Valentine Advice: Professor John Stilgoe
Thirty-one years ago, John R. Stilgoe, Orchard professor in the history of landscape development, made a Valentine's gift from a nine-inch by nine-inch linoleum tile. He carved a heart in the ink-absorbing material and made a block print on quality paper stock. Stilgoe advises, "A Valentine shouldn't necessarily be store-bought. A handmade gift is good because it shows a really strong sense of devotion of time and effort." Flowers or chocolates, he warns, can be dangerous, especially if you don't know what your sweetheart likes. "That level of risk isn't a good idea in my opinion." After all, "anyone has money."
Stilgoe gives Valentine advice willingly. The first step: know the ins and outs of your amant. "You're not going to get very far if you don't know the [color of her] eyes," Stilgoe says. It is also important to know the favorite color of your Valentine. And to be a true gentleman, says Stilgoe, a man might consult a floral dictionary and send flowers with specific meaning. Of course, "in the old days, he could write poetry."
Stilgoe's advice to last-minute shoppers: "In an emergency, go to Bob Slate's. Get paper in different colors and shapes. Produce a valentine with '99 reasons why I want you to be a my sweetheart'. . . and get a giant envelope." In short, "be creative."
What does Stilgoe himself do today? On the 1st of February, he sends his wife a handmade valentine and continues the barrage through the 14th. He lists all the reasons he loves her. In the past, he has experimented with all sorts of techniques, including "poetry, logic and numeric reasoning." Why all the effort? "This is because I love her very much."