Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be about who loves you, but whom you love. It’s the one day out of the year when you should take account of those people in your life who make you gleefully vomit little candy hearts. Being loved back isn’t nearly as important in life as boldly, recklessly, sincerely loving someone regardless of any returns on investment. Making love, not taking it, is the primary occupation of the human condition, our core programming, whether we realize it or accept it or not. All other activities and pursuits are secondary.
Instead, Valentine’s Day feels like emotional extortion. To many men, it’s an inconvenience to dread, a relationship hoop set aflame which one must deftly prance through like an expertly trained poodle. And to other men, it’s a day of opportunity.
It is bro gospel that it’s easy to get laid on Valentine’s Day. The theory goes that vulnerable, single women are driven to bars and to consequence-free sex by the spectacle of other women parading their well-trained boyfriends around. These doe-eyed, spiritually broken boyfriends purchase flowers, hide little homemade “Good For One Snuggle!” coupons in purses, and pay for expensive dinners at places that heap pyramids of watercress on everything. The women publicly mooned over, being paid tribute to, graciously accept the offerings and slyly scan the horizon looking for the forlorn, envious gazes of women sans doting male counterpart. Society demands we trod in pairs, like animals on the ark! You are not valued unless you are paired! Ahhhhh!
This theory is, of course, hooey. New Year’s Eve is the holiday where it’s easiest to get laid, followed closely, in my humble opinion, by President’s Day. Ah, the crazy times I’ve had on President Day’s Eve, after we’ve all hung powdered wigs by the chimney, decorated the Lincoln log with little stovetop hats and bullets, and read aloud from “A President Day’s Carol.” The Ghost Of President Day’s Future sure is scary!
I used to think Valentine’s Day fell in the dead of winter because in our recent past, it was a survival tactic. I imagined that long, cold nights might breed cabin fever, and a ritual dedicated to springtime rites — flowers, bright colors, sex, sex, sex — might have saved the genders from killing each other. Then I just chalked the holiday up to a conspiracy perpetrated by the Greeting Card-Milk Chocolate Industrial Complex. An annual obligation between two people invented by an industry exploiting the ultimate insecurity — whether one is loved or not.
Ultimately I gave up and accepted it was the cost of doing business.
Then I would slowly downscale my romantic responsibilities until I forgot about Valentine’s Day entirely. Then, on February 13th, I’d freak out again, because I hadn’t made plans. This would be cleverly spun, however, because I’d know the lack of any plans or invitation coupled with my nonchalant behavior would convince whomever it was I was dating at the time that, OMG, I had forgotten Valentine’s Day! Ho, ho, ho, I hadn’t forgotten … completely.
Of course, I’d scramble to make a reservation somewhere affordable, and I’d invite her to my place first, where flowers and a card covered with twee sentiments would be waiting in ambush. The vast majority women of don’t want or demand big expensive gifts and baubles from men. You want to be surprised, which is to say you want physical proof that we were thinking about you when you were out of sight.
I don’t really believe women look at Valentine’s Day as a reapplication process for the position of “boyfriend,” nor do I believe that the bars are filled with the desperate looking to fill the empty space with really awkward, drunken boot-knocking. Nor do I believe men totally loathe the holiday: I know of a certain dude whose girlfriend is giving him a hilarious series of sexy photos of her posing with his comic books. Lucky bro. And the chick taking the photos is pretty awesome too, in that she’s been planning to surprise him for weeks and asked me my opinion on her gift. I don’t think I’ve ever had a girlfriend who surprised me on Valentine’s Day.
But being single this year, I’ve had to ask myself what Valentine’s Day is about. And in order to answer that, I have to go all hetero-gay, which as I’ve explained in this column, is a straight dude who is comfortable with fabulousness, emotional nuance, and the finer things in life. Man cannot live on beer, bacon, and babes alone.
And if you’re single, I just want you to know, this Valentine’s Day 2012, that I, John DeVore, love you. I’m taking this holiday back, and reinventing it as a day of gratitude towards anyone who has ever put up with my crap. Anyone who has ever told me it’s going to be okay, anyone who has ever allowed me the distinct honor of carrying their emotional burden for a moment while they took a breath, thank you. Thank you, people who have lit up my world. Valentine’s Day should be a day that celebrates the joys of loves past and present, and the joys of heartbreak. Joys of heartbreak? HUH? The pain of heartbreak is proof that at the very least, you’re alive and not a zombie. Numbness is a lame way to exist.
Happy Valentine’s Day, ladies. Hearts and x’s and o’s. Now, should I head to a bar with my bros, or stay home and play Xbox?