Random Asides

Courtly Love or Simply Meh?

Do you ever get the feeling that the perfect line is playing about in your brain, trying to make it to your tongue or to your pen, but it just refuses to come out?

I’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day for the last week or so, because I wanted to post something about it here, and I’ve felt the perfect line about Valentine’s Day rolling around in my head, like the ball in a spray paint can, but I just haven’t been able to get at it.

The best I’ve been able to come up with is:

Valentine’s Day is for lovers and romance.

Valentine’s Night is for apologies and trips to the emergency room.

I guess it’s not a bad line. I mean, I’ve certainly come up with much worse in my time. But a line like that needs a rim shot or a spinning bowtie to help sell it. Barring that, it just kind of sits there.

Well, this is the new look Skepchick, so perhaps my feeble attempt at humor is just par for the new course. Or perhaps I’m freaked out by the change, and am just not comfortable with the new format yet. It’s queering my funny.

Everything is so new. Everything is so different. Everything is so white!

The first time I clicked on the new-look blog, I thought the place had been sterilized. When I looked away from my monitor, all I saw was a rectangular black negative image floating in front of my face. Not only was I unable to see colors, amazingly I was unable to say “colors” for three days. It was the first time I’d ever been snow blind in my office. I thought I was Mike TeeVee for a few minutes there. Jesus, what is this, the Skepchick White Album?

I’m kidding of course. I don’t dislike the format. In fact, I heart the new look. I really heart it. (Besides Rebecca would throttle me, if she thought I was serious.)

But as I mentioned, I started thinking about Valentine’s Day and the supposed attendant romance, and I began to wonder if it ever lives up to the hype, or if indeed it’s simply chock full of apologies and trips to the emergency room.

If other holidays are any indication, it could very well be the latter.

Not to knock holidays or anything, but I think in my entire life, I’ve been to all of two good parties on New Years Eve. And Christmas and Thanksgiving, where certainly great opportunities to catch up with family and friends, without gallons of whiskey to take the edge off, are more torturous than most folks want to admit.

But what of Valentine’s Day?

Amid my contemplation, I had the opportunity to chat at length with several co-workers about their experiences. Now, some in the group were gay men and some were lesbians, but most were hetero females, so for ease, I’ll just refer to the group as the women.

These women ranged in age from about 23 to 57. Some were married, some were single, and some were in relationships. I think I had a good cross-section, but yes, the test group was small. It’s a good thing I have access to all you faithful readers of Skepchick to confirm, deny, or at least discuss my findings.

And based on what my co-workers told me, I came to the conclusion that Valentine’s Day may be for lovers, but even if we don’t screw it up, for some, it is without a doubt the single least romantic day of the year.

Case in point:

One co-worker told me her husband wanted to surprise her with some chocolate roses to celebrate their love. And I thought that was delightfully sweet, if not romantic. Chocolate is awesome, and as we all know, food always tastes better when it comes in the form of something we probably wouldn’t otherwise eat, like flowers or an enormous penis. And this particular co-worker loves chocolate and roses. So any gift that merges the two would have been perfect for her.

Unfortunately, she recently began a new diet, so her husband had to ask her if chocolate roses were something she could even eat, thereby ruining any surprise the gift might bring.

Now if you think about it, surprise may not be the best element to deploy; especially on a holiday like Valentine’s Day. Everyone alive knows it’s Valentine’s Day. Our lovers know (or at least expect) they are going to get something. And this particular couple has been married for 12 years. Each knows the other’s moves so well, surprise is hard to come by. But the attempted surprise in this case was ruined, and the value of the gift was reduced to nothing, because chocolate roses were not within the guidelines of her diet.

Not willing to hang his hopes for romance on the maxim “it’s the thought that counts”, the husband offered to clean the bathrooms as a gift to his lovely bride instead.

Now you all will recognize great value in an offer like this. Relieving a person of their nasty chores is a good gift to give anyone. But is it romantic?

