The Julia Stiles Guide to Valentines

The Romantic Cynic’s Guide To Getting Valentines Right

A Conversation with Julia Stiles

To a whole micro-generation of Xennials – that awkward sub-group on the cusp of Gen-X and Gen-Y (and who therefore now have issues) – Julia Stiles became an instant icon when she starred in the 1999 teen rom com and cult hit, 10 Things I Hate About You in 1999. Perhaps drawing from her New York roots, she captured the subversive, rebellious teen spirit of Kat Stratford so perfectly, whose tough-as-nails veneer she made more vulnerable with a moving reading of a poem her character wrote at the end of the film.

I hate the way you talk to me, And the way you cut your hair.

I hate the way you drive my car, I hate it when you stare.

I hate your big dumb combat boots, and the way you read my mind

I hate you so much it makes me sick, It even makes me rhyme.

I hate the way you’re always right, I hate it when you lie

I hate it when you make me laugh, Even worse when you make me cry

I hate it when you’re not around, And the fact that you didn’t call

But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you, Not even close, Not even a little bit, Not even at all

Images: 10 Things I Hate About You, Touchstone Pictures, 1999

Since then, Julia’s career has been fascinating to follow, as she gravitated towards roles that portrayed women as strong and empowered – never the victim. While shooting the gripping series Riviera in the South of France, she went for dinner at JAN one night, and instantly struck up a friendship with Jan Hendrik, and even had a cameo in the début JAN TV series.

Today, Julia is happily married and mother to two boys – a world away from the life of Kat, or perhaps not – but even though romance looks and feels quite different to her now, life doesn’t need to be devoid of it. To challenge the cheesy norms that pervade the month of love, Julia made a list of 10 things she… hate’s a strong word… she likes and dislikes? It’s complicated. Here are her 10 tips for getting Valentines right:

  • I don’t hate dinner and drinks. It’s a classic. These days, though, I can’t think of anything more romantic than you looking after the kids and letting me sleep in the next morning.
  • I love a thoughtful meal. Just don’t stare at me while I eat it, asking me what I THINK after every single bite.
  • I don’t love red roses. I don’t hate them, but are they still a thing? How about finding out what my favourite colour is, then spray-painting those suckers? All twelve of them.
  • I love going to the movies, especially when you’ve been in a relationship for a long time. Then you don’t have to talk to each other. My husband is definitely reading this… You know I’m kidding, Boo.
  • I LOVE spontaneity. Nothing will tell you if you are compatible more than traveling and having to make decisions together. Pack your bags for a trip to an unknown destination. Just go to the airport and see what flights are departing soon and pick one. (I’ve actually tried this and it’s physically impossible. The desk agents will just not let you do it). Remember the days before TSA regulations and the internet? I don’t either.
  • I hate that awkward moment when you’re both in the same car and you don’t know whether to say goodnight with a side-by-side hug or a side-by-side kiss. Don’t do it! It’s all weird, even if neither of you are. Rent bikes or go for a stroll instead.
  • I hate it that most men think, thanks to the candy and fashion industry, that what women really want is chocolate and lingerie. If I have to explain the pitfalls of this, I can’t help you.
  • I hate that gifts are the source of so much stress. Relax. It doesn’t really matter what you get. If she likes you, she’s going to like what you get or at least be forgiving. If she has a gripe, you are going to hear about it on Valentine’s Day, regardless of said gift.
  • I love this quote, although I’m not sure who said it first: “More than being loved, what a woman wants is to be seen.” Or maybe it’s to be heard? You get the idea. Ask her a question and really take in the answer. If you already do that, she is probably waiting for you to propose.
  • I LOVE a note. Write her a note expressing what you’ve noticed about her. It can be simple, just be observant (and kind, duh!). Put that note in a sealed envelope that says “do not open until 2024 (I’m being sincere here, shut up). Wouldn’t it be nice to open it together next Valentine’s Day?