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Love Is Never Having to Say “Happy Valentine’s Day”

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I started hating Valentine’s Day early in my life. I suppose it was when I was in first grade and in love with these two adorable little girls who happened to be twins. Okay, that was my first mistake, but I couldn’t choose the one I liked more, so I decided to like them both.

On that Valentine’s Day I went around the block and put two cards in their mailbox (one for Anna and one for Hannah). I should have known I was destined for failure, since the following day both girls lambasted me for my duplicity and set me on the road to a broken heart. When I think about it now, it would have never worked out anyway, and even if I had married either one (as I envisioned in my foolish little way as I walked around the corner to drop off those cards) we would have always been laughed at because “Anna Lana” or “Hannah Lana” would have been just a bit too much.

Over the years I’ve come to a very Scrooge-like point of view when it comes to the matter: Valentine’s Day is a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 14 of February, and it is most definitely the man’s pocket that is ripe for picking. I apologize to all the female readers, but let’s just be honest here. The man is the one who gets caught in between Scylla (the cash hungry retailers) and Charybdis (whirlpool of a girlfriend) on this lousy midwinter’s day, and there’s not always a good deal to show for it. I mean, back in first grade, I spent a big two quarters on the construction paper and crayons for those cards, and all I got was a double slap in the face.

I have been seeing the warning signs over the last few weeks that “V-Day” was approaching. I pass the shops with the red hearts tacked all over the windows. Some of them have “Be Mine” written over them (yeah, be mine, sucker!) and others have that ubiquitous lousy word “love” scrawled across it like in the credits of I Love Lucy only in living grotesque color. As Tina Turner, one of my favorite singers, used to sing, “What’s love got to do with it?” Nothing is my answer; it is all about dollar signs.

In the newspapers I see advertisements from jewelers, restaurants, florists, department stores, candy shops, and card stores (these are the six-headed Scylla to which I referred earlier) “wishing all of our customers a Happy Valentine’s Day”. Of course they’re wishing everyone a happy day as they laugh all the way to the bank. This conspiracy to inflate the importance of this day into a marketing juggernaut is annoying and repulsive; they are using the idea of love, the very essence of the human desire for romance, to squeeze the male population dry. Many males (and I was once in their ranks) have fallen for this ploy, hoping that they could somehow meet the overblown expectations that women have for their boyfriends and husbands (largely thanks to movies and soap operas).

While some of you are starting to think I am a skinflint, and others might feel I’ve been unlucky in love, the truth is that I am looking at it more rationally. Love is not something that should be celebrated one day a year; it should be a 365 day fiesta between man and woman. Do I seriously need to buy a girl a dozen roses on the 14 of February for $99, when a day later I could give them to her for $39? Does “love” only matter on that one day? Of course not. In fact, by propagating such a dastardly plan of greed, this six-headed monster should be decapitated by all males forthwith.

Let’s say I want to make dinner reservations here in NYC for Valentine’s Day. First of all, the best romantic places are booked way in advance, but even if there was a table to be had, the “special dinner” for that night would be far more expensive than on another night. Add to the cost of the dinner the obligatory roses, box of chocolates, a piece of jewelry, a sexy negligeé (like I’m even going to get to that part), and the greeting card, and we’re talking about something close serious financial ruin (almost as bad as taking the kids to the movies or a Mets game).

The point is, that in all seriousness, I’d prefer to spend the money in better ways. What I mean by that is that a dozen roses for no reason in the middle of July are certainly a better gift than on that day when they are expected. Wouldn’t it be better to receive a diamond necklace in March or April for no apparent reason other than he loves you? What about a romantic candlelight dinner on an ordinary September evening? A box of candy on any old day in November? A card professing his undying love on a regular Monday morning?

There are plenty of “special” days on the calendar: Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc., that call for celebrating and gifts as part of the traditions, but Valentine’s Day is a creation of those who want to separate you from your cash under the pretense that it is all in the name of love, when it’s really all about the greenbacks. Yes, Christmas and Halloween and all the other days have been scarred by this retailing nightmare as well, and each person must deal with it in his or her own way.

But I think love is sacrosanct in terms of an intimate and original bond between two people. This should be celebrated on the couple’s terms and not the six-headed monster’s nefarious plans. If both parties agree to allowing themselves to fall into the Valentine’s Day black hole, then so be it; they are going in understanding what they are getting into. I just think that men should be given the option to just say “No” to V-Day, that they actually need their women to give their blessing to a day free of roses, chocolates, jewelry, and the rest.

My old wise and long gone paternal grandfather used to give me advice about women. Some of it was admittedly old-fashioned (like when dating, never touch a girl below her neck), but one thing I’ve never forgotten. He always said, “Choose the girl who will make you dinner instead of the one who wants you to take her out to eat.” I’ve thought about that a lot recently and see the wisdom in it now. How about celebrating Valentine’s Day as a day of pure and unadulterated love? What about a walk in the park? A cozy drink by the fire? A kiss under the stars? The best things in life are free indeed.

So, this Valentine’s Day I say (with apologies to Karl Marx), “Men of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your brains” (that may be when you get smashed over the head for not bringing home a gift). As I learned back in first grade, you can get hurt on Valentine’s Day in more ways than one. Anyway, I’m standing firm this year and making a card from nothing but construction paper, crayons, and love. Oh, and I’m playing it safe and wearing my bicycle helmet all day too.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://bonamassablog.us Joanie

    I applaud you, Victor! I would much prefer a simple dinner at home, cuddling on the sofa, and watching a movie or making out with my honey than some wasteful display of money and pinkness and hearts and BLECH! Tell me you love me all year long, show me you love me every single day, do something crazy for me every once in a while, but let’s just be together on Valentine’s Day and enjoy each other.

