Valentine Vignettes: The Look of Love

She Deserves the World, and He’s Getting It for Her

Deondre Jackson, 19, knew exactly what restaurant to pick for Valentine’s Day dinner with Tiaria Simmons, 18, his girlfriend—off and on—for two years. They’re going to an Italian restaurant in Friendship Heights in Northwest Washington.

“She has been dropping little hints here and there that she wanted to go to Maggiano’s, and I saved up since the beginning of January for her gifts. To me she deserves the world, but until then I guess these things will do,” said Jackson who works at Footlocker.

Jackson has deepened his appreciation of the importance of Valentine’s Day to his girlfriend.

“At first I hated Valentine’s Day because I felt women made it a holiday about themselves for no reason until I met my girlfriend. Now I feel obligated to get her a gift because we are getting pretty serious, and plus I know she would be pretty angry about it.”

The purpose of Valentine’s Day always has been clear to Simmons.

“Valentine’s Day is a day where you show how much you love or care about the person you are with,” Simmons said. “I don’t care how he feels about it, but I’m happy to celebrate it.”

Her celebration will include a delivery of flowers and chocolate on Monday morning—courtesy of Jackson.

Debra Osemwegie


They’ll Celebrate Valentine’s Day When the Children Arrive

Two years into their marriage, Valentine’s Day means nothing special to Terrell and Brooke Harris. Don’t misunderstand, though. The couple says they don’t need Valentine’s Day to remind them to appreciate each other.

“Every day is special,” said 34-year-old Terrell Harris. As a couple, he and his wife show that each day is special by doing the small things: taking time to talk and share about each other’s day; taking over the other’s chores if they are tired or stressed. They also celebrate their love by complimenting each other, just saying “I love you,” and sometimes by giving a just- because gift.

“Last week, he surprised me with a netbook after I had been complaining for a week how my laptop was hurting my back when I carried it,” said Brooke Harris, 29.

The couple met at a single’s ministry Bible study at Reid Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Glendale, Md. They dated for 15 months before they were wed. 

They have never celebrated Valentine’s Day. This year will not be any different. Brooke Harris, a full-time student in a Master of Social Work program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and her husband, a part-time student at the Wesley Theological Seminary and a configuration manager in Information Technology, will treat Feb. 14 as any other Monday. They’ll be working. 

Valentine’s Day, the couple says, is not just for couples.  They might send flowers or cards to their parents, but there is no question that they will celebrate Valentine’s Day with their children — once they have children.

Aziza Bromfield


Two- Stepping Toward a Life of Love

Charles Howell was 15 years old when a girl, 13, approached him in the hall on the second floor of Armstrong High School in Richmond, Va.

“She stopped and asked me if I would take her to the dance. But I was shocked because I was not aware that she was interested in me. I couldn’t dance at the time, and I told her. So, we did what we called the two-step. And Charlene, over time, made me a good dancer. We began to enjoy it,” Howell said.

What began at the dance blossomed and grew stronger during their years as students at Howard University. He was a biology major. She majored in zoology. Howell said they stayed in touch because each knew the other’s campus schedule.

“Hug and kiss … or we would wave at each other. … We would go to dinner, we’d walk around the campus and we’d hang out with friends,” Howell said.

Charles Howell and Charlene Nelson were married and had two children. They stayed married for 53 years—until her death in 2003.

Being together “was like breathing,” said Howell, 83. “It’s always a part of you. That’s how she was. She was always a part of me, and I’m glad I was a part of her.”

The Howells did not celebrate Valentine’s Day.

“We would definitely express our love and appreciation for one another,” Howell said, “Invariably, if I was with anyone at anytime I was with Charlene. But you could pick any Valentine’s Day and I could assure you I was with her.”

— Angelique T. Gayle


Valentines’s Day Starts a Two-Day Anniversary Celebration

Valentine’s Day is the anniversary of the day Michael Dumlao proposed to Daniel Arrieta.

Valentine’s Day also would be their wedding anniversary — if the D.C. courts were not booked out Monday.

“So, we are getting married on the 15th,” said Dumlao, 30, an art director.

The men met online in December 2005.

“I was in my friend’s living room in San Francisco and ended up chatting with a cute Latin guy in D.C.,” Dumlao said. Now he and the “cute Latin guy” he met almost six years ago are preparing to tie the knot.

