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The Valentine’s Day Journal

This year, like last year, we’ve asked a few remarkable women leading interesting lives to tell us what they think about love, romance and Valentine’s Day.

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Faced with this year’s marriage, relationship or separation, every February we find ourselves wondering how best to handle Valentine’s Day. Over the years, we’ve experienced the day many ways. We’ve been chased around the playground by a girl with cooties. We’ve been the kid who got the Valentine’s Day card from the teacher so he didn’t feel left out. We’ve gone over the top for our first love: roses, jewelry, dinner. We’ve railed against it as predatory commercialism. We’ve been indifferent to it.

And now, finally, as adults, we don’t overthink the meaning or the implications: we just try to do something sincere. In that spirit, this year, like last year, we’ve asked a few remarkable women leading interesting lives to tell us what they think about love, romance and Valentine’s Day. And then we sat back and listened.

More Stories about Love: 2014 V-Day Journal | How to Be Romantic | Best Romance Movies

Mimi Thorisson

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Mimi Thorisson is based in Médoc with her Icelandic photographer husband, Oddur, seven children and 14 dogs. She is the author of the food blog Manger, host of a cooking show on French television and recently released her first cookbook, A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse.

Job: Blogger, Author, TV presenter
Relationship Status: Happily married :)

Q. What’s your ideal Valentine’s Day look like?
A. Start with an excellent bottle of Champagne and then move on to a smashing bottle of wine. Roses are good, too. So is lingerie.

Q. Do you have any expectations from a significant other?
A. I have crushing expectations but, so far, he’s lived up to them.

Q. You’re alone on Valentine’s Day. How do you spend it?
A. I bake rose petal cakes with my kids and wonder where it all went wrong.

Q. What does romance mean to you? Is there a point when it becomes cheesy?
A. Romance is a thoughtful man with lots of appeal, good style and the right amount of grooming who tries to give me the sort of evening he thinks I would like. Try is the key word, failing is okay (up to a point), if the effort was there. Cheesy would be a more self-obsessed version of the same man, trying to put on a show rather than just having a lovely time.

A pink Chateau with 100 hectares of vines and a custom-made, Tiffany blue office for me, furnished with an Art Deco desk and a Gustav Klimt painting.

Q. Your favorite flower is?
A. Peony.

Q. How do you know when you’re in love?
A. When you can’t imagine life without him.

Q. What’s on the menu of the meal that wins your heart?
A. Something I didn’t expect — but is exactly what I wanted.

Q. What’s your favorite romantic comedy?
A. Bringing Up Baby comes to mind, Holiday (the old one), anything with Cary Grant.

Q. The Valentine’s Day gift you want in a perfect world?
A. A pink Chateau with 100 hectares of vines and a custom-made, Tiffany blue office for me, furnished with an Art Deco desk and a Gustav Klimt painting.

Q. How about the one under $100?
A. Stockings and chocolate.

Q. Paul Newman, Paul Pierce or Paul DelVecchio?
A. Paul Newman. Isn’t that obvious?

Q. How can men better understand women?
A. By having sisters, or by being smart enough, or both.

Q. Can you recall any special moments from Valentine’s Days past?
A. But of course. Some cannot be shared, but there was that night when we had an impromptu dinner at the Relais Plaza in Paris, I won the big Cartier prize, the table next to us had an 80-year-old man with a stuffed toy dog who was served a meal of his own (the toy dog was) and a date about 63 years his junior. The piano player, at my husband’s request, sang “Lei” in Italian and the maître d’hôtel burst into song. We had two bottles of Champagne and the rest is a blur.

Q. Plans for this year?
A. Judging from previous experience, Valentine’s Day is what happens when you are busy making other plans. At least in our house.

Kirstin Scholtz

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Johannesburg-born Kirstin Scholtz studied photojournalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, before a chance encounter with surf photographer Pierre Tostee redirected her career path. Since then she’s worked her way up to the very top of of the surf photography biz: she’s lead shooter with the World Surf League (formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals). She travels 10 months of the year shooting competitions from Australia ( where she lives) to Brazil, Hawaii and beyond.

Job: Photographer
Relationship Status: Married

Q. What’s your ideal Valentine’s Day look like?
A. My ideal would just be spending one-on-one time with my husband. Anything, from going for a surf together down the coast to enjoying a relaxed dinner and a few wines at a quirky hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Melbourne, would be perfect.

Q. Do you have any expectations from a significant other?
A. Handmade gifts are always the best! I remember an old boyfriend once gave me a vintage wooden box he picked up from an opp shop, which he filled with beautiful shells and tiny starfish he’d picked up on the beach. It was probably the best Valentine’s Day gift I ever received.

Q. You’re alone on Valentine’s Day. How do you spend it?
A. I’d probably just hang out with whomever else was around. It wouldn’t really feel different to any other day.

A handwritten letter or home-edited film clip of some of our adventures together.

