You’re not alone if matters of the heart feel a little uninspired these days. A romantic evening might include takeout and splitting a bottle of wine—again—or an awkward, masked outdoor dining experience where your server dances around you to avoid inhaling your droplets. (Please tip extra.) And if you’re looking to meet someone new, getting to know them now requires an added layer of COVID conversations on top of the usual questions about compatibility and sexual safety.
It’s a lot for anyone to handle, but that doesn’t mean we should declare romance dead. So, to help you get in the mood for Valentine’s Day, we at KQED Arts & Culture came up with a few creative ways to celebrate love at home, whether you’re hanging out with your partner, crush, polycule, friend, pet or yourself.
We also want to hear from you, our readers. What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Tell us in the submission form at the bottom of this post.—Nastia Voynovskaya
Bring a Taste of the Tropics Home
If you're anything like me, globetrotting gives you life. And with no clear end to travel restrictions in sight, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to take your significant other on an in-home beach getaway. My escape is going to be a kitschy albeit valiant attempt to simulate a Caribbean vacation. Grab some uber-fake grass skirts, inflatable palm trees and plastic pineapples for piña coladas. Where to splurge? On the spread! Prep real young coconuts and top them with rum, marinate jerk chicken and veggie skewers for a main course and fry up your own plantain chips with a spicy aioli dip to really wow your special someone. Bonus tip: show your thoughtfulness by having a swim outfit in their size ready for them to put on before you slip into your plastic kiddie pool.—Cecilia Phillips
Draw, Collage or Write an Ode to Your Beloved
Deep eye contact sparks intimacy, so go even deeper by doing a blind contour line drawing of your person. This is a portrait where you put pencil to paper and don’t look down. Move the pencil along with your eyes as you study the alluring shapes and curves of their features. Sure, if you don’t practice this a lot, it might turn out totally hideous—but you’ll probably share a good laugh, which promotes intimacy too. To spice up the evening, draw each other wearing whatever makes you feel sexy and confident—or nothing at all. It also works if you draw yourself while looking in the mirror. And if drawing isn’t your speed, then collaging, writing haikus or painting with watercolors could be the move for a low-stakes art night.—N.V.
Dine Al Fresco Somewhere Unusual
True romance is all about newness. So for a Valentine’s Day date after 11 months of sheltering-in-place, it’s time to change your surroundings. Even a mild change makes a big difference, like finally buying a tablecloth and moving the dining table to the living room. If it won’t be too cold on Feb. 14, then Craigslist has a handful of affordable card tables for moving the whole dinner operation al fresco: in the backyard, say, or the rooftop, if your building has one. If you’re really ambitious, you could cook up dinner, load it into the trunk and drive to a nearby park. One time, I had my date meet me at the post office, where I had set up a table and chairs with spaghetti, garlic bread and candles in the 24-hour lobby for a date among the P.O. boxes. Sure, it was weird, but come on! This whole year is weird. Go for it and dine somewhere unusual.—Gabe Meline
Give Useful Gifts
Candy? Flowers? These are sweet gestures, but ultimately ephemeral. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that these “unprecedented times” look a lot like the dystopias we’ve seen in various science fiction films over the years. And maybe we should all be a little better prepared? In that spirit, may I propose: Survival Valentine’s! Bestow upon your sweetheart/roomie/dear friend things that might actually come in handy in the end-times—or, you know, just after an earthquake or during a wildfire evacuation. Think flashlights, portable radios, strike-anywhere matches and sturdy multitools. Nothing says “I love you” like things that keep people alive to be loved!—Sarah Hotchkiss
Shower Your Pets With Love
This Valentine’s Day, I will be cooking a special Italian meal for two... rats. Not rats of the love variety (à la Holly Golightly), but actual, real-life rodents. Feb. 14 has long been a pet holiday for me, having adopted a dog from the SFSPCA during a V-Day promotion ten years ago. “Can’t, it’s my dog’s birthday” quickly became my go-to excuse. Unfortunately, my decade-long Valentine’s get-out clause shuffled off this mortal coil last summer. This month, though, I was inspired to take the adoption plunge once more and, thanks to Bay Area rat rescue Rattie Ratz, I am now the proud mama of two black and white rats named Thelma and Louise. If I can’t lavish love onto my dog this year, the rat babies are going to get it... via a comically tiny bowl of pasta. My boyfriend’s only request is that we watch Ratatouille while this is happening. Nothing takes the pressure out of the holiday like focusing on your pets. Shower them with love whether you’re partnered or single.—Rae Alexandra
Valentine’s Day Rocks—Literally
No, I didn’t own a pet rock growing up, but recently I have seen people post their rock paintings on Pinterest during stay-at-home orders. This Valentine’s Day my evening will consist of painting rocks with my partner. Back in university, I had a roommate who would leave sticky notes on our bedroom doors on Valentine’s Day, but instead of it being cute and sweet, it was the opposite. So using her idea, I will do the same using stone cold rocks (it saves paper). I'm going to paint items I don’t like or funny puns I won’t dare say in person, and I plan to use it as a date night conversation starter, like 20 questions. Not only will the pieces be a great addition to my front yard, but I’m sure neighbors will wonder why there’s a banana drawn on a rock.—Jackelyn Carbajal