February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day?

[By Crabby]

Valentine's Day is a terrible holiday and I am totally against it.

For one thing, you don't get the day off work, which makes it a crappy excuse for a holiday. But the worst thing is the forced, commercialized nature of it. It pretends to be a celebration, but just seems to put all kinds of weird pressure on the coupled and the uncoupled alike.

Singles often say they feel extra lonely and marginalized, even those who are generally quite happy and content with their unencumbered state.

And even many happily married couples seem to be gritting their teeth a bit. The gals often end up feeling under-appreciated. Because isn't your guy's Valentine's Day performance supposed to be some sort of test of how much he loves you? That's what all the commercials say. Like the pressure to be skinny or eternally youthful--even if you know perfectly well the message is bogus, it's still hard not to be affected by it.

(So, like how come you ended up with the guy who never remembers it's Valentines Day at all, or who'd rather celebrate with pizza and a night in front of the tv? Where's that thoughtful hubby who sends flowers to the office where all the other girls can admire them? And how come other women get those broad-shouldered dudes in black tie who spirit them off in a limo for an elegant dinner, then coyly pull out a $20,000 diamond necklace? Where the hell is your limo ride and diamond necklace, huh?)

As for the men... I'm guessing no matter how diplomatically they've learned to hide it, many must secretly dread the whole thing. Culturally, Valentines Day is not a gender-neutral, equal opportunity occasion. It's a test. If you are a straight couple (one gathers from the tv commercials) the Boy's role is to Come Through with the Goodies. The Girl's role is to Cross Her Fingers and Hope He Doesn't F*ck it Up.

So yeah, I hate Valentine's Day... in theory.

But, well, the Crab and the Lobster do celebrate Valentine's Day anyway and it's pretty much always awesome.

[Sorry, some of you probably didn't need to hear that today].

I think same-sex couples have it a little easier on Valentines Day--we're pretty much left out of the cultural and media conversations. DeBeers has not yet, to my knowledge, tried to put pressure on Susie to spring for an expensive diamond bracelet to prove her love to Pam. The 1-800-Flower people are not bugging Steve to make sure he remembers to send a bouquet to Jonathan on this special day. The advertisers leave us the hell alone. Usually that bugs me, but it this case, I feel like it's actually a favor.

However, there are still plenty of miserable gay people on Valentines Day. Why are the Crab and Lobster so lucky?

Partly it's because we've customized the celebration. There's no pressure--it's just one more chance to say "I love you" and have a really nice dinner out. (Which we may actually have the night before or the night after, when it's easier to get reservations. We don't give a crap about the actual date). We don't do the candy or the flowers anymore, or even cards, because after 17 years, we've done all that stuff enough already. We don't need to make any sort of special statement, other than: you're amazing, I love you, how about steak tonight? It may be coincidence, but other couples we know who enjoy the holiday also tend to take a fairly low-key approach.

(Actually, I think the main reason I still enjoy Valentines Day so much despite all my objections is because the Lobster is an incredible person and a perfect partner. So what's not to celebrate? And yes, we belong to that rare and profoundly annoying species: the blissfully happy couple. Really, I'm not kidding, you best avoid us--we're totally nauseating to be around.)

Anyway, to me, what's wrong with Valentines Day is pretty much what's wrong with our view of romantic relationships generally: we celebrate the superficial and barely acknowledge the deeper stuff.

Just look at how so many people select mates: The sweetest, most reliable, thoughtful guy in the world is considered a "loser" if he's not financially successful. The funniest, kindest, brightest woman in the world is considered hopeless if if she's got a few extra pounds or wasn't blessed with a pretty face. Fortunately, not everyone is so short-sighted--but a lot of people are exactly that superficial. The poster children for "love" are always young and pretty and rich, as though those qualities have anything at all to do with the success of long-term relationships.

So my advice? Screw the arbitrary over-hyped Hallmark version of Valentines Day. If you have love to celebrate, celebrate it every day and any old way you feel like it. And if trading heart shaped boxes of candy once a year makes you happy, then do it and have fun!

Just don't let a bunch of corporate hucksters set your expectations for how love is supposed to be shown. The flower and candy and diamond merchants don't give a hoot about your relationship--they just want your credit card number.

What if you are single on Valentines Day? Try to ignore those ads that imply everyone else out there is (a) coupled and (b) happy about it. Sure, a few of us are, but in most cases, a recent study says couples actually find each other more irritating over time. (Not true of other relationships, apparently, like with your friends or your kids). Just keep in mind that a lot of those guys you see dutifully heading home with huge bouquets of roses are actually feeling kinda pissed off at the gals they're bringing 'em home to.

