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Valentine's Day Dining Tips For The Perpetually Awkward

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Valentine's Day Dining Tips For The Perpetually Awkward

PHOTO: Will Engelman

Valentine's Day. The dreaded price that we all eventually pay for seeking the companionship of another human being. It's the deal we all had to make with the devil/greeting card companies so that we wouldn't spend the winter months alone in our living rooms, eating ice cream out of a coffee mug. And there's no escaping it.

And the funny/terrible thing is - there are no actual people over the age of 11 who sincerely like Valentine's Day. It's a burden for even the most skilled of date night planners, and for those of us who get heavy hand sweats anytime we're around another person, it's a nightmare. Choosing a restaurant, navigating a "special tasting menu," figuring out a shirt to wear that will hide red wine stains, and worst of all, talking, are all part of what we'll confront on this, the darkest of nights.

So, is there a way to make it better? Other than getting rid of February altogether (it doesn't even know how many days it should have), we're stuck with it. But, we do think there are some key things that you can do to make things a little easier on you as you overspend on lamb chops and cake pops with someone you probably won't be talking to by summer. Here are our tips.

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1. How To Pick a Restaurant

Look for restaurants that will take a reservation but aren't doing a tasting menu. Most restaurants are best at cooking the menu they serve day in and day out, and often these "special" menus turn out to be highly un-special. If you're having trouble getting a reservation (which is more than likely if you are reading this in February), find a great restaurant that does walk-in only, and make a plan to put your name in and grab a drink nearby. And make sure you have at least one backup plan. The worst thing you can do is try to wing it on the fly, because you know you are not that smooth and quick thinking makes your stomach hurt.

2. How To Order Wine

We've got a whole guide for this sort of thing, but here's the long and short of it. If you're a novice wine drinker, just tell the sommelier what your price range is, whether you want to drink red or white, and if you like things on the lighter or heavier side. Don't worry about trying to pair wine with food, and definitely don't do that swirl-the-glass thing before you try the wine. You'll spill. To that end, once you do end up with wine on your shirt, calmly head for the bathroom and try to run some cold water over it. If you're a real boss, you left an identical shirt hanging from the bathroom stall when you got there, just for this exact scenario. But you aren't. Grab a Tide pen.

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3. Topics Of Discussion That Aren't Politics or The Bachelor

This is going to take some real discipline. In the event that the topic of the economy, or the current president, or even a fictional president from television arises, abort and move on to something else immediately. This also applies to The Bachelor, because emotions run high when such important and polarizing issues are discussed. Talk about how you're thinking about getting a dog, or how you're still into watching animated movies. Both will make you seem more likable/human.

4. How Much Food is Too Much Food

It's always fun to order a bunch of things and share, and doing so is a good way to keep your evening informal and casual. That said, going this route also has its pitfalls. No matter how much you like the pasta, you must not treat your spoon like a shovel and your mouth like a coal oven on a freight train. Eat slowly, and respect the other person's right to not fight for sustenance at the table. Conversely, also try not to be too dainty about things. Pretend you're a person who enjoys dining but also ate within the last 72 hours. That's the best approach.

5. Why Did You Agree To This Whole Charade Anyway?

As your night is wrapping up, it's important to ask yourself this question. Other than the fact that you had no choice, why did you do this whole thing? Were you hoping to prove to the other person that you're in it for more than just sleeping in their apartment from time to time so that you can get away from your roomates? Do you just want to make sure your longtime spouse knows you can still wine and dine them like the people do in the movies? Or did you meet this person on New Year's Eve and have to make a call because not doing anything would somehow be weirder than doing something? Either way, the answers to these questions should dictate how your evening ends, or if the evening ends at all. February 15th could be the dawn of something new, or at least the dawn farthest away from the next time you have to go through this. Good luck out there.

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