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    Amen to that! Actually, Victor (and I suspect that you already know this), the men who show their women love and affection all year long definitely get a pass on Valentine’s Day.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Thanks, Joanie and Lisa! I’m happy to see that some female readers agree with me.

  • Scott Butki

    Great piece, Victor.
    I’ve been debating writing an anti-V day screed from the POV of a single guy but reading yours and Erics… well, you two have said much of what I wanted to say.

  • http://dianahartman.blogspot.com/ diana hartman

    i’m chimin’ in my support as well…
    for women, me at least, it feels forced…while there were a few eager suitors in my youth, my husband feels like it’s something he has to do, and that takes all the fun out of it…

    to flip the circumstance, i wouldn’t want to feel like i had to give a gift to someone i romantically loved, and i can’t imagine this obligatory feeling doing much more than cheapening the effect…

    i know very few women myself that think their entire relationship boils down to what happens on valentine’s day (note: i did not say “anniversary day”)…instead it’s much more like victor said, it’s about all the days…

    my husband is the ultimate handyman and has saved us literally thousands and thousands of dollars in car and home repairs over the years…he cooks and cleans without having to be asked…he’s so soft when it comes to the kids they could roast him over an open fire, but he thinks i’m pretty and says as much…i can take on the kids as long as he takes on things that would otherwise cost a lot of money…
    and with all that money we’ve saved, i’m going to switzerland at the end of the month so who needs valentine’s day? i have a truly sweet weekend a-comin’…

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Thanks for the comments, Scott and Diana. By the way, Diana, it sounds like you have the best of both worlds. That Switzerland weekend sounds wonderful. Enjoy!

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Feh. I have never received a Valentine gift, save from my children (and those were their art projects from school). My spouse *never* gives me gifts and didn’t even buy me an engagement ring (which I regret only because I don’t have it to sell to a pawn shop). If men are the primary ones shelling out the bucks for Valentines Day, these guys are SUCKERS – and their greedy paramours and spouses should be ashamed.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Natalie, I agree with what you’re saying, but I haven’t met many females in person who feel the same. For the most part they feel it’s an “obligation” for the man to do something BIG.

    Case in point: a friend here in NYC is taking out his girl to a swank place. Tickets were $250 a piece and had to be reserved back in August. Here’s the thing: this doesn’t include the liquor or gratuities or any of the extraneous V-Day accessories.

    It would seem that “sucker” is a bit too gentle a word for those undergoing such a travesty. I’m sticking to microwave popcorn, watching Die Hard, and cracking open a six-pack.

    Who say’s I’m not romantic?

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Just remember, Mr. Lana, that women are individuals. Those who behave according to some societally-approved script are beneath contempt,but they pull that crap only because so many allow it. I repeat, feh.

    NR Davis

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Because if they want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, then surely they’re robots.

    omfg STEPFORD!!!1!1

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    You miss the point, Mr. Sussman. Naturally.

    I am speaking only of those women many here insist are the ones obligating their paramours and spouses to drain their coffers to buy them things for Feb. 14. There is nothing wrong, in and of itself, in celebrating Valentines Day (or bowing to the pressures from mainstream society, Hallmark, candy companies, florists and Victoria’s Secret). If I had the option of having a happy romantic day (which has nothing to do with being forced to buy shit for greedy people), I’d do it.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    I will not sit here and have you speak ill of my father. But that’s neither here nor there.

    I think you’re mainly talking about sorority girls from Alabama, because most of the girls I know just like to get a little something for the special day. It’s the gesture and not the gift.

    “So … get her a ham?” – Dwight, The Office

    Chelsea likes Mexican food so we spent the evening making tacos. That kind of stuff is what 90 percent of the girls want. The other 10 percent are probably cheating on their boyfriends and husbands, so they get nothing and like it.

    And sure, if there was no Valentine’s Day, people wouldn’t do all this special stuff. But if my aunt had leaves and branches, she’d be a tree.

    Oh, and making a point to not bow to the will of some company that makes heart-shaped boxes of chocolate is the equivalent of bowing to the emo counterculture.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Bullshit. Generalizations, putrid attempts at humor/ridicule and all.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Hmm. I see your bullshit, and raise you batshit, oversimplifications and Comedy Central’s Drawn Together.

  • http://www.tresbleu.blogspot.com Sister Ray

    Stay little valentine, stay!

    Each day is Valentine’s Day.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Mr. Sussman, this is no game. And not having cable, I can’t understand the television reference. Perhaps that is for the best.

    Sister Ray, that’s a lovely song.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    You’re daggum right this isn’t a game! This is a comment! Serious biz-nass!

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    In Comment 15 Sister Ray actually captures the essence of my post in a single line: Each day is Valentine’s Day. That’s really what I was trying to get to: the absurdity of calling one day “a day of love” when it should be a 365-day proposition.

    So I say love is never having to say “Happy Valentine’s Day.” If you have to say it (or feel forced to celebrate it), it’s just not love.

  • Scott Butki

    Group hug!

  • Scott Butki

    Ok, forget the hug but pass the chocolates