“I took my girlfriend for a helicopter ride over the city for Valentine’s Day, and then a quiet dinner at a secluded lake house. What did you do?”

“I picked hair out of the drains and scrubbed the toilets.”

Yeah, it just doesn’t have the same romantic cachet, does it?

It’s clear that anything forced, or anything expected is going to lack punch when it comes to being romantic. And having a day of the year set aside for that specific purpose may be forcing it.

Sure, men like having Valentine’s Day on the calendar, because let’s face it, most of us would not otherwise entertain any notions of romance if ad agencies, florists, and candy companies didn’t remind us that it’s good to do something nice for our ladies every once in a while. Were it not stamped into our psyches by virtue of it’s place in mid-February, our idea of romance would consist of a grunting roll in the hay after we filled our bellies with mead and roasted meats. That’s just the way we’re wired.

But aren’t women being sold short having a contrived celebration like this? Isn’t an obligation to be romantic much less satisfying than a desire to be romantic?

I don’t know.

Maybe you skepchicks understand us well enough to know that Valentine’s Day just might be the best you are ever going to get from us. Maybe you are resigned to be happy with whatever meager bit of romance we can offer, even if it is forced. If that’s the case, guys we have to love our ladies even more because of that. I mean, if that’s not raising the game to another level, I don’t know what is.

Still, we can surprise them every once in a while, can’t we? It’s not too difficult to show a little creativity, is it?

Do something for your girl on a random day without being prodded by anyone else. Do something sweet for her from the heart.

At the very least, we may be able to avoid the apologies and trips to the emergency room on Valentine’s Night.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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19 Comments

  1. I've noticed at least twice this year Valentine's day being abbreviated VD. Once was in a lamentation of not going out expressed as "how can a girl with two loves not have plans for VD?"

    Perhaps this new abbreviation says it all.

  2. "Some were married, some were single, and some were not in relationships."

    The not is unintentional? Or does "single" mean something that I should know about that might get my female relatives off my back?

    I used to sincerely doubt that contrivance lends itself to credence. However, the ladykind seem to be generally pleased with scheduled sappiness.

  3. Part of the problem is that while lip service is given to the idea of Valentines Day as a celebration of romantic love, it is, at its heart, a social obligation for men to buy gifts for women. That doesn't seem like a very good recipe for romance to me.

  4. My partner and I like to make jokes about how he obviously doesn't love me since he's never bought me diamonds, since that's what all the jewelry commercials say.

    And after one Valentine's spent working as a florist (aka the apocalypse) I made him swear that he would never ever buy me red roses on any day, much less Valentine's.

  5. We had an article in the paper about romantic things to do… at least, romantic things for the men to do.

    So this is a sexist Hallmark moment(*), right? Where're all the women proclaiming equality for romantic bungling? Or is this all right because it's for the women?

    (Note: only being minimally serious here.)

    (*)Let's face it, Valentine himself wasn't known as a lover, so this is an entirely invented occasion.

  6. I don't comment much but I just had to throw my two cents in on this one. (Love the new site design btw.)

    Valentine's Day is the biggest crock of a holiday we have. My boyfriend and I do absolutely nothing to mark the day and that's fine by me.

    Sam, you say you think women are short-changed by the contrived celebration. I agree, but I think men are short-changed too. The implication of every ad I see for VD is that men are stupid, unthoughtful ogres who have no idea how to make a woman happy aside from shoving a bunch of money at her in the form of expensive, useless gifts. The larger the percentage of income spent, the better. Money=love. The sub-implication, of course, is that women can be bought with shiny trinkets and such because all we really care about is looking pretty and being fawned over.

    Yes, there are the no-cost gifts which are wonderful. Hell, I think offering to clean the bathroom is great. Then you've got your back rubs, your home cooked meals, your naughty French maid outfits, etc. But why set aside one day a year to do it? If you're lucky enough to have found someone you love who really and truly loves you back you both should celebrate that every single damn day. Love isn't a common thing to find. A lot of people spend their whole lives looking for it and never find it.

