Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day Is for Suckers

When I was in college and dateless on Valentine's Day(that would be all FOUR years, thank you), I would send bitter, sarcastic emails out to friends about how "Love" was a false concept invented by the Hallmark corporation in the 50's in an effort to sell cards. Now that I'm older, I don't feel bitter about Valentine's Day when I'm alone. Last year and this year I've had a girlfriend on Valentine's Day, but two years ago I was about the only person in my circle of friends who didn't, but I didn't feel sorry for myself. I felt sorry for them. Becuase Valentine's Day, the way it is practiced in the US at least, is a perfuctory, mechanical, loveless holiday that at it's best simply reassures us that someone likes us, and at worst can cause people to become very depressed and lonely.

There are certain rituals most couples partake in on Valentine's Day. At my office, my female co-workers are sent flowers/chocloates/combinations of the two, etc. It's all the same. A tiny little card and an AWWWW! from the lady. The guys, meanwhile, are obsessing over details because it has to be JUST PERFECT, or they or their girlfriend/wife/lover/escort/whatever, will be crushed. I've witnessed brakdowns by people who couldn't get the right time reservation at a resturant. Normally, people don't freak out if Morton's of Chicago is booked at 7, but on Valentine's Day, it's a disaster that rivals the Hindenberg for sheer awfulness. The worst of people is usually on display, and the "love industry", ie the cardmakers, candy shops, jewlers, hotels that charge by the hour, etc. all make it worse. It's all "if he REALLY cares about you", or "this Valentine's day, take your special someone special", as if it's the only day of the year that you should treat your lover with any kind of class. Why is it that this one day should be so special for "love". If you really love someone, you don't need a special day to tell someone. Sending flowers because you want to surprise someone is nice. Sending them on Valentine's Day is neither nice or a surprise. It is simply expected, and when things become expected, they lose any hint of real romance.

Valentine's Day is a pretty stupid thing for kids, too. Unlike the "I Love Lisa" episode of the Simpsons, in which no one gives poor Ralph Wiggum a card, the kids are literally forced to give everyone a card, so no one feels left out. But what if little Davy doesn't like little Wendy? What if she said mean things to him on the playground, or vice versa? Is enforced false kindness going to help these kids get along? I think it breeds resentment. It may seem cute to dress Junior up like Cupid, but what do kids know about love, anyway? And shouldn't we teach them to get along and love their classmates every day, not just this one?

Valentine's Day at the High School level seemed like hell when I was there, and I doubt much has changed. Hearts, flowers, glee club songs, singing telegrams were all the rage where I went to school. It divides the school down the middle, the loved and the unloved, and it turns people like me into cynics about love in general and Valentine's Day in particular. The kids not getting the flowers or cards sit around and bitch and complain and become bitter, like me.

So by college, you're inventing conspiracy theories about love being invented for profit and stewing in your ouwn self-hatred. That's not very healthy. And when you finally DO find someone, you have no clue how to act on Valentine's Day to your new lover, and the stunts get bigger, which is probably why in college people were renting Limos like it was the damn prom to go to a semi-decent resturant dressed up in a $500 suit or dress. All for one night only. Looking back, though I was bitter at the time, I had more fun bowling and drinking beer with the rest of the singleton's my Junior year in college on Valentine's Day than on all the Valentine's Day dates I've had, ever. I was actually LUCKY not to be dating at the time because I would have freaked out and spent a fortune on on night that means nothing in the grand scheme of things and is more stressful than it should be all to prove I "love" someone. What kind of a sucker invests all that time and money stressing?

Now, the last two years I've been dating I've been with women of similar attitutdes towards the day, that being-let's have it be nice and all, but nothing insane. Which I like. I "celebrated" with a card and a nice dinner that could have happened any other night. In fact, it did. Saturday night. Not tonight. Tonight, when people are getting too dressed up to eat overpriced food and are stressing about whether the right floral arrangement made it or not, I'll be curling up on he couch with a beer watching Jack Bauer kill terrorists and a nuclear power plant melt down. Frankly, I think I've got the better plans. If I knew that my totally rejecting Valentine's Day's trappings I could shed my bitterness towards it, I might never have moped around in college. Of course, I wouldn't have learned the terrible secrets of the diamond/greeting card industry either. But that's a story for another time. I'm busy guessing the death toll from fallout on tonight's "24". I'm thinking 50,000 dead by the end of the day. Happy Valentines!


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