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Eight great ways to surprise your Valentine

Dear Valentine’s Day,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no one likes you anymore. You’re a sell-out who has been doing nothing but setting us up for disappointment, year after year.

You’re pressuring us, and it almost seems as if our love isn’t good enough for you anymore. What happened to the Valentine’s Day we used to know?

In the beginning, you were all about romance: You were believed to commemorate the death of St. Valentine, who was killed for performing marriages of young lovers, an act that Emperor Claudius II had outlawed in an effort to save his best men for war.

Another tale suggests that we celebrate you in honor of St. Valentine’s efforts to help Christians escape the Roman prisons, where it is said the first “valentine” was sent. Legend has it that while imprisoned, St. Valentine fell in love with his jailor’s daughter and wrote her a letter just before he died, signed “From your Valentine.”

You used to have such sweet sentiment, but you’ve changed. You’ve alienated us with your quixotic ideals and judged us unfairly. Many of those you’ve ignored are now non-believers in your cause, and what followers you have left are often overwhelmed by your highly commercial presence.

How did it come to this? We love you, Valentine’s Day, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are eight great ways we’d rather share you with our loves.

1. Experience something. San Diego practically breeds adventure and excitement. Try something new with your significant other, like swimming with the dolphins at SeaWorld or kayaking at La Jolla Cove. For tamer couples, try a hike or bike ride in an area of town you’re not familiar with and make it a first for both of you.

2. Send a telegram. Silly and surprising, this Valentine’s Day gift keeps things simple and not too serious. Right now, San Diego Chorus is offering specials on in-person and telephone telegrams to let your sweetheart know how special they are through song.

3. Give some freebies. Handmade coupons are both heartfelt and easy on the wallet. Cater the coupons to your Valentine’s individual tastes. Watch a football game with him or a chick flick with her. You can make them sweet or silly, even funny, but the best part is that they will be unique for every couple.

4. Take some shots. Show off your creative side with this gift. Grab a friend and make like a model for your significant other. Try snapping some pictures in your favorite places around town or play with different camera filters and angles for a unique photo op. If you’re camera shy, make an album for your sweetheart using photos and mementos you’ve already gathered as a couple.

5. Let your love grow. Instead of buying the ridiculously over-priced roses at a flower shop this Valentine’s Day, why not try some seeds, soil and a colorful pot? Planted flowers will last longer and act as a reminder of your growing love for many weeks to come. If you live with your significant other, consider investing in something a little more permanent, like a tree. Fruit trees, especially, will give you something sweet to enjoy together every year.

6. Give thanks. Sending your significant other a thank you card instead of a Valentine is a way to show your appreciation for all the adventures you’ve had together and all the love and support they show you year-round. With a heartfelt message, a thank you card is an offbeat way to say “I love you.”

7. Spread the love. Give your love to someone else who needs it. Walk dogs at the shelter, make food for the homeless or donate some time to the children together. This activity, which can be done all year, will provide much-needed “couple time” with a higher sense of purpose.

8. Skip it. Why conform to all the hype? Forget the pre-fixe meals and couples massages, conversation hearts and silk boxers. Pick a day together and celebrate your love any way you want — even when it’s not Valentine’s Day.

Jennifer Reed is SDNN’s living editor. She can be reached at jennifer.reed@sdnn.com.