And if you've got some extra unused love on a day meant to celebrate that emotion? Well, how about spending some on yourself. Strangely enough, you may find you plenty left over for other people you care about too.

How about you folks--do you tend to enjoy Valentine's Day, or do you just wish it would hurry up and be over?


  1. I hear ya!!! Preach it sister : )

    I don't believe in celebrating Valentines Day (lucky for my husband, huh?) I worked at a florist for 3 years during school and it always amazed me how much people would spend on flowers that would be dead in a few days. (This is probably the same reason we had such a low key wedding- I just can't justify spending money on something that won't last forever!)

    So...tonight we are doing NOTHING. We celebrate 2/13- the day we got engaged (b/c hubby new not to do it on 2/14!)

    I hate the whole V-Day concept; I think the people at Hallmark are the only ones who really appreciate it.

    Thank you for expressing my feelings so eloquently. And no, I don't know if I spelled that right.

  2. Excellent post, Crabby. Valentine's Day is a stupid, useless crapsalad of an alleged holiday that serves no purpose except to make money for those in related industries.

    We have gone out on Valentine's Day in the past, but decided this year to have dinner out on the weekend instead. Less crowd, less rush.

    On the whole, Crabby, the best holidays are the ones you declare for yourself.

  3. Growing up, our school had a tradition in which you could order a red carnation and have it delivered to the object of your affection (or adolescent lust) during homeroom.
    I never got a single one.
    Then, my senior year of high school, my dog died on Valentine's day.

    So I was never much of a fan.
    Until we had kids. The past couple of days, I have had so much fun helping them with the cards for all the kids in their classes, and for the teachers. We even made some (ready to bake)cookies.
    But I'm with you: show love every day, and you don't need diamonds to do it. One of my single friends volunteers to walk shelter dogs, and always makes a point to be available on or around Valentine's day. 'Cause, really, what better way to spend it than to be surrounded by unconditional love,lol!

  4. Amen!

    That study was interesting, but a bit depressing as well. The longer you live with someone, the more irritating they are?

    Another reason to hug my dog :)

  5. Valentine's...Schmalentine's. Just another day.
    Actually, the Cowboy is off work this week, so he did mumble something yesterday about taking me to town for supper. Not sure how to tell him he doesn't have to. It'll be insane trying to find a restaurant, we don't have a reservation anywhere, it'll be expensive, we won't enjoy it.
    The Bag Lady likes to be appreciated, just like everyone else, but she'd rather he show his love by doing the chores for her (check), and just being around (ckeck - so far, anyway...)
    She'll cook a nice meal, maybe even invite his mother...he'll fall asleep on the couch...now that's amore!

  6. As a single gal, I don't care one way or the other. It is just another day. When ever I have been a part of a couple I have never made a big deal of it either.

    The couples that I know that have been together more than a minute also have pretty much the same attitude. If s/he loves you the rest of the year, you don't need one date on the calendar to tell you to make an extra effort.

    Having said that, flowers are nice to receive, especially when they are unexpected, it doesn't matter what the date is.

  7. This single gal spread the chocolate love to her gay roomies and will get nothing back but a sink full of dirty dishes and unswept floors.

    I feel the love!

    I have no problem partaking in the hallmark holiday. Spending 10 bucks isn't a big deal to me to put a smile on someone's face who was going to spend the day bashing humankind for not knowing what romance, kindness, thoughtfulness, etc. is.

    Allows them to taste a bit of chocolate and their foot :P

  8. I'd be pissed if my husband bought me chocolate (I don't need the temptation), expensive jewelry (put your $$ toward the student loans!) or tried to take me to a restaurant for Valentine's Day. I spent 10 years in the restaurant biz and VD is one of the biggest Amateur Nights of the year. Ugh. Very unpleasant for this introverted, quiet-loving gal.

    I'd also rather not get flowers. They just cost money and then turn brown and shriveled. How depressing.

    For me, this is just another day and I prefer others in my life treat it the same. I'm pretty low-key like that, though. I don't like a fuss to be made just because there's some sort of social mandate that a fuss be made.

  9. I am actually rather indifferent...I am single right now, but am content (dare I even say - happy?) with my life, so I just ignore all the hoopla.
    Just hope the cat doesn't barf up a valentine's hairball for me...

