There's nothing like Valentine's Day to bring out performance anxiety.
Worse than New Year's, the high holiday of love cranks up our vulnerabilities, whether we're single or ensconced.
It's a pressure the cupid industry thrives off of, with an army of professionals weighing in on your love life - and gift choices - starting months in advance.
From aphrodisiac foods (chia seeds?) and Cosmo-scary sex tips (vampire role-play?) to sad options for singles (pop in Die Hard and hug your dog?), The Globe and Mail rounds up this season's most dubious advice.
Nothing says romance like chia seeds
Oysters and chocolate-covered strawberries are so over. The new "aphrodisiac super food?" Chia seeds. The Mayans and Aztecs loved them, and so should you: The seeds improve circulation, build stamina and are chock full of zinc, an "important component of sexual fluids," claims nutrition expert Keren Gilbert. If you're of the mind that chia only belongs on clay pets in late-night infomercials, the expert's second recommendation is oat bran. Sexy, sultry oat bran.
Are you a Rookie, Draft Pick or Free Agent?
What better way to help men out on the "gushiest day of the year" than with sports analogies, right? Aside from the perfunctory roses and love poems, the authors of the Valentine's Day Playbook have plenty of ideas for men, whether they're "free agents" or "veterans." How about some rousing yoga, or a Coldplay concert? A wintry hot air balloon ride? A trip to a reptile petting zoo? Can you say fumble?
Be the cheapo
Post-recession, some experts are still pushing manic frugality. "Don't have enough money for expensive jewelry? Create a homemade picture frame or other homemade creation," offers Jeanette Pavini, resident expert at Coupon.com. Or, make light of the day's "commercial aspects" by competing with your spouse to score "the cheesiest Valentine's present for under $10," write the authors of The Man Whisperer. Subversive.
Get Your "Flirtext" on
"Because it's Valentine's Day I wanted to let you know, your zipper is undone. Oh, and I think you're pretty cool ;)." It's just one gem from Debra Goldstein and Olivia Baniuszewicz, Bing.Com V-Day experts and authors of Flirtexting - yes, that's a word. Just as one can (theoretically) land a chap with a flirtext, one can also lose him. "Smiley faces and lots of acronyms will get you nowhere." Ditto for "drunk texting/LNBT (late night booty text)" and "unoriginal texts."
Actually, chuck the BlackBerry
A two-man movement called Offlining wants couples to give each other some face time and go without their gadgets for 10 days. The founders are even selling a handy box of chocolates with a cut-out in the middle - that's where your precious iPhone goes. While it's a good idea in theory, 10 days offline is light years for most. It's only a matter of time before she finishes those chocolates and starts snooping your texts.
Make like a lovelorn mime
If you're willing to brave the intensity of dining couples and schedule your first date on Feb. 14, relationship therapist Laura Berman proffers her "Top 10 Moves" in It's Not Him, It's You, published earlier this month. "Be sensual," seems to be the message. Mirror his movements, play with your hair or "lightly massage" your own neck. Failing that, "Order a martini and then take your time nibbling your olive off the skewer." And hope he knows CPR.
Get your stereotypes straight on the first date
If he's Italian, expect to meet his mother. If he's Japanese, get ready to hear about his salary. German? Avoid the small talk - they hate superficiality. That's the sage advice offered byExpatInfoDesk.com, an online guide for expatriates. In Russia, "Don't even try to open your wallet," but "be expected to wear makeup, high heels and feminine outfits more or less 24/7." Cruel tradeoff. Haven't these expats heard of globalization?
Make like Bella and Edward
For long-term marrieds, sex educator Pamela Madsen suggests a little Twilight play: "Ask your partner to share something about themselves as a sexual being that you may not know about," writes the author of the new memoir Shameless. "Maybe you love the idea of your partner playing the vampire and biting you softly all over your body. ... If the sharing makes you feel vulnerable, you are on the right track." Does one stop when blood is drawn?
Enter at your own risk: the "lonely hearts" chat room
Feb. 13 is for the haters - wannabe lovers, that is. And what better way to meet them than inside a "Virtual Valentine Room" on Sunday? The real-time, video-based community Paltalk has created a chat room for solitary souls. Moderated by a relationship guru, "Participants will also be encouraged to share their personal tales of love gone wrong." We'll take our chances with the frat boys and flashers on Chatroulette, thanks.
Forget Jane Austen. Watch The A-Team.
Oh, the plight of the single on V-Day. Psychologist Doreen Granpeesheh has some spirited solutions: "Don't pop in your favourite rom-com or Jane Austen adaptation. Instead, rent or go see a flick with lots of explosions, fights or gore," she writes in a release, optimistically titled "Celebrate You, Not Two." If that fails, the psychologist recommends you "snuggle up with Fido" or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Why isn't sleeping through it ever an option?