The month of romance is fast approaching, but some probably aren’t looking forward to February 14th rearing its ugly head. Valentine’s Day, or the “hallmark holiday,”is embraced by couples who exchange love letters and candy hearts and singletons who profess their anonymous affections for those they secretly admire via cards and flowers. It’s not uncommon for friends, family, and co-workers to give each other valentines gifts as well. It seems everybody deserves to be given a heart-shaped box of chocolates at least once a year. Still, others scorn Valentine’s Day as a corporate holiday that just reminds them of past heartbreaks and feelings of aloneness.

Funny enough, Valentine’s Day was originally dedicated to two Christians who shared the name of Valentine and tragically died in AD 197 and AD 269 . What’s romantic about that? And yet, people make the simple request every time February 14th roles around: “Will you be my Valentine?” Why would you want to be someone’s Christian martyr?

Well, it wasn’t until the 1300’s that February 14th became associated with romance. In 1382, Geoffrey Chaucer composed the poem Parlement of Foules to honor the engagement of the 13-year-old King of England, Richard II, to 14-year-old Anne of Bohemia. So what’s illegal now, was really quite romantic in the 1300’s.

By the Middle Ages, lovers were engaging in an annual ritual of exchanging notes back and forth, referring to each other as “valentines.” Many of the legends about the original Valentine martyrs, including one where one of the two St. Valentines gave his jailer’s daughter a note that said “from your Valentine” before he was executed, were likely invented during this time period. Everybody can appreciate a good love story!

When the 1800’s hit, Valentine’s Day had spread to the United States. Today, the Greeting Card Association approximates that one billion valentine cards are sent every year. (Women are mostly to blame for this, as they make up 85% of Valentine’s Day card purchasers.)

This year, more than any other, people will be exchanging valentines over the World Wide Web, likely in the from of “e-cards.” In fact, people actually will meet each other on the Internet, too, whether by their own initiative or through an online dating website. Some of these people will even get married. The world of dating has drastically changed, but aren’t the rules pretty much the same?

Whether you’re looking at the 1300’s or the new millennium, courtship and dating are pretty simple concepts. But they’ve always caused anguish among those who are looking for love or are knee-deep in love. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a look at some of the modern-day dating issues that seem to perk up time and time again. (And every one of them has probably had an episode of HBO’s “Sex and the City” dedicated to it.)

First Date Jitters

Whether you’re a newly divorced 40-year-old man, a barely adolescent girl, or a college frat boy – a first date will probably make you nervous!

First, you have to decide upon the setting. Should the two of you go to a movie, go out to eat, go bowling? Do you want to keep it casual or do you want to try to make it the most romantic evening ever? And there really is no right or wrong answer to these questions.

(Except for the whole movie idea – how are you supposed to get to know your date while chomping on popcorn and staring at a big cinema screen? In fact, if you even try to get get to know your date, you’ll just be shushed by other moviegoers. A movie can be a part of the date, but it should hardly be the main event. Instead, consider going out to eat first. After all, it just may make it all the more easy to get nice and cozy with your date when you do finally settle down in those theater seats.)

It’s important that you determine from the start what kind of mood you want to set. If you’d like to keep it light and conversation-oriented, why not go out for coffee one afternoon? If you’re looking for a more steamy get-together, take your date out for some fine cuisine and dancing.

But the number one rule of a first date is (drum roll) to be yourself. This may seem counter-intuitive. But while you want to make a good first impression, it makes little sense to try on a new personality or pretend you’re interested in and knowledgeable about subjects that you have no clue about. There are only two outcomes here: the first one is that your date will immediately see through you and you won’t ever get a second date, and the second is that your date will fall for your act and you’ll just have to keep it up, but for what purpose? It’s better to have a bad first date and go on to the next love interest, than to turn your dating life into a television show or movie where you’re constantly trying to hide your true identity from your new flame. Unless you’re Superman or Cinderella, that doesn’t really work in the long-run.

Another question that might pop up in your mind on your first date is: “to kiss or not to kiss?” This is another question that’s hard to answer with any blanket statement. It really depends on you and your date; it’s best not to force anything, but to instead, constantly gage how the night is going and properly react to it. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes it’s best to leave them wanting more. But not everybody has such self-control and it’s hard not to answer when pure chemistry is knocking on the door!

Online Dating

With every passing year, the idea of meeting a love interest over the Internet becomes less and less, well, weird! As Americans continue to pursue time-consuming careers and find that it’s much easier to socialize with others over the web (often by using social networking sites like Myspace), it seems natural for people to interact over the Internet. After all, the same people who you’d meet on the Internet are probably the same people you’d meet at the grocery store!

But is online dating for you? Just as you’d want to be wary of a stranger you meet in a bar, you want to be skeptical of a stranger you meet on the Internet too, maybe even more so. But fortunately, there are many legitimate dating websites these days – like – that gather up extensive profiles of aspiring daters and pair them together to see if sparks fly. This may seem more scientific than romantic. But considering that actual matchmakers have been popular for hundreds of years (sometimes in the form of the parents of a single person), online dating doesn’t really seem all that odd. So if you’re too busy to find the love of your life in a conventional way, why not give online dating a try?

The Secret to Love

Dating can be exciting and fun, but it can also be a total nightmare if you go into it with too many expectations. This year, don’t prepare for your most impassioned, romantic Valentine’s Day yet. Most couples don’t look back on that Valentine’s Day dinner as the happiest memory of their relationship; instead, they may fondly recall that time that they were on the way to the opera and got lost and ended up going to McDonald’s instead. So, the best way to look at love is not to expect it to happen to you like it would in a movie. He or she won’t always say the right thing and there certainly won’t be a lovely musical score to tell you when to make the first move.

After it’s all said and done, it’s probably likely that Cupid’s one wish for lovers, friends, and family everywhere, is that the thoughtful, affectionate words exchanged on Valentine’s Day are exchanged on every other day of the year too. After all, as it’s been said a trillion times and in varying ways: you’ve got to give love to get it.


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