  10. Wonderful post, Crabby!
    Happy V-Day everyone!
    I'm thinking, the way many laws don't allow drinking or driving, etc, until reaching a certain age, do the reverse with Valentine's Day. Only allow it to be celebrated by under 12 year olds. And EVERYONE must get a red carnation too!
    Dr. J

  11. I hope you don't mind that I linked to you on my blog- you just really summed up my feelings : )

  12. This is my third single Valentines (and four years ago I honestly can't remember what I did on the day). I think last year it was just another day, I don't care. This year, I'm going to spend with my single friends and we're going to drink alcohol and watch slasher movies (or somesuch). I did buy them chocolate though :)

    I think it's nice to do something on Valentine's as a couple, but I'm not big on the whole Hallmark thing. I hate writing and giving cards, it just seems like a waste of $4 unless you have something really special to say. I do like flowers though, even if they are going to die in a few days, they're beautiful now!

    My best Valentine's was six years ago, I think. I was living in Europe and my boyfriend flew over to visit. We ended up in Bruges, Belgium on Valentine's. We stayed at a five star hotel (not as expensive over there as here) and went out for a three course dinner which was one of the best in my life (scallops and truffles for an appetizer, pigeon entree, french toast with pineapple and cracked black pepper for dessert).

  13. Great post Crabby!

    We had a no gifts rule this year. We exchanged cards this morning, hubby is working from home with me today, and later we're going for a cheap dinner and cheesy movie. That's pretty much the perfect V day for me. Saving money for a vacation we'll remember the rest of our lives is more important to me than some piece of jewelery I may not even like or a box of candy I don't need.

  14. I enjoy Valentine's Day, but I don't need much - take me out to dinner so that I don't have to wash dishes and I'm happy (my hubby helps out with a lot of things around the house but he refuses to wash dishes and I get so sick of it). We have a reservation at our favorite restaurant and it's not a place that ever feels crowded or rushed, even when it's packed. I know we will enjoy it because we always do. I did get flowers, which I was not expecting, and it made me happy. I like flowers and I know he didn't spend a huge amount of money because I know where he got them.

    But I get why some people might not enjoy it so much. Too much hype, high expectations that aren't met, not having someone to share it with, bad memories...I can see where there would be less than happy experiences.

  15. Great post!

    I don't expect too much on Valentine's Day; my husband and I have been together for almost five years, and the novelty of being with someone on Valentine's has kind of worn off.

    I do like buying kids' valentines and handing them out at work (last year: Harry Potter, this year: Hot Wheels). It was such a fun holiday when I was a kid, and I think that's what I want to experience each year.

  16. one more chance to say "I love you"
    I LOVE THAT LINE. and while lately it has been life of one more chance to ask the husband before he leaves the house "did you change the tornados diaper? any poop in there?!" I shall make today a day o'following your lead.

    the irritating thing?
    my nowhusband said to me when he was deep in the courting phase (inexplicably):

    And yes, now 14+ years later I am *always* asking what it is he now detests (although I immediately add a WaitDontTellMeIDontWannaKnow)

    happy V Day!!

  17. "...who'd rather celebrate with pizza and a night in front of the tv..."

    -- That's exactly what both the Boyfriend and I decided we wanted to do tonight! (Though I did write about slightly healthier dinner options on www.theofficediet.com...)

    We decided we didn't want to go out when it's crowded & pricy -- we're just enjoying the first Valentine's day together when we're actually living in the same place. :-)


  18. I actually sort of accidentally scheduled a first date for tonight. Whoops? It's just when we were both free!

    For some reason, my not-very-demonstrative dad still sends me a card. I'm 25. I wonder if it's because I'm single...

    I refuse to wear red. I take advantage of free chocolate. I think it's a weirdly forced, hyper-commercialized piece of crap holiday.

    Excellent post.

  19. Great post Crabby!

    The BF and I bought each other furniture this year - bookshelves and bedside tables. He's cooking me dinner tonight, and I'm in charge of dessert. It'll be a nice night at home together, full of as much love as every night is. There's just more chocolate, is all! ;)

  20. As an attached girl, I could care less if my boy does anything. It is just another day to be alive and love someone and there is no reason to spend a huge amount of money on something that is appreciated for 10 minutes and then goes in a box or dies...

    I prefer to show my love in other ways on EVERY day...

    That being said, I do like to participate in the kid-like Valentines celebration...I coach Volleyball, 7th and 8th graders, and tonight at practice they will all be recieving a small bag of candy and a Valentine wish...

    But as a whole, the "holiday" is just another day to spread love to those important to you, and for the big conglomerates(sp?) to make more money and suppress the smaller people...UGH!!!

