Monday, February 12, 2007

V-Day: Damned if you do .. or don't

I've got single friends scattered all over the place planning anti-Valentine's Day celebrations.

Oh, I know where the impulse comes from. The Valentine's backlash is almost as strong as the unyielding force that pushes so many people toward flowers, fancy dinners, lingerie and good chocolate on Feb. 14.

I used to embrace the "anti" concept. Because of uncanny relationship timing (looking back, I may have had more of a hand in that than I care to admit), I've spent more Valentine's Days as a single woman than as a girlfriend. So I did the "flirt madly with hotties in the club" thing. I did the "raucous night out drinking with girlfriends" thing. I did the "stay at home, drink cheap wine, eat Chinese food and watch sad movies" thing. I did the "meditate on where you are in life and open yourself up for love" thing, complete with the "cleansing" burning of the sage. And I've come to the conclusion that the anti-Valentine's Day celebrations are just as toxic as the Valentine's Day ones.

But really, what can people -- single or attached -- do? We've all been conditioned that Feb. 14 is a day of such romantic significance that even revelling in the rebellion is significant. I plan on treating Wednesday like it's a regular day, and even THAT is sending a message. You can't win for losing, in other words.

I even tried to start a mutiny in my last relationship. You can imagine how it went. We had been together only about three months, and I tried to take the pressure off by saying we didn't have to celebrate Valentine's Day. I patiently -- and, I thought, rationally -- explained my reasoning. Valentine's Day is a manufactured holiday that holds no real meaning. The day is awash in a sea of unrealistic expectations. Men get the worst deal of all, because they're supposed to produce the perfect gift -- if it's not shiny and expensive, it must be the most well-thought-out and heartfelt present ever. Plus, we were so new, I argued, how could we know each other's likes and dislikes? So let's just not get each other anything. Besides, the year has 364 other days for romantic possibilities.

My boyfriend said he agreed. He said it was a good idea that made sense. There were kisses and laughter. I breathed a deep sigh of relief, and was proud of this, our first big decision as a couple.

Then Valentine's Day rolled around, and he got me a card anyway. I got him nothing ... because that was the agreement. His feelings were hurt. "I didn't think that 'nothing' included cards," he whined. All I could do was shake my head.

So after years of Valentine's Days as a single and an attached person, I've come to this conclusion: All we can do is grit our teeth and power through it. Do whatever you've got to do to get to Feb. 15 and still be able to sleep in your own bed, talk freely with friends and loved ones, and look at yourself in the mirror with a clear conscience. If that means reservations at your beloved's favorite restaurant, do it. If that means partying with your single friends at an anti-Valentine's celebration, do it. If that means choosing a gift that didn't come from a convenience store or clearance rack, do it. If that means sitting at home, eating Ben & Jerry's and sobbing at the end of "Sleepless in Seattle," do it.

There is no judgment here. We're all going through the same thing.


Anonymous said...

This year, it's also known as just Wednesday to me. I'll go watch a friend of mine from out of town play at this bar he sometimes come to, sip a few drinks, and enjoy my night.

Heck, tonight I had a girl, who is dating someone already, ask why I wasn't getting her anything. Don't I know how to fight for a girl's affection? You women are just nuts about this damn day.

But at least it's legitimate, unlike that stupid Sweetest Day crap.

Anonymous said...

From nearly the beginning, I told my boyfriend that I don't like Valentine's Day, don't want to receive anything and didn't want to wait in line to go eat at a restaurant. But he couldn't help himself and made me a cake on that day. How could I have gotten upset for a cake and some flour on his cheek and clothes?