My guest columnist this week is no stranger to many in our Four Corners area. Mike Hattabaugh helps locals communicate well in his position as professor at San Juan College. He is also a great resource for marriages and relationships through his Pro Relationships sideline. I've long appreciated Mike's wit and wisdom so it was a no-brainer for me to ask him to share some thoughts on Valentine's Day.
When I first met my wife, I wanted to do something really special for Valentine's Day. We were poor college students, and as many young men in our culture do, I did not think through all the consequences of my creative Valentine's Day idea. I decided to cook her a wonderful Valentine's meal myself.
Let me just say to any of you getting ideas right now, stop. This is not a great idea especially if you have never cooked before. My entire career as a chef consisted of foil dinners at Boy Scout camp-outs and boiled hot dogs (yes, I'm that old). Hamburger, carrots, and onions are not exactly five-star entrées, but love is blind and how hard can it be to cook anyway?
I went to the local grocery store, which will not be named here for litigation purposes, but let's just say I like things on sale. I thought I'd start at the meat counter. I had no idea how much steak could cost, but after looking past the T-bone and ribeye I found a decent piece of meat that looked just as "cow" as the high dollar steaks. "Round rump steak" is a perfectly fine piece of meat for some people, but even at 40 percent off for an expiration date of yesterday, it is probably not a good choice for your first Valentine's Day meal.
After grabbing some au gratin potato mix and some wild rice, my eight dollar budget was spent. Notice there are no vegetables in my Valentine's feast, a small oversight most men make when eating, which might explain why single men don't live as long as married men. I arrived at the kitchen and began to prepare my special meal.
I neglected to understand exactly just how you cook a round rump steak. Today, I would take it outside and throw it on the grill, put some salt on it, cook it to medium and call it good. College students don't usually have grills, so I pulled out a pan and threw the steak on. I began to worry that it needed something more to taste good. I determined that seasoning would be good, so I opened the cabinet to discover that herbs and spices are not a high priority for college students. I had four choices: black pepper, paprika, cinnamon and sugar. I used them all, with a special extra dose of white cane sugar for "flavor." As I poured them on the steak, a nice odor of breakfast toast began to fill the room.
When my date arrived, I was excited to see the look on her face when I served her. I sat her down at the table with candles and carnations. I carefully paper-plated the steak, au gratin potatoes and undercooked wild rice. I watched her saw into my overcooked steak. She did manage to eat one bite. The rice was a little crunchy and the potatoes a little runny. Did you know pizza takes longer to deliver on Valentine's Day?
So as Feb. 14 approaches, be aware that many people are disappointed in the results of this special holiday for lovers. Here are a few tips to help make your Valentine's Day better than my first one.
• Tip No. 1: Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can't emphasize this enough. If you haven't talked to your valentine about your expectations, you can't expect it to go as you would like. I've learned my wife doesn't really want me cooking on Valentine's Day (Hmmm, wonder why?). Your partner may be different. Do you want to stay in or dine out? Do you like flowers, candy or one of those huge teddy bears (another faux paux on my part)? If you have a conversation about the expectations, it is much more unlikely you will make a bad choice in giving or receiving.
• Tip No. 2: Compromise. We hear opposites attract. This is often true when it comes to celebrating a holiday like Valentine's Day. You may want to have that special food at that special restaurant, but he wants to stay home. A compromise might be ordering the food to go and taking it home. Another option would be to stay home one night, and schedule a night out later in the week. I find that couples who find a happy medium usually have the best relationships.
• Tip No. 3: Relax! Often we are so uptight about the plan that we don't focus on the person. The reason a lot of people do not like Valentine's Day is because it is too much pressure. Take a minute and ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. Most people find that the best Valentine's Day memories are the ones where a mess up was met by a smile. I know, just ask my wife!
Hopefully, you connected with some of the points Mike just shared with us. He'll be sharing more when he is my guest on TWOgether as ONE tomorrow evening at 6 on KLJH 107.1FM. I hope you can join us then. Focusing on your marriage is always a good idea. Valentine's Day presents an especially great opportunity to do just that.