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  22. There are three reasons we enjoy Valentines:
    1)We're poor. It takes the pressure off for us too. Diamonds? Limo? please. I'm with Scrumpy, I'd much rather save for a vacay than have any of that. Since we've never really had any money to go all out on Valentines day, we've tried to be more creative which is harder but usually more meaningful. ( I'll make my own card out of construction paper...there's usually an elaborate plot involving stick figures....ANyway, sometimes we don't even pull out the creativity. THis Valentine's day I picked up a root beer and KitKat at the grocery store on my way home from the gym. He was ecstatic.)

    2) It's an excuse to go out on a date. To eat food I didn't cook and to have a conversation with my husband about non-children things is heavenly.

    3) The kids love doing valentines. We try to remind them of all the people that they care about and that love them. They get so excited to do their little valentines and give them to friends and family. (ok, so I'm totally a hallmark sucker for that one...)

    But I do remember the feeling when I was single of being totally happy until V-day rolled around. Then somehow not having someone to share it with made me feel a little like a loser for 24 hours.

    THis might sound kind of pathetic but I just made up my mind early not to expect anything on Valentine's day. I'm always pleasantly surprised.

    Anyway, tHis was such a great post! I found myself wanting to highlight sentence after sentence going, "yes!, totally!" But then this comment would be much longer than it already is!

  23. My brother refers to Valentine's Day as "Singles Awareness Day".


  24. My hubby and I have a tradition of staying in on V-Day. He always cooks for me (and really goes all out!). Tonight, it's fondue and homemade ice cream. Oh, and lots of lovin'...

  25. I used to be quite keen on Valentine when I was in my teens--perhaps because a lot of girls I knew, especially in high-school, had boyfriends and I was longing for the day I'd have one too and would get a gift like this. We're silly when we're that young, aren't we? :)

    When I finally had a boyfriend, we didn't really celebrate, though. It was more an opportunity to eat out and do something a little out of the ordinary, but we weren't bent on finding "the" gift.

    Right now, I'm single again, and I couldn't care less. LOL

    (Btw, I saww heart-shaped cakes in a tore in Germany this monday. They sported a large red heart. And they looked rather disgusting to eat, full of added chemicals and all. My friends who were with me ARE a couple who likes celebrating Valentine, and even them weren't convinced. Yuck.)

  26. Great post, Crabby! Happy Valentine's Day to all...

  27. I boycott it. Besides the commercialism of it all I disagree with it in principle.
    To me it makes stuff done on this day a rather empty gesture. I'd rather have nice things whenever "just because".
    I do love giving wierd valentines cards (like the ones when we were kids) to my coworkers for a laugh tho...

  28. hear hear.

    Justin and I don't need a commercially created day to show our love for eachother. And besides how does buying something = love.

    Tonight we are going grocery shopping - how romantic huh? I will eat my words just a little bit as I put a box of dark chocolates in the cart and smile at Justin and say "your vday gift to me"!

  29. I thought this was hilarious...but I'm still totally loving the roses delivered to my office and heck if it's one day a year that makes people focus on LOVE I think that's a good thing. Doesn't need to be about spending money, but focusing on love is never bad.

  30. I'm LOVING all these great ideas on how to enjoy the holiday or creatively ignore it. The home-made valentines; involving the kids; NOT involving the kids; simple home dinners with a video; celebrating every other day of the year-- somehow I suspected you all were not the high-expectations Valentine's Day sorts.

    It's interesting to see the way real, healthy, sensible folks treat the holiday as opposed to the Madison Avenue pressure-pressure-pressure version.

    (The Lobster once worked in an office where all the coupled women would get incredibly tense and jealous and gloaty over whose boyfriends/husbands came through with flower delivery to the office on V-Day. It was also customary to compare karat sizes on diamond rings etc. Gotta say--I just don't get this approach to measuring the desirability of prospective husbands!)

    I love hearing all the great ways you guys deal with VD day.

  31. We treat it like we would an anniversary. There's no reason for limos or $20,000 necklace gifts. We live in a society that strives for equality - so let's remember that this Valentine's Day.

  32. I'm in favor of any holiday involving chocolate. As a lifelong single person, I shall take advantage of the price cuts tomorrow. ;-)
    The whole romantic pressure thing just flies right over my head, since for some reason I'm really smug about being single, as if I invented it.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  33. I agree with you Lazy Man, but good luck with that Valentine's equality idea. I think it's taking a while to catch on.

