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Image: Love Castle
White Castle Management Co
On Feb. 14, participating White Castle restaurants are decked out with tablecloths, flowers, candles and balloons, so you and your sweetie can slurp soda and munch “slyder” burgers in fluorescent-lit style.
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updated 2/11/2009 1:37:50 PM ET 2009-02-11T18:37:50

For scores of Jet Blue passengers, February 14, 2007, was a Valentine’s Day from the depths of hell.

At  ice-shellacked New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport, planes still departed the gate, but as the hours sludged past, the airplanes remained on the frosty runway while the passengers became confused and irate.

Finally, up to 11 hours later, they aborted takeoff and returned to the terminal.

“Nothing says ‘I love you’ like being held hostage on a frozen plane with the man you love, 99 strangers, four other people you happen to know, four screaming babies and three rambunctious kids running about,” writes Genevieve McCaw on her blog, JetBlue Hostage.

Few holidays are weighted with more symbolism and expectations than Valentine’s Day. “Next to your wedding day, Valentine’s Day is the most high-pressure holiday for couples,” says Judy McGuire, Dategirl columnist and author of How Not to Date.

To pass the romantic litmus test, follow the template: Buy a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and marked-up dinner at a restaurant. Celebrating your love is simple, but an unromantic Valentine’s Day requires a serious lack of self-awareness.

“The biggest mistake men make on Valentine’s Day is not to think about the person they’re planning the holiday for,” McGuire says. “For example, if your girlfriend is a vegetarian, skip the steakhouse reservation. Believe it or not, lots of restaurants feature both veg-heavy dishes and giant, bloody, slabs of meat.”

In that case, it’s best to steer clear of White Castle. The regional fast food chain, which specializes in paper-thin “slyder” hamburgers, is accepting V-Day reservations at franchises across the country. Lovey-dovey couples can dine at booths topped with tablecloths, flowers and perhaps paper menus. Despite the classier decorations, the menu of greasy belly bombs like onion rings remains unchanged.

A weirder, but no more appropriate meal is found at New York City’s seasonally influenced restaurant Irving Mill. The eatery is taking the holiday’s heart-centric theme literally. Chefs are serving a seven-course tasting menu revolving around the blood-pumping muscle, including offal oddities such as sweetbreads-stuffed calves hearts and duck-heart confit.

While eating animal innards is decidedly unromantic, even less acceptable is gifting a stuffed critter. “Stuffed animals are only appropriate if you’re dating an eight-year-old,” McGuire proclaims. In that case, please refrain from patronizing Big Plush. The novelty manufacturer specializes in gargantuan animals such as six-foot-tall pink panda bears and 40-inch cats sporting shirts reading: YOU’RE PUUURFECT. Cute, but definitely not suave.

Resorts vacations are perfect Valentine’s adventures, but not all escapes are equally romantic. The Dominican Republic may seem ideal (sun and surf!), but not the Exotic Retreat Resort. Guests are paired with lovely, libidinous “escorts,” making for a swinging vacation. Also inappropriate is hitting Hilton Head Health. Sure, you both might’ve packed on extra pounds, but a gussied-up weight-loss camp inflames the passions almost as well as a trip to the ghoulishly named Arkansas bed and breakfast, Arsenic and Old Lace.

To avoid these Valentine’s Day snafus, McGuire suggests men look in the mirror and ask: What wouldn’t I do? “You will get bonus points if it’s something you would never dream of going to on your own — like the ballet,” McGuire says. “If you can sit through it without grimacing, sighing or complaining, she will love you that much more.”

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