whom we’ll now refer to as S.O. for brevity’s sake) likes Valentine’s Day, you need to play along—or risk certain dumpage.

It doesn’t have to be all bad, though. You don’t need to hire a singing telegram (actually, please never do this) or send 10 dozen pink roses to your beloved’s office (don’t do this either; anything more than a dozen is obnoxious) to sate your S.O.’s desire for a declaration of love worthy of a bad Nicholas Sparks novel. It is possible to show you care and still retain your dignity.

Let’s start with the standard box of chocolates. This is a sweet gesture, unless your S.O. is dieting, and then it’s a bit cruel. The difficulty here lies in choosing the right box of chocolates. It’s terrifyingly easy to veer into tacky-red-heart-box territory, and this is even worse than handing a starving dieter a box of Godiva. For example, this box says: “I ran to CVS on my way home from work.” But this Marcie Blaine one says: “I traveled to the far reaches of the city in search of artisanal chocolates just for you, darling.” What message do you want to send? (To really take it up a notch, opt for a $15 two-pack of Barbuzzo’s positively heavenly salted caramel budino, now available for pickup at Verde—no preorder necessary.)

When it comes to health and fitness, tread lightly, if you’re brave enough to tread here at all. In general, unless your S.O. has specifically requested exercise equipment, steer clear of things like treadmills and workout gear. Yoga pants are not romantic, and you run the risk of insulting your beloved. If you must, get her a spa treatment; Rescue Rittenhouse is offering a one-hour couples’ massage for $200, topped off with a glass of champagne, for Valentine’s Day. Relaxation is always sexy, and real men like massages.

On to jewelry. This is where paying attention to her sartorial leanings is critical. Does she wear gold or silver? Is she into major bling or more understated adornment? Buy her something you can actually imagine her wearing. (Same goes for lingerie purchases, too. If she wears t-shirts and boxers to bed—or if she had a baby in the past year or five—chances are she won’t much appreciate this. Some trend notes: Bracelets are huge this season, as are initials and monograms. Give her the best of both with this initial bangle. This pave diamond initial necklace is equally fetching, and you’ll always find yourself on stable ground with a blue box.

Don’t get your S.O. a teddy bear or any animals of the stuffed variety. You’re not in middle school anymore, and this is just weird. If you must, get your S.O. a puppy, but only one that’s been adopted. (Puppy mills are not romantic.)

The most important part of this holiday, though, is the card—and what you write in it. You needn’t pen a sonnet; a few handwritten, heartfelt words are enough to show you care. Don’t give corny convenience store cards. Rule of thumb: If the message is longer than one paragraph, it’s too long. Instead of this, give this beautifully letterpressed card bearing a simple, sweet message, or a clever one like this. E-cards don’t count.

And, please, never—under any circumstances—give this.