    And Mary Anne, I love the way you phrased that. Glad you're happy and smug about it!

  34. Great post, Crabby.

    Hubby and I have been together for 15 years and have always treated Valentines Day for what it is...a Hallmark holiday. The way I see it, he tells me EVERY day that he loves me. So I don't need an artificial holiday to make him say it.

  35. Jaime said:
    I think it's a weirdly forced, hyper-commercialized piece of crap holiday.

    That pretty much sums up my feelings. It's like the way I'm starting to feel about Christmas. (Did I just say that out loud?)

    I mean, if this were National Give Someone You Love a Hug day, I'd be all for it. Or International Sincere Compliment day. Anything where I didn't feel pressured that I had to Buy Something to express my feelings. Don't buy me a card with a pre-printed message on it, say what you feel to my face.

    The trouble is, if you say things like this when you're single, too many people pat you on the head and say "poor dear, you'll find somebody." (It's a good thing I don't believe in violence ;)

  36. Heck, I use it as an excuse to buy myself jewelry at a discount. And I'm obviously single.

  37. Can't wait to hit the "Day After Valentine's Day" specials. My wife ain't getting anything till tomorrow.

    I did get her a frappuccino from Starbucks and a Heart Shaped Pizza from Papa Murphy's. Seems it always revolves around food.

  38. I told my hubby I just wanted a mushy card and a litle bit of chocolate (runs about $6-7 total.)
    He pretty much N.E.V.E.R takes me out to eat. Taco hell and all the other chew and chokes don't count, and we don't eat much of that crap anyway. We even get beans in the tacos because we know the other "stuff" is NOT "meat".

    So when he actually said he was taking me out to dinner I about fell over! Except he wanted to have Mexican, and I said no, if you're actually taking me out, I'm picking what *I* want! Otherwise he's just dragging me along on something he would have done by himself some other time.
    So we went Wed eve to a really nice seafood place, had all stuff guaranteed to enhance the libido (oysters, yum! lobster (sorry, Crabby), clam chowder and a fabulous desert of macadamia nut, chocolate and caramel torte with a glorious tiny scoop of vanilla bean ice cream).
    The kicker? We took my MOM! She got all dressed up, insisted on paying for the valet and most of her own meal (she had the lobster, and shared a claw and some other bites), and we had a blast and really enjoyed it, because we only do it a couple times a year. The rest of the time it's me cooking healthy and frugally at home.
    So my Mom got love and we all got cards, and I got $5. worth of good chocolate, and yes, it was just an excuse to express our happiness with each other and love all around. None of us were that into the Hallmark crap side of it, but the cards were fun. I got him a shoulder bag for his books and stuff when he rides his bicycle, and another bigger sling pack for the motorcycle. Both on sale at like 65% off! :D He was thrilled, but said "I didn't know we were doing presents?! And I said it's just stuff you've been wanting and I happened to find it a day before ON SALE, so no biggie, he would have got it anyway.

    But yeah, making it be some high pressure thing where if one isn't partnered or doesn't get flowers or jewelry is just plain obnoxious. And it's so tough on guys who feel like they have to spend a lot or get just the right thing. I never got many Valentines in my shoebox that we had to decorate in grammar school, and I never forgot how bad it felt. Sadistic teachers!

  39. Where are you, Random Friday? For anyone else who is missing it, check out Ellen Goodman this morning in the Boston Globe


  40. Never fear! Crabby is scuttling to bring you the latest in Crankiness e'en as I type :)

  41. Love the VD dinner with the M.I.L., TK!

    And the heart-shaped pizza, TB!

    And sorry for the tardiness, KB--I'm afraid Random Friday's gone a bit AWOL but will be back soon.

    (I wrote the last bit of today's post BEFORE I saw your comment, so Miffed in Minneapolis is not meant to be you, KB!)

  42. The fact that you two have been together 17 years and are still wonderfully happy is a gift in itself. That story brightened my day ;) What's your secret sauce?

  43. Crabby, I love your post! Actually, I really enjoy V-day, and generally scan the sale card racks at Walgreen's on the 15th, and then give 'em out the next year.
    So help me, this year, my goofy romantic V-day was that my utterly fabulous girlfriend and I went to the gun range after work, and did a bunch of target pistol shooting. (That part was her idea.) Because I *really* enjoy silliness,(and probably also because I was raised by an art teacher), I brought doilies and red and pink construction paper and a glue stick, and gave all the targets we were going to shoot "valentine" bullseyes... Tatya
    But choolate is always, always a good thing...


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