You suddenly chose to stream Love Actually on Netflix instead of Spy Game. You found yourself in a flower shop asking what it costs to deliver the most elaborate arrangement. You started using heart Emojis and haven’t looked back. This sort of behavior implies one of two things: either you’re doing the background work required to pull an elaborate prank on your friend pretending he has a secret admirer, or you’re in love. If the former, start with the largest fruit bouquet from Edible Arrangements and then move on to dipped strawberries (we’ve done this). If the latter, that’s great news. Now you’ll just need to figure out the right combination of sweetness and mischief to make that flame burn brighter. This beginner’s guide to being romantic should get you started.
Put down the bow and arrow, dummy
Guide to Life: Be Romantic
1A General Warning. “Romantic” and “creepy” live shockingly close on the continuum of behaviors. Sometimes the exact same gesture could be interpreted as romantic and as creepy, depending on your relationship with the other party. Unfortunately, there’s no guide for this except your own personal compass. A few general tips, however, prevail: (1) never tap on windows behind a house at night (unless you really need to get in); (2) if she’s never given you her address or invited you over, don’t show up unannounced with gifts; and (3) don’t introduce bunnies or other marginal pets into the relationship.
2Cook dinner. Cooking dinner is romantic; it’s taking care of somebody, and there’s romance in taking care of people. But there’s a big difference between putting food on a plate and cooking a meal that makes someone want to disrobe. Put the extra effort in: multiple courses, a good bottle of wine, red meat, dessert — and clean up the dishes, too. Stop just short of Iron Chef territory: once you introduce rotary evaporators and liquid nitrogen, romance gets crowded out. Sous-vide machines are acceptable. For reference, this is also taking it too far.
3Listen. Men have a tendency to think that the more elaborate the gesture the more romantic it is. Filling an apartment with flowers is awesome, but keep in mind that in a few days it’ll be an apartment full of dead flowers. Instead of elaborate gestures — or, let us say, in addition to elaborate gestures — listen more, without saying anything. No analysis, commentary or jokes. Just listening.
4Plan a trip. The unannounced trip to Budapest is a gamble. Maybe it’s too soon in the relationship. Maybe she’ll have another obligation. Maybe Hungarian folk dancing freaks her out a little. The risk will prove worth the reward, though, when you’re touching each other inappropriately in the Gellért Baths. Then again, you could also try one of these spots instead.
5Watch and learn. Watch something from our 50 Best Romance Movies list. Much as we generally prefer action movies and thrillers, it stands to reason that watching mostly spy films will make you a more paranoid person, while watching more romantic films will make you more romantic. Take inspiration from some of the more dashing leads like Gable, Grant (Cary, not Hugh) and Pitt before embracing the nuanced romance of Woody Allen and John Cusack. As a rule, anything French will make you more romantic, even if it’s about duplicity and murder.
6Love letters. It helps to be a bit of a wordsmith here, but the most important thing is honesty. A simple, straight-forward note expressing your affection is the heroin of romantic gestures. Leave it on her vanity or send it by mail to increase the drama.