The good, bad, ugly of Valentine's Day

By  Dorothy Cummings, Catholic Register Special
  • February 13, 2008

It is only days away, that fatal day, that day with the power to cast single women into abject gloom and to send married men into a frenzy of procrastination; that day that crushes the joy out of men who love and rarely fails to disappoint the women who love them; that day that sends boys and girls hand in hand to their local Catholic college campus to watch The Vagina Monologues. Yes, my friends, Valentine’s Day is upon us again.

The church in her maternal wisdom tried to save us from all the nonsense of Valentine’s Day by taking Feb. 14 away from St. Valentine and giving it to Sts. Cyril and Methodius instead. Thus Catholics no longer call Valentine’s Day St. Valentine’s Day, nor indeed, believe all that firmly in St. Valentine, although I have seen part of the saint’s skull in an isolated church in the Rhineland, and the priest swore up and down that it really belonged to St. Valentine.

So much for history. It is the present or, rather, the near future that concerns us. Despite the church’s action, Valentine’s Day is a monster that will not let Western civilization escape its toothy jaws. The public streets, the private markets are already awash with the red, white and pink. Valentine-themed articles are appearing in newspapers across the Western world. The stores burst with pink lingerie. The price of roses is skyrocketing. Restauranteurs are laying in stocks of champagne and truffle oil, giggling over how much money they will rake in next Thursday night. Valentine’s Day is a licence to steal. Be prepared.

The most fortunate people on Valentine’s Day are single men. They may ignore the decorations and the enticements to buy overpriced flowers. They may chuckle at the dismay of men with wives or girlfriends when they, at noon on the 14th, suddenly remember that their lives will not be worth living if they greet their beloveds empty-handed. If such unattached men have sisters and female pals, however, it would be a kindly gesture if they sent along friendly cards to those who might otherwise get no valentine. Hint, hint.

The next most fortunate people on Valentine’s Day are single women. The brilliant thing about being a single woman on Valentine’s Day is that one has no expectations. None. Zero. A few years ago, my father almost absentmindedly presented my sisters and me with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. This was the best Valentine’s Day present ever because I had expected absolutely nothing at all from anyone at all, and here was dear old Dad, out of the blue, handing around sweeties. It’s that sort of thing that makes daughters devoted.

Married women or women with boyfriends, however, do have expectations about Valentine’s Day. Great expectations. I believe there are whole neuroses to be blamed on Valentine’s Day. Some women in relationships say that Valentine’s Day means nothing to them. They are lying. Lying! There’s no woman in the world who would roll her jaded eyes at a Valentine’s Day treat from the man she loves. None! The average women falls into gloom if her man buys her nothing or merely screws the whole day up. And many, many, many times a man does screw the whole day up just from sheer bad luck or complete inattention to all the chick flicks he’s ever been forced to see. Thus, the least fortunate people on Valentine’s Day are those, ironically, with valentines. The women pay in tears, and the men pay with Visa.

The worst thing a single woman can do on Valentine’s Day is go and see The Vagina Monologues. If a woman is already vaguely convinced that the male sex has done her a wrong, the last thing she needs to do is listen to a long string of women emote about rape and the joys of being seduced as a very young teenager by a lesbian. Apparently men also go to see The Vagina Monologues, but I have never understood why.

What you single girls should do is make a date with your best single girl friends. Book group pedicures. Plan all-girl parties. Buy a bottle of champagne, some cherries and some chocolate. Pop super-romantic movies like Il Postino or funny movies like Private Benjamin in the DVD. That way, I guarantee you that you’ll have much more fun than half the people in the restaurants nervously trying to live up to each other’s expectations.

Incidentally, avoid the bars. Predatory men love Valentine’s Day, for they apparently find it easy to pick up lonely women that night. And desperate men will be extra-desperate. If you are truly miserable that day, I suggest going to church. Have a conversation with St. Anne, whose legendary job it is to find women a husband. The traditional request is, “Anne, Anne, send me a man.” I’m not sure whose job it is to find men good wives. Whoever it is, I’m available. I am well-educated and bake a mighty fine pie.

(Cummings is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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