My Girlfriend & I Celebrated Valentine's Day Like a Normal Couple for the First Time

My girlfriend and I have been together for just over seven years now (we started dating in January 2009), and we haven't once celebrated Valentine's Day. We accidentally went out to eat on the 14th a couple years ago because our college roommates were out of town and we just wanted sushi, but it wasn't intentional. We started laughing the moment we saw that the restaurant was filled with couples and there were red roses on every table.

We usually spend our Valentine's Day doing absolutely nothing. We have our anniversary in January and our first kiss anniversary in February, and then in March, we celebrate my birthday. February 14 never had any special meaning to us, so we didn't celebrate. It seemed like a commercial holiday that other couples were over-hyping.

This year, we decided to celebrate Valentine's Day with all the stops and find out how we felt about it.

The Experiment

When I first proposed the idea, I was half certain I'd be shot down. Typically, our February 14 is spent mocking all the cheesy parts of romance that we don't like, and we're both very sarcastic people. To my surprise, my girlfriend loved the idea and thought it was sweet of me to want to try something new. To avoid any rom-com-esque drama, I let her know immediately that I'd be writing about our experience. As much as I love watching it on screen, I didn't want to have to chase her through an airport with a flash mob and a thousand yellow daisies and any other combination of getting-you-back ploys that happen at the end of a social experiment rom-com where the partner discovers the truth. 

I warned her that if we were going to do this, we had to really do it. The day would be spent on a cheesy date where we were not allowed to mock Valentine's Day in any way, and we had to give each other the kinds of traditional gifts couples often do, like flowers, chocolates and stuffed animals. 

Related: Why We Shouldn't Base Our Lives Off Rom Coms

The Planning

Right away, we were faced with all sorts of questions. This year, Valentine's Day was on a Sunday. We had no idea if couples normally went out to dinner on the Saturday before, or still celebrated on Sunday despite early restaurant closings. So we consulted several of our friends who are in relationships, and they all confirmed: people celebrate on the Sunday. 

Planning our adorable date didn't go as smoothly as we'd hoped. We were all set to take the over-two-hour trip to Connecticut to go to Mystic Aquarium and Red Lobster, but when sub-zero temperatures were announced for New England, this changed our date idea. Mystic has a few outdoor displays, and with my poor blood circulation, we didn't want our date to end at the hospital. This also meant that taking the train anywhere was out of the question, which is a difficult task if you live next to Boston.

Driving became our best bet, so we opted for the Museum of Science and dinner at Outback Steakhouse, because we knew they had lobster tails and filet mignon, which is almost as good as a full-on lobster restaurant. 

The Gifts

Because we'd decided to exchange gifts in addition to going out, I had more pre-planning for February than I normally do. My girlfriend and I usually stick to three gift-giving occasions a year: the Christmas/holiday season, our individual birthdays, and one made-up "summer gift" that we give each other just because. I wasn't used to shopping alongside all the other sappy couples, which made it weird.

For weeks, I scoured the Valentine's Day displays at every store. I was still determined to make this cheesy holiday perfect for us, so I immediately bought my girlfriend a new Moleskine notebook. She keeps one in her purse at all times to jot down writing ideas, which is something we were taught in our early days of journalism and creative writing. Her old one was almost out of room, so I figured this gift really said, "I know you."

I couldn't do it without chocolate, so I made two separate trips to Godiva to spoil her with two heart-shaped containers and a selection of handpicked favorites from the chocolate counter. Godiva is our go-to destination at the mall, so it was pretty easy to make a pit stop there while we were shopping.

I also felt it wasn't truly Valentine's Day unless I was scrambling to find a few add-on gifts last minute, so I got her a stuffed fox just days before the main event and bought her a dozen white roses just the evening before February 14.

It wasn't easy hiding all this from her in our small apartment, but luckily, I also have a car, so I just threw a bunch of it in my trunk and said, "Don't go in there."

The Execution

The day finally arrived, and it was colder outside than I could've imagined. I layered up in five pairs of thermal leggings and kept fur-lined Ugg gloves with me all day. 

We decided to do gifts and notes before we went out, because our plans were a daylong event. Unfortunately, my bouquet wasn't much of a surprise because I needed to put the flowers in water ASAP, but they still made my girlfriend smile.

