The Millennial Dad’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

By Isaac Parfrey

Valentine's for Dads

Millennial dad Isaac Parfrey loves spending time with sons Hank, right, and baby Leo. But he always plans a Valentine escape with wife Kate on Feb. 14. PHOTO COURTESY ISAAC PARFREY

There is a war going on out there, a cold war between loving couples with kids and loving couples without kids. And it heats up on Feb. 14. Officially named Saint Valentine’s Day, I call it S-V Day, after the iconic V-E Day and V-J Day from World War II.

Childless couples meander carefree throughout the city, staying out ’till unholy hours. Meanwhile, the child rearing must meticulously plan and execute a romantic recognizance and be back home by 22:00 hours. Not right. This is a saintly holiday, not some young-and-in-love frolic night. And by the time parents get their babysitters sorted out, there are no more reservations left at the choice trendy restaurants and they are left dodging the buffalo chicken landmines of Marie Callender’s or BJ’s Restaurant.

If I sound a little shell-shocked (and I am, I have been around the L.A. Feb. 14 block), it is because for the father, S-V Day carries a certain stress and a desire for amorous perfection. I point to a brief domestic translation: When your wife says, “I don’t like Valentine’s Day. We don’t need to do anything,” she is actually telling you, “This is now a test of how much you really love me right now.”

My wife, Kate, likes to say that S-V Day is trivial, but every year I strive for new romantic heights, be it a comprehensive slalom through the gray February hills or a frigid beachy excursion with the cold winter sand between our toes. And, fellow husbands and dads across Southern California, you have no excuse to strive for anything less, because Los Angeles, without hyperbole, is the single greatest American city for SV Day and the battles fought in its honor.

Sitters and Restaurant Plans

Let’s continue with logistics. Before I was a father, the hardest thing I ever had to do on S-V Day was hunt for parking. (Now I know enough to use valet.) But the most difficult part of your post-parenthood S-V Day strategy is likely to be finding the babysitter, because every high-schooler and their sister is “going-out” with their BF or GF to the nearest Jamba Juice or In-N-Out Burger. You have to nail someone down early, preferably a single family member who wants to make themselves useful and/or forgets that it’s the 14th. Or you capture a grandparent.

We managed to nab the GPs aboard easily last year. They are generally game to do battle with Hank and our new little one, Leo, born Nov. 30.

A tactical plan is also key when doing battle for a spot at the S-V Day restaurant table. Most of my loathsome generation goes out on S-V Day. My millennial friends without children make plans a couple weeks in advance. They find a romantic restaurant on Sunset, Downtown or on the beach and then wine and dine to their hearts’ content. But they also might stay home, splurge on a nice piece of fish or beef from Whole Foods and cook an intimate meal with their loved one.

This doesn’t work for the millennial parent. We need to get out. For 364 days a year, we are perfectly happy in our domestic lives. But Los Angeles is not a domestic city. It is full of life, nuance and character. Fortunately, a parent can make the most of S-V Day regardless of neighborhood or overall region of town.

On the Westside

If you are on the Westside, as I find myself at the moment, then the coast is the expected spot to venture. I have tackled the prix fixes of Moonshadows in Malibu and the Trattorias of Main Street.

Duck the temptation for the gimmicky S-V Day walk on the beach and venture instead to the Hotel Erwin. Slip past the scenesters and yoga-nistas of the Barlo Kitchen and find the elevator to the rooftop bar. There you will find stunning views from the heart of Venice looking north toward the flickering star-spangled Santa Monica Mountains. Sip some wine or cocktails (or both!), then walk your buzz off through the Venice canals. Peek into windowed modern homes whose tenants, for whatever reason, have yet to hear of curtains or blinds and let the wooden bridges and starlit walkways whisk you into an S-V Day reverie.

If you want to upscale it a hair, tread up the grand stairway of the Hotel Casa Del Mar bar in Santa Monica and watch the sunset over an aperitif. Now you have my permission to walk on the beach. Take the path north below the bluffs, then take the turn toward West Channel and engage in some California Cuisine at Sam’s by the Beach. After scallops and a bottle of wine, an Uber home would be a good idea. This is the money-is-no-object version of S-V Day, and if you can pilfer from your child’s college fund without guilt, then I highly suggest this romp through the S-V Day trenches.

Points East

Kate and I venture eastside often, and we just might take the leap into enemy childless millennial territory this year. Between texts from our babysitters (parents), who don’t seem to understand that we want to blithely forget about our obligations for five hours, we’ll get a table at Blair’s Restaurant in Silver Lake. We will glance at the other couples, who in turn are looking at other couples. Leaning back in our wooden chairs and sipping martinis, for a moment, in the right light and with a little (Matthew) McConaughey squint, we’ll imagine ourselves in Old Los Angeles while we gnaw on New American food unrecognizable to any actual Angeleno in 1950.

Just three blocks south (at 2246 Silver Lake Blvd.), the north end of the Silver Lake Reservoir walking path begins, giving Kate and me a chance – between peeks at our Instagram feeds – to talk about our future and reflect on our relationship.

For a city notorious for a lack of walkers, Los Angeles will surprise you on S-V Day. Our Saint Valentine’s Day nights always involve a romantic saunter through the town. The city quiets down, and for parents, what’s better than quiet?

Remember, fellow millennial parents, that Los Angeles lends itself to keeping it simple. Restaurants are plentiful, the climate will harmonize with you, and a nice romantic jaunt is so easy you will ask yourself why you don’t do this more often. As you look out over the city lights on S-V Day, you’ll find a wealth of romance. In every direction, parents and lovers are dining, drinking and having a lovely time. And that, perhaps, is how you became a parent in the first place.

SV Day Spots to Eat and Drink 

Blair’s Restaurant: 2901 Rowena Ave., L.A.; www.blairsrestaurant.com

Hotel Casa del Mar: 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica; www.hotelcasadelmar.com

Hotel Erwin & Barlo Kitchen: 1697 Pacific Ave., Venice; www.hotelerwin.com 

Moonshadows: 20356 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; www.moonshadowsmalibu.com

Sam’s by the Beach: 108 W. Channel Rd., Santa Monica; www.samsbythebeach.com 

Isaac Parfrey is a millennial writer currently residing on the Westside with his wife and two sons.

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