Q. Plans for this year?
A. My husband and I just got back from our honeymoon so we haven’t even thought that far ahead. Since it falls on a Saturday this year we will hopefully be down the coast surfing somewhere.

Q. What does romance mean to you? Is there a point when it becomes cheesy?
A. Romance means doing those little things for each other that make the other person feel loved and adored, the sorts of things that only the two of you would appreciate or understand: post-it notes left in secret places for the other to find when one of us goes away, putting toothpaste on each others toothbrush and leaving it ready for them, if one of us brushes our teeth before the other, etc. I think if you are forcing romance, doing the things you see on television and spending large amounts of money for the sake of it, when it has no real meaning to either of you, that’s when it can get cheesy.

Q. Your favorite flower is?
A. Whatever is handpicked from the garden.

Q. How do you know when you’re in love?
A. When you are with the person and the rest of the world seems to disappear.

Q. What’s on the menu of the meal that wins your heart?
A. Home-cooked Italian with anything that involves chocolate for dessert.

Q. The Valentine’s Day gift you want in a perfect world?
A. A handwritten letter or home-edited film clip of some of our adventures together.

Q. Paul Newman, Paul Pierce or Paul DelVecchio?
A. Paul Newman.

Q. How can men better understand women?
A. Women just want to be loved. It’s that’s simple. Show her you love her and make her feel secure in that love and things will be a lot less complicated.

Cari Hah

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It’s an old adage that bartenders are also therapists. Los Angeles-based Cari Hah is a bartender with an open ear, and better-than-decent perspective. Her pedigree includes a degree in economics from the University of Chicago; she’s worked as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs and as a buyer for a fashion company. She tends bar at Three Clubs in Hollywood, the new City Tavern location and consults on bar menus elsewhere.

Job: Bartender and Bar Consultant
Relationship Status: Super duper single

Q. What’s your ideal Valentine’s Day look like?
A. Let’s go somewhere to get a change of scenery, drink some good drinks, eat some delicious food. Just somewhere different where I wouldn’t usually go. I would like to do something that is good clean fun. Since I spend most of my time in bars, it would be refreshing to do something totally different than a typical night out.

Q. You’re alone on Valentine’s Day. How do you spend it?
A. Probably working. I’ve been alone for the past five Valentine’s Days and I consider it my job at the bar to make other people’s date nights special. I like to make the guys look like rockstars, the ladies look like goddesses and do everything within my power as the bartender to make sure everyone goes home enamored and gets some good lovin’!

Q. What does romance mean to you? Is there a point when it becomes cheesy?
A. I’m not much on romance, maybe because I have never really experienced it, but I think being thoughtful and paying attention to what your partner actually likes and wants is important. Cheesy is doing anything cliché, thoughtless and easy. If a guy brought me a baby agave plant with a bag of Kit Kats and a Hello Kitty anything, I would think it’s romantic because he paid enough attention to what I actually like. If he brought me roses, I would think it lame and cheesy because I don’t care about roses and its just an act that everyone else does.

Since I spend most of my time in bars, it would be refreshing to do something totally different than typical night out.

Q. Your favorite flower is?
A. Flowers aren’t my fave. They just die. But I guess if I had to choose: orchids, the potted ones, not a bouquet that will die in a day.

Q. How do you know when you’re in love?
A. I don’t. I have no idea. I think people confuse lust with love most of the time. Being in lust is totally different than being in love. Love is a decision you make everyday to put someone else’s needs and desires before your own. I think that is a tough decision to make because people are inherently selfish. I think if you can make that decision without thought or hesitation, then you are in love.

Q. What’s on the menu of the meal that wins your heart?
A. A gigantic seafood tower. Oh, and mezcal. Lots of delicious mezcal.

Q. What’s your favorite romantic comedy?
A. Groundhog Day was pretty epic. I thoroughly enjoy Bill Murray.

Q. The Valentine’s Day gift you want in a perfect world?
A. “Perfect world” gift: a shiny new bar all my own, complete with all the toys (a centrifuge, rotovap, really good juicers, dishwashers, ice machines of several kinds, etc.). Or a 24/7 chauffeur to drive me everywhere and anywhere I want to go. I really hate to drive so this would be the most amazing gift ever.

Q. How about the one under $100?
A. Every flavor of Kit Kat that exists, legwarmers, knee-high socks and Hello Kitty stuffs. I’m a simple girl.

Q. Paul Newman, Paul Pierce or Paul DelVecchio?
A. Paul Newman is the only name I recognize from that list. His salad dressing is pretty good.

Q. How can men better understand women?
A. You know how people say that guys have two brains? One in his head (over his shoulders) and one in his other head? I believe that when a man meets a woman for the first time, he thinks first with that other one. It may help to better understand a woman if he could just think first with his brain. Also, listening goes a long way. If you’re really interested in understanding a woman, just listen to her. Most women I know try to communicate with their partners and be understood. They want to be understood, so just listen. It’s not rocket science.

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