Like all capitalist holidays, Valentine’s Day is basically a scam. Especially going out for a romantic dinner: you get stuck with an overpriced, mediocre prix fixe menu at a tiny table wedged in beside the other happy couples and their elbows.
Plus, there’s something inherently embarrassing about going out and making a whole thing of it, like a public proclamation that you’ve bought into the chocolate hearts propaganda of rom-coms. But that’s not to say that Valentine’s Day can’t be great—after all, it’s a day when all you’re supposed to do is hang out with a person you love, do cheesy things, and eat a little more gourmet than you might on a normal weeknight. This year you can make it even better with one simple Valentine’s Day hack: Stay in.
Get your partner on board with the plan; Valentine’s is not the day for unilateral decision making. And keep in mind that staying in doesn’t give you license to put on sweatpants, settle onto the couch to watch Ozark, and cease all movement apart from occasionally leaning to one side to fart. You still have to make an effort. Making an effort is always hot, but it’s also the entire point of this holiday in particular.
That said, here are four ways to have an actually fun, and sexy, V-Day from the comfort of your own home.
Dress for the (blow) job you want
First thing’s first: Do not show up in basketball shorts. You don’t need to wear a freshly-pressed suit and dress shoes to stay in, but be clean, go through your full grooming routine, and put some product in your hair. Remind your partner what the hot version of you looks like, even if that means you need to meet up a little later so you can “get ready” to stay in. This is a flirt, and Valentine’s Day is all about the flirt. The only way to overcome the crippling cheesiness of this holiday is to lean into the playfulness of it. So dress a little nicer than you normally do. Put on some cologne. Go nuts and wear your sexiest, hole-free underwear.
Use your hands
No, I’m not talking about giving your partner a massage (but if you want to do that, Valentine’s Day is a good a night as any), I’m talking about using your hands to make dinner. Yes, ordering in is tempting, but save that for a rainy Sunday night when you’re depressed about the state of the union, and you want to fill the void with fourteen types of dumplings. This Valentine’s Day, you’re going to cook. My strong recommendation is to find an easy recipe now, and knock out the shopping ahead of time. I personally recommend Chrissy Teigen’s very doable, deceptively fancy recipe for sweet potato gnocchi in brown butter and sage sauce. The recipe requires teamwork, kneading, and lots of flour everywhere, which is going to make your date swoon, I promise. There’s something inherently sexy about cooking with your partner—maybe it’s sharing a common goal, maybe we’ve internalized too many Nancy Meyer’s rom-coms, maybe it’s how good men look with their sleeves rolled up. Who knows? In any case, cook your food.
Instead of watching TV, a movie, or anything else that gets beamed directly into your eyes, break out a board or card game instead. Watching TV is the ultimate passive activity, and while it’s relaxing, it’s not exactly bringing you guys closer together. You can watch Rupaul’s Drag Race tomorrow night. Valentine’s Day is about doing something with your partner. I used to find board games incredibly dull until I realized 1) I was playing with people who were way too competitive. 2) I wasn’t drinking. And 3) I wasn’t playing sexy board games. Any board game can be sexed up by adding a get-naked component, but if that’s not your speed, just getting competitive will be enough. If you have a tendency to take Candy Land a little too seriously, try a cooperative board game like Pandemic. Is this all a bit dorky? Yes, obviously. Lean in to that. At least you’re not just mindlessly letting another episode of Marvelous Ms. Maisel play.
Get down to business
Again, this is a holiday all about breaking out of the routine, so the same goes for sexy time. Try something a little different than your usual go-to. But don’t force it. If you’re not already versed in bondage, it’s probably not the night to start experimenting. Instead take a bath together. Make a playlist of the worst songs to have sex to and giggle your way through some heavy petting. Make out like teenagers.
Whatever! My only and best suggestion is to have sex (or whatever horny humping you’re into) before dinner. Dinner makes you sluggish, and it’s very easy to run out of steam to get freaky by 11 pm on a Thursday night. We’ve all been exhausted since about 2015. So, when you get home, open a bottle of wine, share a glass, get it on, and then go cook dinner. Maybe there’s a round two after, or maybe you fall asleep on the couch after two bowls of pasta, but at least you brought the romance at some point.
The best part of not leaving the house? You two don’t have to interact with anyone else all night—no fighting for a parking spot, no worrying about bugging your over-it-already waiter, no listening to the couple next to you argue for 45 minutes. You get to be 100 per cent dialed-in to your boo. And that’s pretty romantic.