Dirtbag Fashion is a column dedicated to the art of doing very little and assuming you look good anyway.
Whether you’re in a committed thing, “hooking up,” leaning in, sitting it out, or shackled to another human into eternity because of their health-insurance benefits, Valentine’s Day is no reason to drop an entire paycheck at a restaurant with a fancy name like Chez Le Chez or Trudeau Tavern. But it’s probable that your beloved would be bummed if you asked to “opt out” this time due to political distress that has made it near impossible to feel anything but numbness and malaise. I can hear him squealing now: “Grow up! I want presents! AHHHH! Foie gras on toast!!!! Love is nice!!!”
Okay. Damn. Relax.
The best — and in my opinion, only — way to enjoy Valentine’s Day is the dirtbag way: on the cheap and with no reservations (Anthony Bourdain intro music). Feeling short on ideas and thin on wallet? Here are nine easy dates that will cost you little more than free 99.
Many romance guides will say if you’re living on the cheap, a sweet date that your girlfriend will surely love is an “indoor picnic.” Why not put down a tartan blanket and some plastic Champagne flutes and buy an arrangement of nice cheeses? Sure, sounds great, but it still requires thought and preparation and a likely long wait at Whole Foods, so instead I recommend buying just bread. Bread is delicious, low-cost, and filling. Knock out a whole loaf with your beau, and in an hour, you’ll both be asleep on the floor. It’ll be like Valentine’s Day never happened.
Perhaps you are too snobby and “live in Williamsburg and love Tame Impala” to know this, but Manhattan Night Court is an extremely popular tourist attraction. Regis St. Louis, author of the Lonely Planet guide to New York, says, “This is something that feels really underground and unique.” Sounds crazy to me, if I’m being honest, but it’s free, and in this day and age, it would behoove you and your other half to understand how the judiciary system works.
Everyone and his mother and his cousin who loves Tame Impala has a membership to some sort of co-working space or social club now. Many of these places have free beer on tap or at the very least, digestible coffee. Barring that, they are a warm four walls to visit if you have any interest in flipping through a Humans of New York coffee-table book or streaming movies on spotty but free Wi-Fi. It’s also cute to introduce your boyfriend as “my co-worker.” He’ll hate it.
MEET UP LATER
A sneaky way to get around having to pay for a single thing on Valentine’s Day is to say, “Let’s meet up later?” Fall off the face of the earth for five hours, then at 1 a.m., follow up with, “You wanna come over?” It will make you absolutely irresistible.
E-BOOKS FROM THE LIBRARY
If you’re not big on gifts, or you don’t have the disposable income to blow on first-edition copies of Jonathan Franzen’s book Sex Woman, I recommend telling your loved one about the library’s e-book lending system, one of the world’s best-kept secrets. So many books and for so free! And if they respond by saying, “But I don’t have a Kindle …”, just believe me when I say that is not your problem.
STATEN ISLAND FERRY
Nothing more romantic than riding a ferry, especially in the middle of February. Bonus! Take in the view of the Statue of Liberty, a symbolic relic of a time three weeks ago when we were happy.
Spices and seasonings are the only two things in life worth caring about, and Kalustyan’s — a behemoth spice emporium in midtown — has enough of them to season your food for the rest of eternity and into the afterlife. Experts claim that cardamom, saffron, vanilla, ginger, pepper, and cloves are all aphrodisiacs, so go sniff a bunch of ’em with your sweetie. It’s almost like eating dinner but it’s free.
Everyone is, for some reason, in a constant state of losing their minds over podcasts. Me? I prefer silence. But for the romantic who can’t afford two movie tickets, podcasts can be your savior. Invite your man over, download a couple podcasts, and lie completely flat on your bed while you enrich your minds. If he tries to get handsy, threaten to put on music instead. “Anything but that!” he’ll say.
Relationships these days are basically one person and their phone sitting with another person and their phone. You don’t even have to like each other. Now that the entire subway system has cell service and Wi-Fi, pay the $2.75 cost to ride the trains around town so you can stare down at your phones, together. Aw.