Girl Talk: My Chain Restaurant V-Day Tradition

Valentine’s Day is for lovers, or at least people who love love. But what happens when you’re neither in a relationship, or a state of mind to handle all the hearts, stars or flowers? I say, go ridiculous. For the past several years, my best girlfriends and I have gone out of our way to make the best of the worst holiday of the year, by making it as stupefyingly non-romantic as possible. We go to chain restaurants. First off: Even when I had a boyfriend, I fundamentally disagreed with the tenor of Valentine’s Day. Shouldn’t you treat your significant other like they’re special ALL THE TIME? V-Day seemed a lot to me like the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur–one of Judaism’s holiest holidays and the one day of the year you’re supposed to atone for all of your past sins. Even if you killed a hobo, robbed a bank or developed a nasty drug problem (incidentally, all things guys I’ve dated have actually done), Yom Kippur allows you to start fresh in the new year. Similarly, Valentine’s Day aims to magically wipe the romantical slate clean and give you or your partner a pass if you’ve screwed up. Plus, it just sets up this weird Us vs. Them dichotomy, with people hurriedly trying to define and delineate their dating and relationship lives in time to couple up for the big day.

So my friends and I decided, If you can’t beat them, and you won’t join them, well, just don’t play the Valentine’s Day game. Two years ago, my girlfriends and I did possibly one of the most unromantic things you could do for Valentine’s Day: We went to a Red Lobster and then saw comedian Tracy Morgan do stand up. You haven’t truly obliterated the meaning of Valentine’s Day until you’ve heard Tracy Morgan painstakingly elucidate how banging white girls is different from banging black girls–while sipping overly-strong comedy club drinks to meet your two-drink minimum.

This past year, we trotted over to the Olive Garden. In Times Square. I love the Olive Garden. I love any place that offers me unlimited salad and carbs. I grew up with the Olive Garden in the suburbs of New Jersey, but the Times Square Olive Garden is two floors of total tourist madness and insanity. It was also the most unromantic place we could think of going to on the most romantic day of the year. It was filled with screaming children and babies and loud, lumbering families with cameras strapped to their butts. It was a voyage to an alternate universe with not-very-good marinara sauce and suspiciously cheerful waiters. All of the menu items had extra vowels, and Italianate suffixes that meant absolutely nothing. I think I ate something called a quatrotini formaggi extravaganza. It might have exploded in my mouth with flavor. Delicioso! The Olive Garden in Times Square was not trying to romance us, or tell us that love was in the air. It was not going to seduce us with promises of a future together. No, it was just going to leave us feeling very full and perhaps slightly self-loathing.

This year, once again, my single friends and I will be making a sojourn out into the love trampled streets for a non-holiday holiday meal. We may head to an Applebees — eating good in the platonic love hood! Or maybe Outback Steakhouse — no romance, just right.

Photo: iStockphoto