No matter how you celebrate Valentine's Day (or don't celebrate it, as is often the case), you'll want a copy of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary handy for that awkward moment between the presentation of the Godiva chocolates and the seeping recollection of her food allergies. It's a compact palm-sized book, so you could hold it in one hand while writing your apology letter with the other.
Levithan, the author of several young-adult novels (including Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist), has written a work of fiction which charts, in non-linear fashion, a relationship entirely through entries in a so-called Lover's Dictionary. I'll have a full review of the book in the near future, but for now, I can tell you that it's clever, charming and, yeah, occasionally corny. There are so many "definitions" I want to tell you about, but I'll limit myself to just two, chosen at random:
"I don't normally do this kind of thing," you said.
"Neither do I," I assured you.
Later it turned out we had both met people online before, and we had both slept with people on first dates before, and we had both found ourselves falling too fast before. But we comforted ourselves with what we really meant to say, which was: "I don't normally feel this good about what I'm doing."
Measure the hope of that moment, that feeling.
Everything else will be measured against it.
You were drunk, and I made the mistake of mentioning Showgirls in a near-empty subway car. The pole had no idea what it was about to endure.
Okay, one more...
"Most times, when I'm having sex, I'd rather be reading."
This was, I admit, a strange thing to say on a second date. I guess I was just giving you warning.
"Most times when I'm reading," you said, "I'd rather be having sex."
If you'd like to learn the ABC's of love,* all you have to do is answer this question to be entered in the drawing for a copy of The Lover's Dictionary:
Which of Levithan's novels is "a Valentine's Day retelling of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol"? (The answer can be found on the author's website)
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org
Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. One entry per person, please. Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section. Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until the contest closes at midnight on Feb. 10--at which time I'll draw the winning name. I'll announce the lucky reader on Feb. 11.
*Cue the Jackson 5 jukebox in your head.