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Tips for spending Valentine's Day single

Today is Valentine's Day, as if you needed any reminding.

With a constant barrage of advertising as well as stores stocked with chocolates, cards and stuffed animals all decorated in the holiday's signature pink and red colors, Valentine's Day certainly announced its arrival well before today.

And tonight, couples and lovers will likely fill restaurants around town, enjoying each other's company over a romantic dinner.

Single people sans Valentine's dates, meanwhile, will be left out in the cold, excluded from the hot passion of this, the true lovers' holiday.

Clay Routledge, an assistant professor of psychology at North Dakota State University, says from a sociological and psychological perspective, it's no wonder singles feel a certain sense of stigma today.

There are two main reasons for this, he says: First, romantic relationships are viewed as an essential part of adult life. On Valentine's Day, that's emphasized more than ever, making singles feel singled out.

"It's a cue," Routledge says. "Here's an important facet of adult life, and you're missing it."

And then there's the whole cultural side of the holiday.

"We're cultural animals," says Routledge. "It's important for us to live up to cultural expectations. And Valentine's Day is just one of those expectations."

Today's mass media world, where we're plugged into Twitter, Facebook and our phones seemingly every minute of every day, makes it much harder to forget about the holiday, Routledge says.

"The more interconnected we are, the more we have access to media, television and the Internet, the more we're bombarded with commercials, and the more we're getting messages that this is what we're supposed to do," he says.

For those singles who might dread today, Routledge says one solution is pretty simple: Just put things into context.

"People should really appreciate that this is a fairly manufactured holiday to sell flowers and book reservations at restaurants," he says.

But, that's easier said than done.

So, for the singles who want to make an escape from the reminders of the holiday, we've put together a list of options to help you make it an easier segue to Feb. 15:

• Stay away from Redbox: As you probably noticed, Redbox recently named Fargo to its most romantic cities list, based on the number of romantic comedies rented from its machines.

If that's true, it's highly likely many couples will be making a beeline to Redboxes throughout the area tonight. If you're single and want to watch a movie, do it on Netflix.

• Wal-Mart, various locations around the metro area: While everyone else is out on their date, take advantage of Wal-Mart's low prices, and - potentially - discounted Valentine's Day candy. What's not to like about that?

• The Northern Gentleman's Club, 325 10th St. N., Fargo: This one's pretty straightforward, most couples don't find strip clubs romantic. Not much explanation required here.

• Fargo Board of Education meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., board room, district office, 415 4th St. N., Fargo: Nothing against the people who make this city run, but what's less sexy than civic government? See your community in action by attending this meeting around dinner time, when everyone else is out eating chocolates and sipping champagne.

And who knows, maybe you'll learn a thing or two about public education that you can use to impress your next date.

• Hooters, 3431 Fiechtner Dr. S., Fargo: Like the Northern, Hooters is somewhat geared toward men. And though you might not expect to find any lovers here tonight, Hooters is actually offering a special "wings for two" deal today, where diners get 20 boneless wings for $9.99.

Here's the thing, though: If couples actually go on a date to Hooters tonight, either the girl is one amazing girlfriend, or the guy is one suspect boyfriend. Singles, take advantage of the wings deal.

• The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, playing at Century 10 Cinema: Of all the movies playing in the Fargo-Moorhead area tonight, this is probably the least "feel good" of the bunch. By all accounts it's a well-reviewed movie, but it has some very difficult rape scenes to watch, hardly befitting a Valentine's Day date night.

Barring the presence of any literary couples who have a strong common love of the book, this is probably a safe bet for avoiding lovers.

• Volunteer somewhere: If it's important for you to feel connected on Valentine's Day, Routledge says you should think about what you can do to be around people, like volunteering at a senior home or with your favorite charity.

"The day doesn't have to be about romantic love. It can be about other cultural relationships we have," Routledge says.

• Your home: If all else fails, just shut the blinds, unplug your Internet and do something fun to take your mind off your lack of a date. Feb. 15 will be here before you know it.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535