Romance Apocalyptic

The terror that is Valentine’s Day.

Dateline: Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14

A WORLD IN THE GRIP OF CHOCOLATES AND TINY STUFFED BEARS.

Every year at the end of February since the mid-60s, the far-looking minds at NASA have secretly carried out a covert mission designed to simultaneously rid the world of unnecessary excess and send a message to other lifeforms in our increasingly cramped universe.

In the early dawn light of March 1 at Cape Canaveral, a crew of CIA black-op specialists begin loading cargo aboard a narrow Apollo-style rocket — unmanned, with no navigational controls and designed never again to reenter the Earth’s delicate atmosphere. Before the residents of Orlando wake up for their morning coffee, that rocket shoots off into the sky, leaving a trail of pale smoke across the Atlantic.

The satellites of the world turn a blind eye to the titanium spear as it burns a hole through the atmosphere and breaks free of resistant gravity to forge a path away from the Sun and towards the outer edges of our solar system. There it joins a rocket-train — the yearly spacecraft separated by 14 million-mile increments — tracing a looping, elliptical line into the uncharted depths of outer space.

Aboard each rocket is a message to whatever glassy-eyed, gray-skinned denizens of the deep happen to cross their path. Packed tight into the cargo hold, leaving no cubic inch unused, are a hundred thousand tiny, stuffed, red and ghostwhite bears, a million deflated helium balloons in the shape of hearts and the cartoon character Ziggy, a thousand tons of crushed, dried roses, a million unwanted pieces of jewelry forged into hearts and clasping hands, and countless fistfuls of candy with messages like “B-Mine” and “Always Yours” — all of it welded together with the mulched remains of seventy million Valentine’s Day cards and the discarded orange cremes from a billion chocolate assortments. A wealth of merchandise bought and abandoned, or never bought at all, making its way into the heavens.

Spray-painted on the side of each rocket in startling crimson is a simple message: “We Wuv U. Sorry for the Mess.”

Well, a man can dream, can’t he?

Valentine’s Day. V-Day. February 14. Do you know that there are some people who love this holiday? There are people who can’t wait to pick out cards and gifts and find flowers and candy waiting on their doorstep. These people are the natural givers that V-Day was designed for. They love to give and to express their love, and I’ll lay money that they do it, not just on this one day, but every single day of the year. They’re a rare and precious breed. And this article is not for them.

No, this is for the rest of us. This is for the people that just … well … we just freaking hate this holiday!

Maybe hate is too strong a term. Maybe detest, abhor, execrate, abominate, loathe, scorn, despise, have an aversion toward, look at with loathing, spit upon, anathematize, curse, contemn, swear eternal enmity for, dislike intensely, shudder at, reject, revolt, disfavor, hold aloof from, view with horror.

Those don’t really work either. Having a thesaurus is fun, but go too far and people won’t take us seriously.

Let’s just say that we do not feel the passion and pleasure that others hold for this day. We are, in fact, mightily pissed at it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Ah, a lonely, single man frustrated at a holiday celebrating love when he has none.” Wrong, bitch.

I have been happily involved with a woman for 18 months now and love her dearly. So loneliness is not the motivation for this diatribe. If you think that only singles want to put a stake through the heart of this holiday, think again. They just feel the discomfort a little more deeply.

It’s not loneliness or some weird phobia of flowers and sweets that makes us so pissed off at this holiday. It’s an innate dislike that I’ve actually found quite hard to explain to others.

I’ve discussed it at length with my girlfriend and, since she’s a dyed-in-the-wool V-Day enthusiast, she can’t relate, but has resigned herself to my feelings and hopes that I do not embarrass her too much with this article and have all of the women who read it think, “Oh, that poor girl.” But, in discussing it with her, I have discovered just what it is that so many of us are pissed off at.

It’s not the love. Love is great; love is grand; love makes the world go round. It’s the pressure.

“What pressure?” you might ask. Well, let me explain.

It’s the pressure of celebrating; the pressure of buying the right thing; the pressure of being romantic. It’s the pressure of being properly sentimental; of making her/him realize how much you love them; of not saying, buying, or doing the wrong thing. It’s the pressure of having to deal with all of the usual relationship land mines that you encounter over the long term condensed into a single date.

It’s the pressure you feel when you realize that all of the other couples you know will be out and about on extravagant excursions and you feel the need to be as romantic or more so.

V-Day is about showing love — an unexplainable emotion, so fanciful and quixotic, and so impossible to explain. It’s about expressing that love honestly and naturally. Ever try doing something honestly and naturally while under pressure without feeling hideously self-conscious the entire time?

“All right everybody, we’re going to be expressing our love now! 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … GO!”

And for singles it’s so much worse. Not only is there the pressure to be loving and romantic, but there’s the pressure to find somebody to be those things with. As if you don’t put yourself under pressure to do that on a daily basis — now you have every couple on the planet being simultaneously affectionate to goad you on. Yippee.

And don’t forget about the pressure piled on by a rabid consumer culture. New Year’s ends and there’s immediately store displays of red foil-wrapped, heart-shaped chocolate boxes and tiny stuffed bears whose noses stick together when they kiss. Manufacturing a holiday that revolves around emotions that can’t be manufactured doesn’t really work, does it? All you end up getting is a sugar rush and an inordinate amount of animals cluttering your bedspread.

Pressure. If you still don’t understand it, I can’t explain it any better. For those of you who have always felt this way, maybe this will help you verbalize those feelings a little better to those who don’t get it:

“Why don’t you just not celebrate Valentine’s Day?” they ask you.

“You jackass! Don’t you know about the pressure?”

As for me, I will be celebrating V-Day this year. It’s only the second time in my life when I’ve actually had somebody on February 14 to celebrate it with. And frankly, I owe my girlfriend this. This article represents an attitude that she gets to put up with all year long. Valentine may or may not have really qualified for sainthood, but I know she does.

And for those of you who will be looking at all the happy couples out and about on that evening, wishing anvils to fall from the sky, know this: some of us understand. Some of us empathize. And some of us wish that it was just another Thursday.

Article © 2002 by Steve Spotswood