Sunday, February 13, 2011

Warning: Valentine's Day Is Not for the Timid

On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, seven men in Chicago were lined up against a garage wall and machine-gunned to death by murderers allegedly sent by Al Capone.

For them, at least it was over quickly.

Valentine's Day has seen many massacres of the heart since then. It begins with the best of intentions. Kindergarten teachers make it a class project. “Let's make our own little Valentine's cards for our classmates.” Of course they intend to include everyone, but the awkward feet shuffling and “I thought you were checking that list” looks start when the cards are dispersed on the big day.

For some mysterious reason they find that there are no cards for Lawrence with the permanent snot drip or “Cootie Connie,” the girl with five identical school outfits. Last-minute, store-bought cards signed by the teachers are the kindergarten precursor of years and years of super-sized kitty litter and Campbell's Microwaveable Soup-for-One.

Middle school, high school, college, the working world … each has its own little traps of love, lust and infatuation.

For every heart-warming Valentine story of true love, I believe I can show you one of discomfort (at best) or despair (at worst). Something like these from the pages of Cosmopolitan Magazine:

You Don't Look Dutch
A new guy surprised me by planning the perfect Valentine's Day date: a romantic dinner followed by fireworks show on the beach. Everything was great until the check arrived. He asked me, “Should we split it or do you just want to pay for your meal?” After dinner we took a walk on the pier. He bumped into a girl, who was obviously his ex-girlfriend, and after talking and laughing for about 20 minutes without including me he finally said, “Oh sorry, this is my friend, Kat.” We broke up the next day. - Katrina

Come On, I Mean He Saved the Union!
After a long dry spell, I was psyched to finally have a new guy in my life so we could spend Valentine's Day together. Call me corny, but I was hoping I'd get flowers or chocolate — you know, what every girl wants! Instead, he gave me an old Abe Lincoln bobblehead that looked like it came from the bottom of his closet. I honestly didn't even know what to say, so I just mumbled “thank you.” After a few more bad dates, I pulled off Abe's head, and kicked that boy to the curb. - Adrienne

Naturally, it's easy to find stories of stupid men in these situations. It's part of our basic DNA to give dumb gifts. (I kind of like the Abe Lincoln gift that Adrienne got, for instance.) But that street goes two ways.

I have heard many secret stories from guy friends regarding the horrors they have experienced on this day for celebrating love. You never hear of those stories because Valentine's Day is widely regarded as one for the girls. The flowers, the chocolate, the diamonds, the heart-shaped-anything-you-can-imagine. It feels vaguely unmanly to complain about getting the smelly end of the day.

But it happens all the time.

There was Mary Lou, who promised to meet three different guys for Valentine's dinner only to decide, after the reservations had been confirmed, to go with the four-star restaurant and the two-star guy.

Angeline was famous for ordering lobster and a splitting headache, requiring her to leave immediately after her dessert truffles.

Stefanie tried to wrangle four meals from four guys and take all the food home in those swan-shaped aluminum foil things.

Donna required a limo.

Every year, Lorraine had a boyfriend for a limited time only … from just before Christmas to just after Valentine's Day.

Paula … well, Paula was a sweetie.

Which brings me to my unexpected conclusion. (Unexpected to me, at least.)

Even though I started out to warn those of you who have not yet been struck by that little twerp's arrow, I realize that I'm still a believer. Kind of. Some of the time. More or less.

It only takes one really great Valentine's Day to almost erase all of the terrible ones. Just like it only takes one great love to make us forget all the mistakes we met along the way.

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