The Nondating Life

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Special Valermtines Day Edition

(Previous post)

Hold on tight folks, here comes Valentine's Day, the holiday romantics just love to hate ... and regular folks just shrug off as another thing to get through.

(Oh, and there's some practical advice buried in here somewhere.)

For those of us who are single, it's a thousand stabs to the heart and ego to see all the happy couples enjoying a romantic evening (or three or four when, like this year, Valentine's Day falls on a Monday, giving them the excuse to drag it out all weekend). For those in a stable relationship, it's a thousand stabs to the eyes and ego to see all the happy couples enjoying a romantic evening. Where do the hell do they come from, anyway? They're not fooling anyone. Oh, no. You know that once Valentine's Day is over, they'll go right back to the bitter nag-fest that is reality. Let them flaunt this "fake" relationship. You know the score.

As a repeatedly failing romantic, I should have my stack of issues with the day, but truth is, it seemed worse when I was in a relationship. I remember way, way back in the day, when I found myself for the first time in my life in a relationship on the holy day. Finally, here was my chance. I could be shamelessly romantic. We'd exchanged the L word and, besides, she was into shameless romance, so there was nothing to stop me. But alas, fate has its own things in store for schmucks like me. Every year, one thing or another would go wrong. Eventually Valentine's Day became just another New Year's Eve--a holiday unable to live up to the hype.

So between being the single guy and not even getting it right while in a relationship, I should hate the holiday. Really, I should. But it's very hard to unlearn years of "romantic" ideals successfully implanted in my weak mind by sitcoms, Hollywood and Hallmark.

But the sorry truth of the matter is I still want to believe, if not for me, then for the rest of you. Hell, even when I get all melodramatic about being alone on Valentine's Day, it's still tinged with some sort of weird hope. I'm like the Fox Mulder of pathetic holidays.

I remember a time in grad school, shortly after the dissolution of the big relationship. I was crushing on a colleague in the English Department, a fellow cubicle dweller. And here came Valentine's Day. I saw it as the perfect excuse to declare my stupidity infatuation. There I was, making $450 a month thanks to my huge teaching stipend and supporting a huge drinking habit and what do I do? I drop 80 bucks--the weekend of Mardi Gras, no less--of my hard-earned credit card to have roses sent to her.

Huzzah! Behold the Grand Gesture!

I don't think I have to tell you what a miserable failure that turned out to be.

Wait. Hold that comment for one second. Some of you may be saying, "Wow. I would have been floored by such a grand gesture. I wish a guy would do that for me."

And others (like Karol, probably) are thinking, "Wow. That was insane. Too much, too soon. Probably scared off someone who might have had potential."

Well, you're both wrong. And you're both right.

Of course you'd be floored, impressed, touched if someone revealed a crush on you in a dramatic fashion ... but only if you liked that person in return.

But if you didn't? Well, then you pull out the letdown language. "Sweet." "Nice." "Like a brother." "Such a good friend." "Ummm, look at the time."

Perhaps you start quoting the Jenny prayer from Forrest Gump. "Dear Lord, please make me a bird so I can fly far, far away."

And that's perfectly understandable. No one wants to be on the receiving end of a grand gesture if they can't respond in kind. (Well, no one except egotistical, self-absorbed jerks hooked on attention no matter where it comes from who just like to take, take, take.)

What's my point in all of this? Only cupid knows. The fact of the matter is Valentine's Day should be easy for most folks.

If you're single, you just bitch about it, pine away, or go to an anti-Valentine's day party and find another lonely hookup for the night. (In a city like New York, it's actually a great night for singles. Guys, try this one: "Baby, ain't no reason a girl like you should be single tonight. My place is around the corner." Girls: "I'm lonely. Take me home.")

If you're in a relationship, play along. Would it kill you? Or, if it's a mutual agreement and not some sort of weird emotional trap, just ignore the holiday entirely and let others enjoy it.

The people who find themselves most in trouble around this time of year, though, are the ones who've only recently started a relationship (or worse, people who THINK they've started a relationship, whereas the other half thinks he or she is just having a fling). I'd guess there are millions of people across this fair land freaking out at this very moment. I know there's at least ONE person out there thinking along the lines of "I've only been dating this guy for five weeks. How do I treat this damned holiday. Oh my god, what do I do?"

Well, I'll give you two options. Option one, you should completely ignore, because it's something I would do.

Option one is: Do what you damn well please. Ignore the sage counsel of your friends who've watched you repeatedly make an ass of yourself with grand gestures and follow your gut instinct. Want to send flowers, candy and a love poem that you wrote yourself? Go nuts. Want to sneak into his apartment, take off all your clothes and wrap yourself up in a big pink bow? By all means, do so. Of course, you can just send a card, sure, but if you're inner moron romantic is screaming out, just do it.

Aside from a restraining order, what's the worst that could happen?

Well, yes, you could be dumped. In exchange for all your troubles, you could get in return, not a card or a kiss, but the big old "We need to talk."

To which I say, "So what?"

You've just saved both of you a whole lot of time and trouble. Obviously, you weren't on the same emotional playing field. And there's a 2% chance that you're intended REALLY isn't ready yet for THAT sort of relationship. But history teaches us that if he or she isn't ready now, he or she probably won't ever catch up to you--especially if you're the hopeless romantic type (which you obviously are). You've already, at this stage in the game, got a mismatch that's only going to end in the "It's not you, it's me" talk, whether it be two days after a Valentine's Day freakout or three months down the road when you're really, really in it up to your eyeballs.

So by all means, make the grand gesture. That's what the holiday is for (I mean aside from fattening the coffers of Hallmark, American Greetings, Hershey, and MasterFoods). Take charge. Who knows? Maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe it's the EXACT thing your intended is secretly hoping for. That's what you've been telling yourself to justify this anyway.

And if he or she dumps your ass in a heartbeat, that just frees you to move on and find your TRUE soulmate, someone as foolishly romantic as yourself (although those sorts of people sort of freak you out, when you're really honest about it).

Consider me your enabler in very unwise relationship decisions.

Option Two It you want to be "normal," if you want advice from a sane person intended for use by a sane person? Offer to cook your intended dinner and buy him or her a slightly naught Valentine's Day card. (And by naughty, I mean suggestive and slightly flirtatious. Not something with 12 inches of man meat on the inside flap.) Cooking dinner is tried, true and safe (I'm assuming you're not a complete kitchen idiot and won't set yourself on fire). The dinner lets you feel like you're making an almost grand gesture. It sends the message "I like you quite a bit" while staying well away from the realm of saying "My god, this is freaking me out. I like you so much. You're the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing I think of before going to sleep at night. You haunt my dreams, both day and night. It's only been four weeks, but I think I'd actually move in with you right now."

The only risk in that plan is if you have too much wine at dinner and accidentally say that last part out loud.

Then you're really screwed.

But good luck, either way.

(Next post in series)


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