I really look forward to Valentine's Day. Yet, I would be horrified if hubby marked the day with roses or diamonds. This year, he knows he'll be in trouble if the day ends with any kind of chocolate other than that in the mushy pudding cake at the Ponderosa Steakhouse buffet.
By now, you must think I am crazy, and I am when it comes to this holiday. Seven years ago, on our first Valentine's Day, we decided we would always mark the occasion at a cheap restaurant. Something not dressy, not fancy, and where the average entree (nee, buffet) cost no more than $10.
So far, we've eaten at Shoney's (twice), Golden Corral,the Chinese buffet, the sushi buffet, and White Castle.
This year, we are going to Ponderosa. And not just any Ponderosa. THE Ponderosa, where I had my first job as a food bar attendant and waitress at age 16. This job was a doozie.
You haven't lived until you've watched hungry churchgoers during Sunday rush fight over the last chicken drummy. You really haven't.
At this point you are probably scratching your head and wondering why we insist on cheap Valentine's dates.
Simple. There is real joy in cheaping out on Valentine's Day. Real joy in spending $20 for dinner for two, sans flowers, on a made-up greeting card holiday that has so much pull that millions of teenagers, wives, and girlfriends are devastated if they don't get at least a dozen roses.
I say yes, mark the day. But like Christmas, remember the true meaning of Valentine's Day: To spend time with the one you love.
My theory is that all those people who yearn for flowers, for fancy dinners and diamonds aren't really after those things at all. All anyone really wants is to know the person they spend every day with, good times and bad, through honeymoons and arguments about dirty dishes and dirty diapers, still cares about them, still wants to spend time with them, and still notices them. If you choose to celebrate, it's a good excuse to spend one whole day recommitting to your honey. It's important for you to know and for your significant other to know that you would choose them all over again, if you had the chance. (If you wouldn't that might be a wake up call..)
You can have all of that at a cheap restaurant. It doesn't have to be at a cheap restaurant, of course, but that's the way we like to do it.
"It's always laid back and funny. There's never risk of unfulfilled expectations because you always know what you are going to get," hubby said of our yearly cheap date.
True. Because we laid the groundwork early in our relationship, we have never had one disappointing Valentine's Day. Okay, except one, and that was the first time we tried to go to the Ponderosa to celebrate. They were closed due to a water main break. That was the year we ate at White Castle, and we weren't the only ones on dates there either.
Instead of secret hopes being dashed, or a day of spendy trinkets, Valentine's has turned into a game for us.
We choose the location of our cheap date months in advance. Sometimes a year in advance, and since it's someplace we never go, there is anticipation and excitement surrounding it. It's a new experience for us, even if it's cheap.We talk about our date for months, giggling excitedly and anticipating what it will be like.
And when the day arrives, we are never disappointed. Maybe it's time you, too, made the cheap Valentine's Date a family tradition.