One of the most obligatory holidays is upon us. Love it or hate it, St. Valentine is back in the picture.
How often does Valentine's Day truly live up to the romantic expectations? Most agree that it is the worst night to go out to dinner, with rush pre-set menus, tightly packed tables and noise. Those chocolate-covered cherries in the heart-shaped box taste more like wax than food, and Hallmark cards can set you back five bucks for something basic.
How did the holday of love become something so fake and detached, filled with societal expectations of happy couples and miserable singles? Even kids get stressed out agonizing over what card to send to the opposite sex that won't convey the wrong message.
More importantly, how can we make Valentine's Day more authentic? I spoke to Maryanne Comaroto, Beverly Hills relationship expert, author and radio host, for a little advice on getting more out of Cupid's day. Having a "heart to heart" with ourselves is a good place to start, followed by responsible communication with our loved ones.
When it comes to Valentine's Day, are you a cynic, a romantic, an overwhelmed parent, a sad single or a resentful drag? Let's check them out in detail:
"Often one partner is the cynic in a relationship. Men often think of Valentine's Day as obligatory, more so than women," Comaroto said. "The trick to make the day more authentic is thinking about how to turn it from a 'have to' into a 'want to.'" Comaroto suggests checking out St. Valentine, himself for a little inspiration. "If you research St. Valentine himself, it is pretty sexy stuff! Resurrect the fun around the holiday, get off the commercial aspect of it, find what's good, and celebrate that."
If one partner is a cynic, count on the other being a romantic! "The romantics are the ones with these gigantic expectations!" laughed Comaroto. Cupid's commercial arrow strikes, and all reason is thrown to the wind, replaced with dreamy Hollywood fantasies of the latest chocolate diamonds from Zales, armfuls of roses strewn over the bed, and a partner who is present, madly in love and ready for the best sex on earth. Then reality strikes: Valentine's Day is on a Monday, spouse is working late, and who can afford a lobster dinner in this economy?
"To get what you really want, give it to yourself," said Comaroto. "That way, anything that someone chooses to give you is a bonus, as it is nobody else's job to make us happy." Go ahead! Get some scented candles, send yourself to the spa for a massage, or throw a party -- have fun!
The Overwhelmed Parents
Those with young children may see them as SRUs -- sexual reduction units. The time for romance is out the window during these years, and couples who may once have actually enjoyed Valentine's Day are not the least bit interested in sex or romance, as they are just tapped out.
The remedy? "Take control of the day," said Comaroto. "Define what the day means to you as a couple. In two minutes of discussion, create your own rules for Valentine's and take charge of crafting it to get what you want, even if it is agreeing to simply exchange kisses and go to bed early!"
The Sad Singles
Let's face it: there is a stigma surrounding being single on Valentine's Day. But do singles have to be sad? Instead of running away or ignoring the day, why not take advantage of acknowledging what is true for you? If you are happy in your independence, send yourself a love letter! Congratulate yourself for creating a life of self-fulfillment, and do the things that make you feel restored.
If you are not happy being single and the day is an excuse to beat yourself up, what is that? "If you feel blue, know it is perfectly fine to be lonely, and to own those feelings, said Comaroto. "Perhaps it is a chance to have a little chat with yourself, and explore if you are afraid to be alone." If you loathe the holiday, instead of carrying it around as baggage for your next relationship, Comaroto suggests doing a fun ritual. "Have an 'I hate Valentine's Day' ritual in your backyard!" she laughs. It could be fun. Burn a bunch of heart shaped doilies and shoot cupid's arrows at the stars.
The Resentful Drags
"If you can't get over yourself," Comaroto says wryly, "go to a shelter or a retirement home, pass out bags of Hershey's kisses, and ask them to tell you a love story from a time gone by. Open your heart -- who knows what can happen if you do!"
So, my favorite HuffPost readers, will you be my Valentine? Come on cynics, romantics, parents, singles -- tell me a love story from a time gone by, or tell me how you have made Valentine's Day more authentic. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.
Follow Kari Henley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/karihenley