She surprised me with plenty of my favorite Godiva chocolates, a Hermione Funko Pop bobblehead I've been dying to have, a stuffed cat from Kiki's Delivery Service and a cheesy-but-lovely Valentine's Day card with a letter written inside. 

After we exchanged gifts, we headed out to the Museum of Science. We weren't the only older people in attendance, but there were so many kids that we spent a lot of the date laughing about how old we felt, which always makes for a great time together. We already are always talking about how simultaneously old and yet not-at-all-adult we feel and it was a great way to bond.

We couldn't get tickets to the butterfly garden because they were sold out, but we were given stamps on our admission tickets so that we can reuse them and come back for free one time in the next six months. We also sprang for tickets to a Michael Jackson laser show in the planetarium, because why not.

After several hours of learning (and reminiscing about our childhoods and why we hate math so much), we headed out for part two of our evening: dinner and drinks. Like the classy people we are, we went to Outback Steakhouse. Our logic? We actually get sushi so often that it has become not special anymore, so she got filet mignon and lobster and I got ahi tuna and lobster.  

We ended the night back at our apartment with drinks and television watching. While we've been seriously binge-watching How to Get Away with Murder for a few weeks, but it didn't feel romantic to us, so we decided to watch some classic '90s cartoons like The Magic School Bus to continue our nostalgic theme. There is nothing millennials like more than talking about how everything was better circa 1990 to 2005, so it brought us closer together and we ended our night laughing.

The Posting

Like all couples do, I needed to document my day extensively via social media. This meant using Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook for more romantic bragging than I'm usually comfortable with. I tend to save my sappy posts for one or two times a year when really necessary.

I didn't mind telling the world what we were doing through the use of photos, because I actually really love Instagram. But I did feel a little weird posting my obligatory photo of all my gifts. It reminded me that there are probably couples out there who wish they could give their significant other a nice gift, but simply can't afford to. And that's not what love is about, or what Valentine's Day is about. It's about spending time with the people you love.

The Results

I wasn't sure what to expect from forced romance, because I've always had it in my head that Valentine's Day is a commercial holiday meant to encourage people to buy things. By that logic, though, the same can be said for most holidays, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up my eternal love for Halloween.

My girlfriend also pointed out that Valentine's Day actually does have romantic history behind it, and I remember celebrating the holiday with my mom when I was growing up. Bonus points for the nostalgia factor, especially because I grew up when kids exchanged cards with their entire homeroom class on February 14. I'd be lying if I said I didn't at least once give my elementary school crush a super cheesy Valentine in the hopes of blossoming romance. 

We learned a few things about Valentine's Day. We learned that just because other couples do something doesn't make it a bad idea. (It's never stopped us from wanting to plan a grand wedding, has it?) We also learned that even an over-hyped, cheesy holiday can be a personal event if you plan it in a way that'll make you happy. As one of our close friends recently said, "Valentine's Day is about the two people involved." So we made it our day. We hung out at a museum and ate lobster and watched old cartoons. February 14 wasn't inherently special to us, but it gave us a reason to make it special, when we normally would have spent it like just another Sunday, grocery shopping and obsessively binge-watching the dramatic lives of law school students.

Related: The Best & Worst Valentine's Day Dates College Girls Have Had

Because we forced ourselves to look at Feb. 14 like a special day, it became one. We didn't "hold out" for a special occasion, and instead of ordering sushi yet again, we had lobster tails and a nostalgic date. I don't think there's anything wrong with turning a regular day into an occasion. Living with your significant other has its perks—Netflix and chill really returns to its literal meaning, there are many nights of eating raw cookie dough, and there's always someone to come home and complain to—but we never want it to get boring. We made a commitment to have our life together be a permanent adventure, and sometimes that means trying things you're completely unsure about. 

To be honest, I'm not sure if we'll celebrate Valentine's Day again next year. It didn't go horribly and there were very few moments where I wanted to laugh at us for being sappy. It was actually kind of nice. 

The one thing I do know for sure is that if we do, we're totally making the trip to Mystic next time. I really want to pet a stingray.