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Dating Naked, Love Potion No. 9, and Steel Magnolias ~Loving Beyond Valentine’s Day

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Another Valentine’s Day is in the books and here’s to hoping you had a memorable one, whether you are single, married, committed or somewhere in-between. These days, more than ever before, love is a term that is being redefined and broadened to fit as many circumstances as there are ways to love. But one thing remains constant­– love is most definitely a verb.

It's easy to believe it will last forever when it’s all about roses, candy and the oxytocin explosion that takes place when falling in love. But the real test is loving that special someone through the rough patches, the heartache, loss, bills, kids, illness, and all the other things that can so easily dull the shine of that romance you thought, surely, would last forever.

That is, unless you work at it…

The “test” of time

Lanny and I were out for a day trip and popped into Cracker Barrel for breakfast. There was a long wait, and two books caught my eye. Being that Valentine’s Day was right around the corner and we were hungry, I decided that we could distract ourselves by traipsing through a couple of pages each of “Do You Know? Your Husband/Wife”.

I was surprised to realize he knew me more than I would have guessed; apparently, he’s paying attention to the little things that make me, me. Then it was my turn and, sure enough, I didn’t fail those first couple of pages either.

Over breakfast, I kept thinking about the ridiculous books and, while I left those particular at the store, there’s always Amazon “at the ready.” Three days later, our 100-question tests arrived in the mail. I was surprised that Lanny agreed to answer all 100 questions without hesitation – a test in itself! He seemed very confident.

The pressure was on.

This, I decided, was a test I could not fail. I felt like a 16-year-old about to take the dreaded parallel parking test to receive my driver’s license. (In case you’re curious, I failed parallel parking twice… in a Volkswagen Bug!)

Each book had totally different questions. They were random and simple, but certainly showed how much awareness you had for the details about your spouse. Lanny knew, for instance, that out of the five given possibilities I would choose sweet tea to drink at a picnic; that I read more than five books a year, my favorite Beatle is John, I don’t like to be bothered by salesclerks when I’m shopping, AND he knows that his wife of 25 years has no idea what the capital of Argentina is.

He also said yes, if he needed one, I’d give him a kidney. That, I couldn’t stop laughing about­–– only because he didn’t even think twice about it. Does this mean I wouldn’t get a vote about potentially lopping off a body part?

He missed only 11 out of 100. Included in the misses: He falsely gave me credit for knowing who Pythagoras was, for knowing the names of my great grandparents, and he didn’t realize Ed Sheeran is my favorite singer.

My turn. I know that his dream car is a blue ’67 Chevy and he’d prefer to visit a historic site than a museum. I also know the last book he read was about Tiger Woods, “Tiger and Phil”. What I did not realize is that his first job was working as a busboy at Ellington Airforce base (not a bar-back at River Oaks Country Club—second job); that he has seen “Casablanca” several times and that he knows his zodiac sign. I never saw that one coming…

I, too, missed 11 out of 100, which proves that we passed with flying colors. While these are not questions of marriage “make it or break it” importance, they did bring up fun talking points and we collectively learned 22 bits of trivia about each other that we would not otherwise have known.

For the record, I should probably give him bonus points for willingly answering 100 questions at the request of his wife on a beautiful day when I’m sure he’d rather be doing just about anything else.

Then again, it’s a small price to pay for someone who you think would give you a kidney.

Commercialized scam or a day to remember?

Many cynics rail against recognizing Valentine’s Day. Skeptics whine that it’s a day that capitalizes on guilt and is nothing more than a clever, Hallmark marketing scheme. Their validations range from complaints about the added expense to “it’s just not necessary.” And probably the most common justification for doing nothing, “I treat her/him good every day.”

Another reason for letting the day pass is that some feel celebrating a day of love can make it difficult for others who do not have that plus-one in their lives.

Yet, there are those of us who can’t wait for February 14 to roll around!

According to a February 13, 2023 “USA Today” article, an expected 8% increase in spending was estimated for this year’s candy, flowers, and bling— a whopping $26 billion. It’s the second highest projected increase in history. The average anticipated outlay for gifts for loved ones, neighbors, friends, and co-workers this year is $193 per household.

