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As the co-writer of two date movies to open on or right before Valentine’s Day two years in a row — 2011’s Just Go With It and 2012’s This Means War — EW asked me to come up with some DOs and DON’Ts tips for dealing with this often stressful, often amazing holiday.

DO celebrate Valentine’s Day. If you are in a relationship new or old, it’s a day to celebrate love, romance and your partner, and you should celebrate both it and them.

DON’T try to get out of celebrating Valentine’s Day by claiming that this is just a manufactured holiday created by the greeting card companies in some sort of crazy Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy to take your money. Your spouse or partner may nod along as you say this, but it won’t stop them from crying quietly into their pillow at night and Googling a good divorce attorney. Only do this if you would like to not be dating this person come next Valentine’s Day.

DO actually plan in advance if you want to go out to dinner that night. I found this out the hard way a few years back. Restaurants, especially good ones, book up for this night well in advance. Unless you and your date want to end at a sub-par Subway along the interstate, sitting next to a one eyed hobo named Porkchop who smells of equal parts urine and sadness as you listen to an instrumental version of Wham’s “Careless Whisper” play over the loudspeakers while other people weep in their half eaten meat lovers footlongs — PLAN AHEAD.

DO buy flowers or candies or jewelry or lingerie or all of the above. Screw it add a balloon or two as well. Go all out, be that guy or that girl, your date will probably love it.

DON’T buy diet pills or a dust buster (my Dad did this) or self help books or all of the above for your date. Even if you add some balloons, you probably won’t get a good night kiss, let alone anything more with these gifts.

DO give Valentine’s cards to everyone in your class so that no one feels left out, even that weird kid who eats paint, and especially that weird kid who also smells like soup. Weird-paint-eating-soup-smelling-kids need love too. (For elementary school students only.)

DON’T try to date your best friend’s girl, especially if said best friend is a spy, can kill you with their bare hands, and has the resources of the CIA at their disposal. (This Means War-specific, but good life rules as well.)

DO go in for the kiss at the end of the night or even during the night. It’s Valentine’s Day, why not? Next to New Year’s at midnight, this might be your best shot ever.

DON’T drink yourself into a stupor, sobbing in a fetal position at home watching Katherine Heigl movies in your boxers stuffing your face with Spicey Ranch Doritos in a sad attempt to eat your feelings if you don’t have a date this Valentine’s Day. It may seem like it, but you are not alone. So sober up, take a shower, maybe two, head to a bar or the movies (wink wink) and prepare to get your single mingle on with the legion of other sad, I mean rad, single people out there. It’s Valentine’s Day dammit. Love is in their air, and it’s contagious like that virus that made Gwyneth Paltrow bleed from the eyes in that Steven Soderbergh movie, so go catch it. And hopefully there will be no bleeding from the eyes.


DO go see This Means War this Valentine’s Day. Action, comedy, romance, explosions, shootouts, makeouts, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon — what more could you ask for? Plus my mom would be real happy if you go see it. And what’s better than making my mom or any mom happy on Valentine’s Day?

BONUS TIP: DO fully read the synopsis about what a movie is actually about before deciding to see it on Valentine’s Day. Case in point: One of the many years I was single and had nothing to do on Valentine’s Day, the girlfriend of one of my best friends, Rich Kuegeman, was working, so he asked if I wanted to see a movie. Happy to have something to do, I readily accepted. Knowing that I see everything, he left the choice of the film up to me. I had half-read a review of a new foreign film Nico and Dani in the Los Angleles Times. I only got as far as reading that it was “a good coming of age love story set in Spain,” but it sounded good so I suggested we go see that. And so we went. What I didn’t read is that it was a good coming of age love story between two straight male best friends, and that apparently in Spain, according to this film, when you are horny and single, you just have sex with your same-sex best friend. An awkward thing to learn while sitting next to your also straight same-sex best friend, who is wondering what type of message you are trying to send to him by taking him to this movie while you are single on Valentine’s Day. We are still best friends, but he never did invite me to another movie on Valentine’s Day.

Timothy Dowling has co-written screenplays for Role Models, Just Go With It, and This Means War. You can follow him on Twitter @TimothyDowling. This Means War will screen tomorrow for a special Valentine’s Day sneak preview in roughly 2,000 theaters. The movie opens wide on Friday, Feb. 17.