When it comes to Valentine's Day, men can often be unprepared.

And we have plenty of excuses:

"My new job's a hassle, and the kids have the flu," we say, shamelessly ripping off songwriter Harry Chapin.

"Flowers die. Why spend 80 bucks for a few days of color?" Yes, we say that.

We even make ethical arguments:

"Valentine's Day is a holiday invented by greeting card manufacturers, florists and candy makers," we proclaim. "I refuse to participate in this corporate manipulation!"

Once we get that out of our system ... then we panic.

But take heart, procrastinators. You may be in the majority.

"Those of you who wait until the last minute are about 80 percent," said Dawn Baumgarten, owner of Log Cabin Florist in downtown Bakersfield.

"Valentine's Day rolls around and the lines are long. We see it every year."

Still, Log Cabin — and many other local florists — deliver; or you can come in and pick something up.

"We expect to make about 400 deliveries that day — 700 for the week," Baumgarten said. And, yes, as of Friday afternoon, there were still plenty of delivery slots.

But that window could close soon.

According to Baumgarten, a dozen red roses is still No. 1 for Valentine's Day. But there are lots of other choices. A bouquet with a half-dozen roses is popular, too. Rainbow roses for their explosion of color are gaining ground. And a bud vase with a plush bear may do the trick.

A traditional focus for Valentine's Day is chocolate. And you can find rows of it in candy shops, drug stores and big box retail outlets. You can even buy chocolates shaped like roses.

But why not change it up by indulging in other foods with added health benefits? February is also Heart Health Month, so nutritious red foods that won't pack on the pounds may be appreciated, including treats such as strawberries, cherries, raspberries and tomatoes.

Or try dropping a strawberry or a couple of raspberries in a flute of Champagne or California sparkling wine.

When asked on Facebook what women want, many local women confounded the marketers and the consumer culture. Their answers were often simple, yet brilliant. And funny.

Digital marketer and communications instructor Jamie Butow shared a Valentine wish that was zen-like in its simplicity.

"A nap," she said. "And no one asking 'What's for dinner?'"

"I don't even want dinner," she added, with a laughing emoji. "I just don't want anyone asking me about it."

Regulatory and environmental affairs consultant Christine Luther Zimmerman was just as straightforward.

"Just attention," she said. "A simple hand-held eye-contact sweet statement of affection."

It doesn't cost much, but it requires being present, really present.

"Steak and hockey tickets," said Amber Chiang.

"Fill out the class valentines with the kids the night before. Easy!" advised Rebekka Haas.

"Nothing you can buy on a street corner," Sylvia Cariker chimed in.

Lili Crommett-Marsh, who runs the nonprofit Honor Flight Kern County, said a surprise on some other day when she least expects it is magic.

"The 4 p.m. male crowd at the card store on V Day always strikes me as rather sad," she said.

"It’s like buying a Christmas present at the last second — why bother? Just do something thoughtful on some other day. Because then it really did take THOUGHT."

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