The following article was written Feb 14, 2003 and sent to me by a good friend. You should read it. If you’re XX, you’ll laugh with barely concealed sympathy and if you’re XY, you might find some insight.
The burden of romance in a consumer
Today, in case you hadn’t noticed, is Valentine’s Day.
Which, depending on your particular situation, either sucks or doesn’t. The
longer I live, the more I’m convinced that no male or female actually looks
forward to this faux-holiday, Hallmark employees excluded. Of all the
sentiments I have come across regarding this day, the simplest seems to ring
truest: it is an absolute pain in the ass.
I don’t know anyone who loves
Valentine’s Day. And if you say you do, you’re lying, if only because it
would undermine my argument here. Men and women, single, married, attached,
detached – everyone dreads the implications and the pressures. It is a day
symbolized by a fat kid shooting arrows through your left ventricle. Science
tells us no good can come of this.
VD, as we called it as snickering
kids, is about as unromantic a day as it gets. To wit, if I see another
crisp glimmer of red cellophane, another dazed rosebud forced into unnatural
bloom or another fold of pink cardstock gold-stamped with saccharine
sentiments, I will puke. Which is pretty unromantic. See my point?
When I was single, I denounced
Valentine’s Day as a materialistic, manufactured, patriarchal farce to
anyone who would pretend to listen, then I’d go home and take a bath in
chocolate and watch Say Anything, sobbing at the thought that no one would
ever, ever stand below my window with a boom box like that.
I thought once I was married,
Valentine’s Day would be easy. But now it’s just too much pressure. I mean,
I’ve spent a good part of every day of the past four years trying to show
this man I love him. Now I have to come up with somethingelse.
Something sweet and meaningful and pretty damn cheap. For God’s sake,
couldn’t we get the day off, instead?
But it could be worse. I could be a
man. If Valentine’s Day is tricky for women, it’s mass confusion for men.
It’s the day when an entire gender seizes with fear, as though they were all
simultaneously driving down a highway, no idea where they’re heading but
refusing to ask for help.
You gotta feel for the poor saps.
Men always complain that they don’t know what women want and they have a
point. Especially since we don’t know what we want. We want to
somehow balance being fiercely independent and seriously wooed. We want to
be swept off our feet by a knight in shining armor, but we want to make sure
he knows first and foremost that the choice to be swept is ours and we could
do it ourselves if we wanted to, thank you very much.
We want equal rights, except when it
comes to presents, in which case, despite all historical evidence pointing
squarely to the contrary, we still hope that whatever you got us will be
far, far better than whatever we got you. Which, by the way, we have been
planning since last February.
“You know who should tell us what to
get you people for Valentine’s Day,” My husband asked me yesterday, clearly
being all kinds of rhetorical. “Billy Mays.”
“The guy from the infomercials?” I
“Yeah,” he said. “That guy knows
what women want.”
I swear to God if I get a gift
basket of OxiClean for Valentine’s Day, Billy Mays will never live to sell
I’m fortunate that my husband is,
despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary in the preceding paragraph, a
romantic. He comes through with lovely, thoughtful gestures all the time and
so I understand his resentment and feelings that Valentine’s Day is
contrived. I’m inclined to agree, but the thing men have to understand about
women is that just because we agree with you that it’s all silly and
ridiculous and over-commercialized doesn’t mean we don’t want it anyway.
We could help men out more, I
suppose. It would only benefit ourselves in the end. I witnessed pure
marketing genius today at Home Depot today, in the form of a solitary table
of tulip plants. The result: men with forty pounds of spackle in one hand
and bright red bouncy tulips in the other. Brilliant! Don’t try to get the
men to where the Valentine’s stuff is. Put the Valentine’s stuff where the
men are. You can damn bet that when February 13 rolls around next year, I’ll
be camped outside Lowe’s selling M&M’s by the handful and charging hand over
fist for some daisies.
I don’t think this “holiday” is easy
for anyone. At Target a couple of days ago, I observed the most depressing
anthropological incident since, well, whatever Christina Aguilera’s been up
to lately: a throng of zombie-like individuals worshiping at a wall of
cards, a pinkish-red shmear of frothy greetings. Like confused, manic
beasts, they picked and plucked card after miserable card, frightened and
ashamed, desperately hoping the next one would somehow say all the things
they wished/thought/wanted to/would get them laid.
I know, because I was among them,
trying to determine how a card confusing chocolate for a stool sample might
somehow sum up the gratitude and love I feel for my spouse. The young woman
next to me eyed my selections suspiciously, as though I’d somehow wound up
with her feelings in my grubby paws. She was grabbing and eliminating cards
with an alarming momentum, becoming increasingly disappointed and agitated
with each rejection. I looked into her bright shiny face and thought, “Yep.
This is love.”
Just then, an old woman grabbed my
wrist. Bent in half and leaning on her walker, she looked frightened and
confused. “Where are just the plain Valentine’s Day cards?” she asked. Um,
those would be over in aisle number 19-whatever-year-you-were-born, lady.
And I left her there, in the middle of it. I doubt she made it out alive.
The best Valentine’s gift I ever got
was my niece Olivia, born a year ago today. Talk about a gift of pure joy
and love but, face it, you’re not going to get my sister to repeat that
performance every year. She’s selfish that way. So I suppose I’ll just have
to settle for whatever my husband conjures up. We promised we wouldn’t make
a fuss over Valentine’s Day this year. No gifts, just cards. God, I hope he
didn’t think I meant it.