    In summary, screw Valentine's Day. If you want to be romantic, pick some other day to surprise your someone with something they would really like instead of what DeBeers says they'll like.

    /rant

  7. well it's the worst day to go out to dinner. Really! it's not romantic to wait for a table, even with reservations!

    I got memory for my camera this year. Really! That is one fantastic gift, which, yes I did ask for. But I couldn't afford any memory cards and I have a trip coming up where I might not be able to download every night into a laptop. On top of it all I got a great new case for my computer so it will be more protected and yet it's perfect for travel as I can just sling it over my shoulder (not that massive camera bag look). I know I know! But to me, the fact that my husband is supporting yet ANOTHER crazy thing I'm doing (photography) shows he really respects the craziness I need to stay happy.

    He got a weather station. He LOVES it. He's always looking at the weather on the computer, but this will tell him the weather for OUR HOUSE. It's like computerized and everything.

    And now you know (like that dumb Xmas story about the woman that cuts off her hair and the man that sells his watch) WHY I couldn't afford memory cards for my camera. Because I bought the weather station!

  8. I generally agree that surprise gifts through the year or celebrating something meaningful to us (like birthdays or our anniversary) are better than such a contrived holiday.

    However this year I had the day off work as did a girlfriend so we made valentines themed food. We baked raspberry cupcakes with little heart candy on top and she made beetroot gnocchi cut into heart shapes while I did the same with some steak. Steak is hard to cut into shapes. Lots of fun.

    On a final note I would say that men and women are both expected to get something for their significant other not just men. Might be different in Australia or might just be the people I know.

  9. Blaise: that is priceless!

    I’m not really about Valentine’s day. The only good thing about it is that it gave my mom, who spoils me mercilessly, another excuse to send me a massive care package while I was in college.

    And, I’m sorry, but shouldn’t the husband in your story be helping out with chores even when it’s NOT valentine’s day? I think it would be far more romantic to say “Hey, why don’t we take turns cleaning the bathroom for the rest of our lives!” And then, of course, actually do it.

  10. Yeah, I’m not so into Valentine’s Day either. I figure it’s for amateurs, not us old married folk. I much prefer the random thoughtfulnesses and non-expected surprises. I will say that the gift I got this year was pthalalate-free, though. ;)

  11. Monika: “On a final note I would say that men and women are both expected to get something for their significant other not just men. Might be different in Australia or might just be the people I know.”

    It may or may not be different. I’m sure plenty of couples in the U.S. celebrate an egalitarian Valentine’s Day. But the overall cultural expectation is that it is the job of the man to make the day special for the woman.

    I certainly think men have earned the right to bristle a little over the implication, no matter how small, that our value is as walking wallets the same way women have earned the right to bristle over the implication, no matter how small, that their value is as walking sources of sex or walking baby factories.

    Flygrrl: “I figure it’s for amateurs, not us old married folk.”

    ‘Old’ probably has more to do with it than “married’. It doesn’t seem to be that big a deal among middle-aged singles either. We’re too jaded.

    Peaches: “Valentine’s Day is the biggest crock of a holiday we have. ”

    Go, Peaches!

  12. My husband and I had a wonderful valentine's day. We got each other video games, which to both of us, is truly romantic. I got him some fancy Swiss candy from a confectioner's in town and he got me a new microphone for podcasting.

    We had leftover tacos and caught up on watching our shows on TV. It was a special night because we spent it together.

    I don't like the idea of society putting pre-conceived notions on what defines our relationship, including romance. We just like hanging out and being able to surprise each other with something. Can't that be romantic?

    P.S. I told him last year to not buy me flowers anymore at valentine's day (unless he wanted to) because I felt it was exploitive. If he wants to buy me flowers there are 364 (365 this year) days otherwise to buy them. I love flowers, but I hate the expectation that men have to buy women flowers on certain days.

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