But is going to those extremes necessary? Shawna Rust doesn't think so. Instead of dumping a ton of money on typical, ordinary gifts, her hubby, Jeff, got creative after considering what would be most important to her. After 30 years of marriage, he knows her well. And he cared enough to use what he knows about his wife to create the perfect memory, and one heck of a beautiful, future flower garden!

Perhaps there should a new hashtag trend: #belikejeff

It’s not about the money you “have to” spend. It’s truly the thought that counts. It’s easy to fall into the justification trap of, “Well, she/he knows I love ‘em. I took out the garbage/cooked a meal twice last week.” While it’s important to be “present” daily, it’s the recognition of special days that make life a bit sweeter. Those little things are memory makers that will see you through the tough times.

With all the hatred, angst, and fear in today’s world, there is no harm in dedicating one day out of 365 to celebrate love. If you’re dead set against commercialism, write a note, pick wildflowers, rent a favorite movie, declare a “no chores” day, make a promise to change a bad habit (and follow through) – the list of loving “freebies” is endless. All it takes is creativity and caring enough to invest the effort. The long-term benefits of doing so far outweigh the temporary, personal satisfaction of rationalizing why special days should go unnoticed.

Redeem yourself. Candy filled heart-shaped boxes are now on sale everywhere, 50% off! It’s not too late! But I’d recommend staying clear of those marked-down chocolate covered strawberries at this point, unless your recipients have excellent health coverage.

Celebrating quietly in Natchitoches

Photo: Dwana Nowak

This year for Valentine’s Day, we threw together an overnight bag and headed for my favorite Louisiana town of Natchitoches. We stayed at the Steel Magnolia House (circa 1841), where the movie, “Steel Magnolias,” was filmed in 1989. We were able to pick our room and I chose the Ouiser room, named for Shirley MacLaine’s cranky character.

While the house remains the same as when actors Shirley, Olympia, Sally, Julia, Daryl and Dolly graced the halls, its furnishings were auctioned after the movie. Only the curtains in the Shelby, and Jackson, rooms are original..

The grandiose home has movie memorabilia throughout and is filled with Southern charm. Guests have access to the parlors, kitchen, front porch, and the sitting room. Fresh cookies are there for the taking, along with a coffee bar and a tea bar.

(Photos: Dwana and me)

A delicious homestyle breakfast was prepared for us by Mama Rose, and was served family-style in the formal dining room, promptly at 9:00 AM. Over breakfast, we got to know Dwana and James Nowak who were celebrating Valentine’s Day and their 37th anniversary. We became fast friends, as we found we have a lot in common.

(Left: Mama Rose, James and Dwana; formal dining room; Southern comfort food – Photos taken by Dwana and me)

We never realized, however, that the movie was a true story, based on the life of local resident Susan Harling Robinson. The play that influenced the movie was written by her brother, Robert Harling, as a coping mechanism for dealing with his 33-year-old sister’s death due to complications from Type 1 Diabetes. Susan’s untimely death following a kidney transplant underscored the importance of friendship and gave a nod to the tough “women of steel” who supported each other through her death.

(Photo taken by Dwana)

“Steel Magnolias” is a movie about love. In particular, the love and respect the “steel magnolias” had for each other; lasting familial bonds; lifelong friendships that form in small towns and above all, Shelby’s dogged, loving determination to have a child, against all odds.

It was the perfect place to spend the most disputed holiday on the calendar. It put into perspective that we should appreciate what is right in front of us because it can be gone in an instant. Whether it means parting with a couple of bucks or getting creative and thoughtful without spending an arm and a leg, it most likely would be wise to put forth the extra effort to let the important people in your life know that you don’t take them for granted.

I'll decorate the house again next year and, God willing, we'll still be around to make a few more memories.

While many have claimed credit for the quote, the cliché remains true. Love is a verb, regardless of who came up with the sentiment.

Significant other, optional

Through the ages, people have gone through “hell and high water” in search of love. Today, a lonely heart can “swipe right” and find either true love or major disaster. Glimpse, Tinder,, and other dating sites offer a host of ridiculous, newfangled ways to search for the perfect mate.

