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Valentine's Day is a special time for all couples, whether you're just dating or have been involved for some time. But according to a Love@AOL poll, Phoenix is the worst city for dating (see story Page 1).

We know what you're thinking. "Phoenix? Isn't that some big city to the left of us where the Diamondbacks play? What does that have to do with us?"

Like it or not we're inextricably tied to our big brother to the west, and its poor reputation as a virtual quagmire of dating ineptitude is a reflection on us as well. So in the spirit of Valentine's Day, let's take it upon ourselves to improve those numbers a little.

Here's some friendly advice for helping to sustain that record, two-week love affair you're having and maybe keep things running smoothly and in the right direction.

Granted, this is coming from mole people who reside in the dungeons of the Mathews Center most waking hours of the day. But believe it or not, we have years of collective experience in the matters of what constitutes effective and (on the other side) potentially harmful paths to take for Valentine's Day.

First of all, though Valentine's Day may seem like a sell-out holiday where commercialization has all but taken over a romantic concept of spending time with your love ... OK, so it is a sell out, but you don't have to go that route.

Instead of opting for the lame teddy bear trapped inside the balloon or that box of chocolates the Circle K guy had to dust off and try and resell from last year, think about the value of quality time.

Dinner and a movie is a better idea. There's nothing concrete of course -- except maybe some leftovers -- but taking the time to show the one you love (or even like) that he or she is worth the time and attention of a date not ending in you doing a keg stand or playing "Halo 2" at a friend's house until 4 a.m. will definitely land you on the good list.

Despite the suggestion to avoid the bear and chocolate, flowers may not be a bad idea. Sure, they serve no other purpose and the opportunistic florist will likely break the bank and charge you slightly more than a month's rent for a dozen roses, it's far better than making the trek to the aforementioned Circle K and picking up 12 single roses for a buck each and trying to make their wilted, spotty buds look like something desirable.

Also, it might help to improve our community's rating a little if you get off your butt and actually ask that hottie in your bio-chem class if he wants to join you for coffee and a scone or letting that cutie from honors English know that those "tutoring" sessions are nothing but a ploy to hit on her.

And if you don't take our advice, at least you can buy some Peeps or those chalky hearts that say 'hug' or 'be mine.' The Circle K guy might appreciate the business.

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