How to Say I Love You

How to Say I Love You by Barbara Neal Varma   Legend has it St. Valentine did it from his jail cell, imprisoned there for marrying young lovers despite it being forbidden by the decree of Rome's Claudius the II around 270 A.D. Claudius believed his troops were better stocked by single-minded single men; wives are so distracting, sapping all a man's energy with Honey-thou-shalt-do lists and other medieval burdens. The story lore goes that Valentine was so besotted with his jailer's daughter he penned her a love note before his unfortunate death by execution, signing it "from your Valentine." Behold the first Hallmark moment.

   King Edward the VIII did it in full view of an anxious world, declaring his love by abdicating his English thrown during an historic Dec. 11, 1936, radio broadcast. The new king confessed he had, "found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love." (Dude. Way to raise the bar.)

   This year an average of 2.2 million love struck people in the United States will do it in front of gathered friends and family, gladly volunteering for the lifelong sentence of marital bliss. Nearly a quarter of them will choose February 14 as their wedding day.

   Throughout the romantic ages, those with love on their minds have confessed those three magic words to the objects of their desire. Let this Valentine's Day be the time for you to do it, too, with that special someone who's willing to pluck the pickle wedge from your plate and save your sandwich from the perils of runaway juice. Be inspired by these intrepid souls below who've boldly said what every man and woman have said at least once before: "I love you." Then read some ways the experts suggest spending quality time with your Valentine this year. Ready, set, go forth and love.

   Who Needs Hallmark? - Mark Foster thought why troll crowded Hallmark aisles for a V-Day card when he could make one himself? His first homemade creation debuted in 2005, presented to his longtime love and lady fair, Judy. It was a super-sized "Year with Judy" card packed with all the pictures, mementoes, and bells and whistles any girl would ever swoon for. And swoon she did, so Mark repeated the feat in 2006, an even bigger, floor-standing Valentine to parade the year's memories and continue to capture the heart of his beloved. Judy says she doesn't know where Mark finds the time but isn't complaining. "After ten and a half years, he still follows me around the house like a loving puppy." 

   With this tree… Sure, roses are wonderful, chocolate divine, but what says "I love you" like planting a tree? One Lake Forest woman recalls the grand gesture her husband made for their 7th Valentine's Day together: He sponsored a tree to be planted in a park near their home; the commemorative plaque said: "To the future" and for that extra added touch, the young sapling was positioned by a bench to someday shade young lovers during summer days made for smooching. "He was so funny, he even had me take off work so we could be at the tree-planting 'ceremony,'" the wife recalls, an event which turned out to be nothing more than the laying of the twiggy bulb into the hole dug by a city maintenance worker. "Still, we took pictures and shared the first inaugural hug and kiss next to the tree," she says. "I give him points for the symbolism of the whole thing. I've been divorced once before and I think my husband was trying to assure me he'd love me forever. That's even better than jewelry."

   Passionate pizza - When JoLynn of San Clemente wanted to tell her boyfriend how much she loved him, she went the ol' tried and true, "way to a man's heart" formula, and bought him a pizza. But not just any pizza, a heart-shaped pizza made especially for her at her neighborhood pizza parlor chain. The 25-year-old aerobics instructor said the hardest part was explaining to the restaurant what she wanted - they thought she wanted a heart on the pizza, drawn in pepperoni, perhaps, but no, she wanted the pie itself to be the heart of it all. Eventually, JoLynne's love idea convinced the manager and with heart-shaped pie in hand, she personally delivered the order to her guy's place, carrying a little bubbly to go with. She jokes, "For Valentine's Day he got to have his pizza and eat it, too!" Ah, l'amore.

   Rose petals and a picnic - One Irvine woman came home one February 14 to see her husband bustling their son into the car and promising to "be right back." Just then a flooring company worker arrived to measure rooms for the new wood floor they were installing, but the true surprise came when the wife opened the front door like Dorothy in Oz and beheld a colorful trail of roses leading into the bedroom. Following the red petal road, she found a candlelight picnic for two that her wizard of a husband had ready for that evening's romantic celebration.

   Seeing the flower trail, the flooring rep promised, "Don't worry, I'll be out of here in no time."

   "I've used that flooring company since then and the guy remembers me as 'that lucky rose petal lady,'" the woman said. "It was a very unique way to say 'I love you.'"

   Say it in Sign - Wanting to impress his Sign Language interpreter girlfriend, one creative young man learned just enough Sign to propose. "We were in my apartment and he got down on one knee - that caught my interest, but instead of saying, 'Will you marry me?' he signed it instead," recalls Maryanne of Thousand Oaks, now happily married for a lucky seven years. "He did pretty good, too," she laughs. "Although he used the sign for 'wedding' rather than 'marry,' but I got the idea."

   So did she say or sign her reply?

   "Neither," Maryanne said, "I was so excited, I just launched myself into his arms." It seems that was answer enough. 

   Your turn: Ten ways to say "I love you" this Valentine's Day

1. Spend a day off together. Devote the entire day to being with each other; doing all the things together you normally don't have time to do. (Note: this doesn't mean chores.)

2. Take a second one-day honeymoon. Even if you don't stray too far from home, you can still book a honeymoon suite at a swank hotel and treat each other to the spoils of luxury. There are plenty of beachside cottages available in February right here in Southern California. Take advantage of the off season and turn on the love.

3. Take a second week-long honeymoon. Same idea, just make it last a few days longer. How nice it will be to not have to trudge in to work the Monday after.

4. Play a game. Hey, what type of game is completely up to you and every other consenting adult, but the point is to have fun with your mate. Loving hint: let the other win. He or she will thank you for it and be willing to go another round of playtime fun.

5. Cuddle up to the movies. Take a break from the crowded theatre and rent a few DVDs for some at-home entertainment. Pop up some microwave popcorn and break open the pizza (heart shaped, for those paying attention) and you've got a good old fashioned love nest movie fest.

6. Whisk him or her away. Love is nothing if not full of surprises. Rent a snazzy car and whisk your Valentine away for a surprise trip to the beach, or a romantic dinner, even a get-away weekend in Las Vegas or beyond.

7. Beat it to a bed & breakfast. B&B's were made for quiet, romantic V-day get-aways. (That's why many of them don't have TVs.) You can book a room for one wonderful day and night with your love, and best yet: breakfast is served.

8. Make a custom music CD. Collect all of your love's favorite songs and record them onto one CD for some quality playback time. He or she will especially appreciate the custom disc cover: a picture of you two together under a loving inscription.

9. Re-live Valentine's Day in grade school. Pretend your partner is the cute girl across the aisle back in your sixth-grade class and give her a stack of kids-style Valentine cards to show how much you like her, more than Nintendo, even. Slip some of those tiny "be mine" candy hearts into her purse, her combs drawer, or on top of her i-Pod.

10. Give gifts that endure the test of time. If your lady love likes antiques, give her some heirloom antique jewelry to grace her jewelry case. She'll enjoy the thought - and the time you took to find her the treasure.

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