Valentine’s etiquette on CTV

It was great to be back at CTV. This time, we discussed “Dating in the Digital Age”. Clip below, or here.


Last Minute-ish ideas for Valentines Day

If you haven’t been hit over the head with onslaught of bad chocolate and tacky lingerie, count yourself lucky. Then come out from under the rock you’ve been living under, and concede that Valentine’s Day is here.

And if you hate on it, you can rest assured that you’re in good company, lots of people think Valentine’s Day is overblown and lame. But your honey might not give a hoot about how commercial or stupid you think February 14 is — they might still be hoping you do something, anything, to mark the occasion. You need not feel like a sell-out or go broke in the process.

Best bets for late (ish) Valentine’s Day gifts

Really, really good quality chocolate

  • Pro tip: if you can buy it alongside dish detergent and cat litter, you’re not buying good enough chocolate.

Something fun to do together

  • How do you want to spend an evening together? Getting rubbed down for a couples’ massage? Seeing a great band or comedian together? Taking a wine tasting class? No need to take one for the team, find something that you’re into, too.

A gift that gives all year long

  • Get pregnant! Kidding. Magazine subscriptions or loading up your lover’s e-reader with really great content will have them swooning all year long.

Get outta here

  • Go out of town and make out in a new, undiscovered territory. You need not go far to feel miles and miles away.




Valentine’s Day on The Morning Show

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A great start to my morning as a guest on The Morning Show — thanks for having me, Global!


Shopping for Valentine’s Day with Yahoo! screen

I had a blast shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts with Matte Babel. Here’s a video put together for Yahoo! screen.

Common mistakes men make on Valentine’s Day

Birthdays are bad and Christmas is a challenge. But there’s no other holiday that strikes more fear into the hearts of men than Valentine’s Day.

Matte Babel speaks to etiquette advisor Karen Cleveland about the most common mistakes men make on Valentine’s Day and what to do to avoid them. They wander through MoRoCo, a luxury chocolate shop in Toronto, as Cleveland dishes the goods.

Mistake #1: You don’t plan ahead
Retailers start hauling out the pink and red decoration and Valentine’s Day goodies in early January so there’s no excuse for letting the holiday creep up on you. Karen points out that waiting until the last-minute to put together romantic or unique plans for your lady never works. “All the good cards are gone, all the good tables at restaurants are booked,” she says. “You’re setting yourself up for failure.”

Mistake #2: You refuse to celebrate
Karen outlines a common holiday cop-out, “Men lament that it’s a commercial ploy and they want nothing to do with it.” But that’s no excuse because whatever your feelings about the holiday, your partner will still have expectations for February 14th. “Women don’t care…You still have to dazzle us.”

Mistake #3: You cheese outOn the other side of the spectrum, there are men who embrace Valentine’s Day in the worst way. Most holidays have potential for hokiness so stay away from clichéd gifts. Karen explains that over-sized stuffed animals or heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are too cheesy. “It feels a little contrived. There’s really nothing authentic about it.” Ideally, you should be looking for gifts that show your feelings for her and not the same old stand-bys.

What you should get her

So what makes for an acceptable token of affection? Karen says a great gift is “something deeply personal that shows how well you know her and how much you adore her.” That might mean getting her concert tickets to her favourite band, or a rare edition of her favourite book.

For adventure-loving ladies, Karen suggests surprising a long-term partner with plane tickets for a weekend away. If it’s still early days, loading her e-reader with travel guides might feel less premature. Or for women who love luxury, an appointment at a spa makes for a thoughtful, indulgent treat.

But for men still flummoxed on how to make the occasion special, Babel asks whether chocolates and flowers can still work as gifts.

Karen recommends stepping up beyond the standard set of drugstore chocolates by seeking out a specialty shop with lots of variety. Dark chocolate ganaches are perfect for traditional women while a bolder gal might prefer a black chai tea truffle.

And no one can go wrong with roses. They’re quite simply, a classic. The best bouquets have a clean style – chic and more minimalist than the plastic-sheathed, babies’ breath-laden clusters easily found in gas stations.

But since some of the best gifts show their specificity, this could mean treating her to nicely wrapped package of licorice if she prefers them to chocolate or showering her with tulips if she prefers them to roses.

It’s all about keeping things personal – to show that you really know her and care.

Good date, bad kisser. How to bow out.

For some time, I have been wallowing in the awkwardness of a moment. It took a little while to wrap my head around what happened, and reflect on the situation.

I kissed the world’s worst kisser.

It happened the old-fashioned romantic way (leaving a bar) and the anticipation was fantastic, the stuff of teenage goose bumps. The minutes leading up it I was smitten, had mentally decorated our hypothetical beach house and was excited for this kiss. Careful what you wish for, they say.

By all possible measures, it was the worst kiss. Technically, the approach and the execution were abysmal but the real injustice was that this awful kiss was on the heels of a really, really good date. So how does one dance around the question of, “When can I see you again?” when the answer isn’t one the asker wants to hear? Where does honesty merge with decorum?

What I wanted to say was, “I’d love to see you again, but you are the world’s worst kisser, so I’m sorry, I think we should part ways.” And ideally, shouted over my shoulder as I sprint in the other direction. But what I say, once I regained rightful control of my mouth, was, “Thanks for a great night” and bought myself some time to think. In the spirit of if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, I wanted until there was a solid invitation to address it. And I wanted to communicate a polite decline in such a way that no one had to feel burned by it. I stand by my theory that there is a lid for every pot: one day he will kiss someone who kisses in the exact same way and they’ll both feel the earth move beneath them.

A 1950s etiquette book reminds us that it is always a woman’s prerogative to refuse an invitation, and it is never necessary to make detailed explanations as to why she cannot accept an invitation. The modern footnote to this is the soft decline. My parting words were along the lines of he is fun to be around (true), I had a great night (also true) but I’m just not feeling like this will move on to anything, that perhaps we’re not compatible (obviously true).

So I kissed and told, but modestly spared the gory details.

Pity, it was such a good date.

(First published on The Huffington Post Canada, July 2012)