It's not all moonlight, magnolias, and Valentine's candy—is it, ladies?

Woman Winking
It's not all moonlight, magnolias, and Valentine's candy—is it, ladies?
| Credit: Lambert/Getty


Remember when we all first started dating? Our idea of romance came mostly from soap operas and the movies. (Luke and Laura! Bo and Hope! Redford and Streisand!) Mama still says Robert Redford is "the best-looking thing that's ever been!"

After my husband and I married, I thought we would spend our first holiday season together the way couples do on General Hospital and Days of Our Lives. We would leisurely decorate our Christmas tree while listening to holiday music and sipping hot chocolate. We would wear matching sweaters, welcome carolers, hang garlands and wreaths, and smooch under the mistletoe. I had overlooked two teensy little details: the SEC and the NFL. If Redford's "Hubbell" had been a football fan, Streisand's "Katie" wouldn't have been able to hold his attention long enough to serve him that pie in The Way We Were.

Of course, I took my case to Mama. Why can't real men be romantic like leading men in the movies?

"They can be," she said. "But they aren't born that way. You have to teach them. For example, when he asks you what you want for Valentine's Day, don't send him out there with no direction. Give him a kiss and some coupons, and direct him to whoever's running point for you at the jewelry counter so she can help him decide to buy those earrings you already picked out."

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Now I was intrigued and wanted to know more. With Valentine's Day approaching, what, I wondered, does Mama consider romantic behavior after all these years of marriage? She says it's not about the occasional grand display of romance, but the daily little reminders of why she married her fella in the first place. Here are Mama's favorite romantic gestures—let us know what you would add to her list:

1. Being considerate. It's not as if we can't hold our own umbrellas, but it's awfully nice when Hubby does it. Small considerations mean a lot when you've been together forever.

2. Holding hands. It was a heart-thumper in high school and it still is.

3. Loading the dishwasher or vacuuming. There is nothing more attractive than a man doing housework.

4. Making a Nyquil run and picking up our favorite takeout when we've got a cold. Hunter-gatherer skills will always be manly and romantic.

5. Buying us any of The Big Three: flowers, perfume, or jewelry. Getting surprise flowers—whether they came from the florist or Winn Dixie—is always romantic. Bonus points for "no special occasion" bouquets. (Perfume, though, should come from the department store—preferably a gift set for layering the fragrance—and jewelry will always play better in a little velvet box—black or royal blue.)

6. Cooking supper on the grill for us. It speaks to that man-fire thing.

7. Watching Say Yes to the Dress with us—without complaining—when there's a sporting event on ESPN. Now that's downright Redford-worthy.