Online matchmaking has become a major industry. A Newsweek article (9/22) states that an estimated, mind-boggling 44 million people are looking for love online. Subscribers worldwide spent more than $4.2 billion on internet dating subscriptions..

There’s Paper Bag Speed Dating, created by Loveflutter, where participants put paper bags over their heads on which they have written something unique about themselves. A reality show called “Dating Naked,” has couples­ meeting for the first time – guess what – completely naked. That seems unbearably awkward. (This would be ill-advised for baby boomers – get a visual. LOL), in conjunction with matchmaking service Three Day Rule, will hook you up with someone who resembles your ex! Their theory is that people are attracted to certain physical attributes and, therefore, the facial recognition dating strategy uses photos of their exes to find dates for clients who are looking for those specific characteristics, AGAIN.

And I won’t even get into Pheromone Parties…

Dining alone can’t be nearly as humiliating as going to those extremes, IMHO. Let’s not forget that being alone is not the equivalent of being lonely.

Lighthearted girl talk from Clairee (Olympia Dukakis), who is speaking to Truvy (Dolly Parton) at the wedding reception

I have a ton of single friends who are living their best lives. While some may miss having a love interest, it didn’t stop them from celebrating Valentine’s Day. They still sent cards, gave small gifts, baked goodies, attended parties, went out for dinner, and shared a lot of laughs.

Yes, there are those “steel magnolias” among us who have had life hit them right between the eyes. They mourn the loss of loved ones due to divorces, break-ups, and death. But very few have lost their belief in love. Love is not reserved solely for the romantics. It is now defined in much broader terms, like it or not.

Valentine’s Day– or any other day, for that matter – is the perfect time to remember and recognize those who touch our lives in special ways, from neighbors and teachers to friends, relatives, and co-workers –– even our beloved pets.

If you are a true introvert, then be kind to yourself. Next year, stay home, celebrate you. It makes more sense than naked dating or looking for love in someone who is a body-double of your ex!

If you’re still bent on finding love in non-traditional ways, look up Madame Ruth at her pad on 34th and Vine. I hear she has a few remaining bottles of Love Potion No. 9. You know, the one that she makes up in her sink. If you can withstand the smell of turpentine and the appearance of Indian ink, you’ll still be better off than if you attend a meet-up that requires covering your head with a paper bag that says something about as interesting as “I can now parallel park a VW bug.”

Meanwhile, back in my little corner of the world…

Whether expensive, free, purchased, or handmade, Valentine’s Day niceties are temporary, and the true test comes after the candy is eaten, the flowers have wilted, and the day has passed. Love of any kind is never easy. We’ve had our share of ups and downs through the years, like every other couple on the planet. But at the end of the day, Lanny has proven through the years that he “has my back” through thick and thin.

He's never missed a Valentine's Day and yes, he comes through on the “non-Hallmark” days, as well.

My thoughts are certainly not intended to say that couples who opt out of recognizing the day love each other less that those who go "all out" to celebrate it. I doubt that my maternal grandparents ever did a single special thing on Valentine's Day, yet I never doubted their devotion to each other. Likewise, there are partners who spend hundreds and wouldn't be terribly upset if their significant other got hit by a bus.

Like all couples, we’ll always be a work-in-progress. I listen when he has concerns about me or our relationship and change what is necessary. For instance, I knocked back on my seemingly infinite phone/social media hours once I realized he saw it from a different point of view.

In our younger years, I would tease him constantly about “not exactly being Mr. Sensitivity.” He paid attention and, because it mattered to me, he has become much more perceptive and understanding to those around him. He was willing to consider what I said, and compromised.

I’m pretty sure he’d say the same about me. Obviously, since he thinks I’d give him a kidney!

Just like Sally Field’s character, M’Lynn, did for her daughter, Shelby, the answer is yes. I would, indeed, give him a kidney.

After all, what’s one more body part? He already has my heart.

Keep on bloomin', Boomers,


Additional photos of Steel Magnolia House

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