On a women’s forum I posted this question:

“What is the most thoughtful thing your significant other has ever done for you?”

I didn’t expect every story to be candle-lit dinners and public proclamations of love, but I still found myself surprised at how little those traditionally romantic acts were represented.

One girl described how when her elderly mother was coming to live with them, her boyfriend placed nightlights all over the house. Another cited a heartfelt letter her boyfriend had written her. One woman talked about her SO getting up earlier then his schedule required to make coffee for her.

My favorite is the the guy who made a two-story cat house out of the packaging a steam cleaner came in. I know, right? Romeo.

Even the larger gestures mentioned weren’t really the traditionally romantic kind. Driving long distances and helping out with rent. Great things to do, but not really what we as a culture think of when the word “romantic” is brought up.

That’s because rose petals and fancy dinners and boxes of chocolate are all terribly romantic, but at their core they are also deeply impersonal. Yes, they can be markers of love, but they represent love without personality, gestures that are completely interchangeable.

– – –

A friend once told me that I was “always thinking.” This is, perhaps, one of the nicest things that’s ever been said about me. I was completely touched (and pleased) that she had said that.

The interesting thing about that complement is I would never have guessed that phrase would have meant so much to me, but on that night, with that girl, in that car, I was floored. Had she said that to someone else, on some other night, it almost certainly would not have had the effect it had on me. Context is meaning.

Which I think is interesting.

Meaningful gestures carry so much weight, not because of the action alone, but because of what it represents. A sole act is just that: alone. Only through a long lens it it possible to understand the true shape of the relationship. Love, trust and friendship don’t exist without a history. Only as time passes do these acts take meaning.

– – –

I like to write letters.

It’s a nice thing, to take a hard look a relationship and understand the value I find in my friends. It’s a nice thing to try to put the culmination of the relationship into words. The letters that I write help me understand myself as much as the people they are addressed to.

To me, the most important thing about a letter is its inherent intimacy. A good letter, a really good letter, is for one person, from one person. At its core it is about love and friendship and history.

– – –

My point is, Valentine’s Day is a good because it gives us a reason to look at the other 364 days of the year.

Grand gestures are good and have a place. They don’t happen every day, though. Early morning brewing and nightlights and cardboard cat houses, that’s what love looks like.


The forum in question is called TwoXChromosomes and it’s a part of Reddit.

“You’re always thinking” is one of the best complements I’ve ever received. Another favorite is when I was referred to as “the Batman of the Internet.”

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