Valentine’s Day Q&A

Writerly advice for the Cupidly confused

Valentine’s Day Q&A

As longtime Independent readers know, every Valentine's Day week, I answer your questions about love and lust as they relate to writing. One of my favorite hobbies is giving out advice even though I'm dramatically unqualified — but I'm a dad, so it's what I do.


What's the best way to pick up someone in a bookstore? ~Alex T., Sacramento, CA

Are you a writer? Don't lead with that. Cripes, all writers do is talk about being writers. The first rule of Write Club is you must talk about Write Club. All the time. Endlessly.

That said, if you’re a writer, one good way to meet someone in a bookstore is when, after finding your books hidden in the shelves, you promptly carry them up to the front display table. One of the clerks at the store will invariably ask what you're doing. If they're cute, you have your opening. Then immediately tell them you're a writer. They must know!

How do you get rid of an ex who just won't leave you alone? ~Jenny Y., MD

There's nothing worse than an ex who doesn't get the point. Constantly calling, e-mailing, surprising you in disguise on Tinder. It sucks. Anyway, here's how various exes have gotten rid of me:

  • Tell him you're pregnant. Or you want to get pregnant. Or you've thought about pregnancy. Or you saw a pregnant woman the other day.
  • Vote Trump.
  • Is he a writer? Edit his writing.
  • Start a sentence with, "I'm not racist, but…"
  • Root for the New England Patriots.
  • You invite your ex to dinner, but then your current boyfriend shows up by surprise and asks you to get married. Leave early, stick your ex with the bill. Also make sure your ex forgot where he parked his 1993 Jeep Wrangler. That didn't happen to me.

Why don't they make lingerie for men? I want to surprise my wife on Valentine's Day. ~Allen P., Washington, DC

Have you seen our bodies? We men look like rejects from a Build-A-Bear workshop by the time we hit our mid-thirties. All misshapen and hairy. Just be happy there's not a third option for women to sleep with.

This isn't really a writing-related question, but I'll tackle it. Trust me, there are better ways to surprise your wife than for her to find you in bed wearing nothing but a sock. Are you a writer? No? Then you can afford to take her to a nice restaurant. I recommend that. Afterward, when you get home, run into the house ahead of her and do 20 quick crunches. I know it's Valentine's Day and romance will be on her mind so, to save time, strip down to a single sock before the crunches. Wait, that looks weird. Don't do crunches. Do jumping jacks instead.

What is the true definition of the three-date rule? I was taught that it means don't even think about having sex until AFTER the third date, but all the midlife-crisis men on Match say the three-date rule means if a woman doesn't put out by the third date, move on. ~Laura S., Alexandria, VA

I would refrain from any advice offered by men on dating sites. Actually, stay away from advice from men on the Internet. Except me.

I avoid rules, especially in dating. The minute you make a rule, you meet someone who'll break it. Back in college, I swore I'd never date someone who wants to write, since I already had an idea of how unbearable I was/am. And I promptly met a woman who wrote poetry. I spent a year reading her COLLEGE POETRY. It was just awful.

Anyway, after three dates, necking is permitted. Also, hand stuff.

I don't understand any of the new terms young people use to describe lovemaking. I'm frightened and confused and 51. ~Bill W., Fairfax, VA

I gotcha. It's hard to be hip, but you don't want to feel like you're missing out on something. That's why I suggest we develop our own terms and, given that this is a site about writing, use writer's names. Here's a quick list to get you started:

  • Faulking Up: When you have no idea what your partner is doing, but it feels good.
  • Feeling the Pynch: When you have no idea what your partner is doing, but everyone tells you it should feel good.
  • Menckened: Immediately after you shout "Oh God! Oh God!" your partner stops to explain that God doesn't exist.
  • Do the Camus: You feel nothing during sex. Afterward, you both sit bleakly on the edge of the bed.
  • Blairing It Out There: You didn't actually have sex, but you told everyone you did.
  • Updiking: Nope.
  • Franzening: The sex is just okay but, afterward, your partner relentlessly explains to you how truly excellent it really was.

That should be enough to get you started.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! As Pablo Neruda said…I don't know, probably some romantic shit or something.

(For those of you interested in writing or publishing, I'm moderating a panel at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore on Saturday, Feb. 20th, at 6 PM. Panelists will include authors Sujata Massey, Nik Korpon, and fellow Independent contributor Art Taylor, and literary agent Stacia Decker. There will be cupcakes! Click here for more information.)

E.A. Aymar's most recent novel is You're As Good As Dead.

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