It is said that Valentine, patron saint of lovers, risked everything to sanctify forbidden love, marrying Christian couples in secrecy, Emperor and Empire be damned. Once discovered, Valentine himself was damned (and beheaded!) by Claudius II, his life a literal sacrifice for love that was not even his own, and that, Hill humans, is selfless. And love, in its purest form is just that, is it not?

While Valentine’s Day is nobody’s favorite holiday (Mine? Halloween! No guests, dishes or gifts, but plentiful in both tricks and treats.) it can serve a significant purpose. In this 24/7 google-y eyed, hypertensive, carpal-tunneled, tweety world, where interface has replaced face-to-face, love letters have been reduced to “sexts,” and pillow talk has become an end-of-the-day download that sounds something like this:

Tomorrowyouhavetopickupthekids/Whycan’tyou?/Because,Ican’t/NeithercanI/Whynot?/Havemyworkevaluation/Again?/Whatdoyoumeanagain?It’sonceayear!/Fine.Okay.Sh*t!/What?/ForgottoTivothesecondhalfofthegame/ Didyouflipthelaundry?/No.Didyouask?/Yes.Nevermind./Goodnight/Loveyou/Youtoo.

If this is the language of modern lovers, there’s something to be said for having a reminder to STOP! in the name of LOVE.

This February 14th, cast aside romantic posturing and refuse to “pay” into the notion that love has an exchange rate. (Especially when the dollar is so weak!) Instead of trudging through your day of amorous obligation and think outside the heart-shaped box,

Fret not, Romeos & Juliets, I have some saucy suggestions:

“IT” is done by birds, bees and educated fleas, but did you know animals at the National Zoo woo too? It’s true! Bring your baby boo to “Woo at the Zoo” the evening of February 11th. Learn about animal mating, dating and reproductive habits in an honest and humorous forum. (Drinks, indeed, will be served; to biped mammals of legal age.)

For more subtle cross-pollination, get thee to the Museum of Natural History. Secret yourselves amongst the pavilion’s lush vegetation as you flirt and fawn over one another, sharing petite papillion kisses until butterflies flutter in your stomachs. And on your head. Look, there’s one on shoulder! Wait, those are actual butterflies! Suddenly, a monarch pops you on the nose as if to say, “out of the way, horndogs, I have business with that stamen behind you.”

Are you and your treasure game for a lovers’ quest? Are you seekers of the naked truth? Watson Adventures’ “Naked at the National Gallery” is anything but a tease. In this “stripped down” scavenger hunt lovers answer tricky and humorous questions while being exposed to great art that’s exposing itself right back!

Wanna role play for V. Day? Go deep under cover? If you and your paramour have an itch for intrigue, the Spy Museum has a highly classified evening planned for couples who long to play “Spy vs. Spy”: She is Natasha, a sultry double-agent, you are… (Boris? No!) Codename, Lynx. You have a license to kill, but keeping protocol is romantic treason! Mission Impossible: finding a Valentine’s Day sitter. I have access to names, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.

Nothing inspires great love more than great love stories. While not all romances end happily, the pain and humor in the retelling can be healing, and SpeakeasyDC’s skilled storytellers know how to “speak it” so you feel their pain and pleasure like it were your own. You’d be a sucker to miss their 5th Annual Valentine’s Day Special, “Sucker for Love” ( Feb. 10th & 11th, Dance Place, 3225 8th St. NE). If you prefer more carnal narratives, SpeakeasyDC will be “Making Whoopie” on February 14th in their homage to sex (Town Danceboutique, 2009 8th St NW). For tickets or sordid details visit speakeasydc.com.

If you must be faithful to the traditional Valentine’s meal à deux, try adopting this unique approach: abandon the harried style of “date night” dinners that quickly veer into housekeeping business. Make your edible experience about love; no complaints or “to do” lists.

Imagine the intimacy of being in the moment. All is quiet, you are alone together at last, as it was in the beginning before you committed to running the treadmill of life as a team in training, tethered together in the risky three-legged race of marriage.

Hold hands, gaze into one another’s eyes, savor every glorious bite, crafted by the chef with the selfless love of the holiday’s namesake. Nourish your sweet one with decadent desserts, become full. (I’m talking about your stomach here, you understand, yes?) And when you must leave your candlelit island, do not rush to rejoin the “Human Race.”

As I paint this rich, velvet picture of candlelit ambience (sans Elvis or dogs embroiled in poker) you’re likely wondering where I lay this fscene, and I can share four places that light my fire: Belga, Cafe Berlin, Atlas Room and Bistro Cacao. All lovely, all delicious, all helmed by chefs whose dishes come from the heart.

And where will I be on Feb. 14th? The Husband and I will be doing the same thing we’ve done since our very first Valentine’s Day together.

The man who would become “The Husband” and I started dating in mid-January of 2000. So, by the time Cupid started shooting up the place we had only been on a handful of dates. Thus, the approach of V. Day felt like a premature litmus test of love. Tests have always made me anxious. I do not test well. Another source of anxiety was my inability to gauge my suitor’s level of affection. So I decided to temper my Valentine’s Day expectations, consider the Long Game, not the immediate gratification of 12 over-priced roses and jealous looks from my single girlfriends.

Yet, if I expected nothing after a month, was I willingly vacating my pedestal before he had demonstrated a devout commitment to worship? If I did not protect my desire to be adored, I could be setting myself up for a passionless future of couch-surfing punctuated by fist pumping and high-fives. He might gift me with Patriots jerseys or pink Red Sox hats. (Horrifying) While diamonds are not this girl’s best friend they are certainly no enemy.

I pitched an alternate approach and our tradition was born: take-out Chinese and a screening of Harold & Maude. (Yes, the movie where an old lady and young guy do it, but if that’s all you know, you haven’t seen it, so stop cringing.) The man who’d become “The Husband” jumped at this – he’s not stupid – and now he’s the envy of his friends for being permanently absolved of Valentine pressure.

This year, I’m tempted to add the “Green Fairy” to the mix and begin our evening at Wisdom with absinthe cocktails, rumored to have aphrodisiacal properties. (Hearsay will be enough to get him to believe in fairies.)

And, just so you don’t think I forgot you, I recognize that some lovers are “between romances” at the moment. And to the parties of one, I say: fall in love anyway! With your neighborhood, with your city. Let your steadfast friends feel the love. Love your folks for having you. Love on your post person, your personal trainer. Love a stranger by saying “Hi!” Love it forward and buy the person behind you in line at Peregrine a coffee!

Come on people, smile on your brother! It’s time to love one another. Take a leap and love, love, love! And then, as Maude tells the heartbroken Harold: “Go and love some more!”

This Valentine’s Day, dare to “Occupy Capitol Hill” with Love!

Live, love & propagate, Hill romantics.

Anna Cranage Conathan is a freelance writer & screenwriter, a lover, and shameless bleeding heart known to cry during commercials, movie trailers and Pixar films (sobbing through the opening of UP! and the climactic waste management scene in Toy Story 3).While confusing for The Boy, not yet able to grasp the concept of a cleansing emotional cry, The Husband is savvy and dared marry her, even after she wept endlessly through their first date, a screening of P.T. Anderson’s film, Magnolia. If you have some “Buzz” to share, email Anna at bananascabana@yahoo.com

*”Hill Buzz” column, Hill Rag, published Feb 2012

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