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.