For some gay couples an engagement is not considered official until both men propose, so that each partner can experience the excitement of proposing.

“Him planning the perfect romantic thing and bringing it to completion, that is him,” said Arrieta, 35, a layout publications designer. Arrieta proposed to Dumlao last May in front of Meridian Hill Park as they were walking home from a party.

“I am more of the you do things when the mood strikes you and it’s going to be relaxing, it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be heartfelt,” Arrieta said.

— Anuli Akanegbu


Romance Index Rises with the Economy

Hand holding, smooching and hugging are expected to be up 7 percent over 2010 on Valentine’s Day at Clyde’s Restaurant in Gallery Place.

“Last year, a lot of people were watching their spending because of the economy. So hopefully, we will be expecting more people,” said Amy Bridges, Clyde’s corporate marketing manager. She said the restaurant is preparing for 1,500 diners on Monday, about 100 more than last year.

A strolling violinist will provide the serenade in the restaurant at 707 7th St. N.W.

“It is going to be a really romantic evening, but it’s still Clyde’s.  It will be very laid back, but romantic,” Bridges said. “Also, unlike many restaurants, we don’t increase prices just because it is a holiday.”

Ayanna Shante Alexander


It’s Ok to Buy a Guy a Gift and to Get Gifts from More Than One Guy

Jasmine Baines says spending money on a Valentine is fine as long as it is mutual and the person is worthy.

 “Valentine’s Day, to me, is about love and affection, basically pouring your heart out to someone you care about,” said Baines, 20, a junior liberal studies major at Frostburg University in Frostburg, Md.

And, just how much should you spend?

“It depends on the person or how I feel about them. Maybe a hundred or two,” Baines said. “I would give him something if I feel as though he deserves something.”

And, if you’re in a relationship or dating, should you accept gifts from other friends?

“Yes,” Baines says, “I don’t see why not. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

To Baines, thoughtfulness is important when choosing a gift, but the just the act of giving always is appreciated. “Whatever you get me, I will take it,” she said with a smile. “No socks, as long as it’s thoughtful,” she said.

— Vincent Sumner

More Boyfriends Than Husbands at a U Street Flower Shop

About 300 dozen roses had been ordered, and the four telephone lines were ready for the last-minute calls of husbands and boyfriends who waited until the last three days before Valentine’s Day to line up delivery from Lee’s Flower and Card Shop on  U Street Northwest.

More boyfriends buy flowers than husbands, said Stacie Banks, the granddaughter of William Lee who founded the shop in 1945.  Boyfriends buy flowers because they want to, and husbands buy flowers because they know they won’t get back in the house without them, Banks said with a smile.

In years past the shop’s workers have had to spend all night in the store preparing flowers. They haven’t put in those hours in recent years as the economy worsened, but last week Banks said, “the mood in the store is very high energy.”

— Nicole Stewart


The Single’s Solution for Valentine’s Day

The Valentine’s Day expectations are uniform:  candy, flowers, cards, jewelry, chocolate or a lavish gift.

But what if you find yourself without a Valentine on Cupid’s holiday?

Veronica Brown, 18, a Howard University biology major and new to the singles market, has an answer: Don’t believe you are not special, and don’t believe you are alone.

“Know you’re never lonely. You always will have your friends by your side, and that one year will be yours,” Brown said. For Valentine’s Day 2010, Brown and about six friends went out for a big dinner party at Chili’s restaurant.

Brown plans to buy her best friend of 10 years candy and chocolate-covered strawberries this year.

“I used to be into the whole, I have to have a Valentine thing,” Brown said, “but then I realized I have my friends. It is what it is.”

Kristen Tellis


A Day to Celebrate Everlasting Love

No one would call her husband, Junius Brown, a “lovey dovey” man, Lois Brown said. But there was no doubt that he loved his wife.

In 50 years of marriage, Brown reliably attended to the small gestures that kept Valentine’s Day alive for the couple. There would be a bouquet of roses and candy—always a thoughtful substitute for the chocolate she was allergic to.

Junius Brown showed his love to his wife in subtle ways throughout the year, Mrs. Brown said.  More importantly, he understood that Valentine’s Day was not about showboating and expensive gifts, Lois Brown said. For the Browns, Valentine’s Day was an occasion to celebrate everlasting love.

Junius Brown died on Valentine’s Day 2005.

Beonca Duncan