As I sit here watching the snow fall in a gentle shower outside the window on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of three things:
1) I am, perhaps unsurprisingly, alone this Valentine’s Day.
2) “Valentine’s Day” is an anagram of “Deny Evil Satan!”
3) I may not be the best person to write a Valentine’s Day primer.
Number three notwithstanding, I have decided to forge ahead.
“But Claire,” I hear you tittering, “are you really qualified to write about the holiday of love? Aren’t you the girl who destroyed the fledgling romantic aspirations of a helpless classmate in your misspent youth, you heartless troll?”
Well, yes. Yes I am. But if we’re going to let a little thing like qualifications get in the way, I’ll never be able to write about ANYTHING.
So, for the lovers and the lovelorn alike, I present the following guide to Valentine’s Day. It’s not a box of chocolates, but what do you want? Most people are only sure I really like them when I am relentlessly mocking them.
PART ONE: THE PRESENTS
Oh, the agony. What to buy your beloved this year? Do you go the traditionalist route and cough up a bouquet of roses and a giant heart full of poorly-identified-on-the-included-map-so-that-no-matter-which-one-you-think-is-delicious-fruit-gel-you-get-a-disgusting-cherry-cordial candy? Or do you try to “mix it up” with a surprise like a romantic serenade or a pair of turtledoves carrying a heart carved from the tree under which you two shared your first kiss?
The correct answer? NONE OF THE ABOVE. The answer is, “you’re going to screw it up.” I don’t care if you spent months learning the ancient art of origami so you can present your beloved with a flock of tiny swans carrying his or her favorite tiny party foods. On the day itself, the tiny swans will turn out to be infested with paper mites who devour your sweetums’ eyebrows, or it will turn out that the only shape you can create with any reliability is a meerkat – and you KNOW his or her parents were devoured by meerkats on that disastrous Disney safari, you bastard!
So, just get something cute and try not to poke them in the eye when you fork it over.
Note: Do not use an actual fork to do so. That’s just tempting fate.
PART TWO: THE DATE
Many couples, gay and straight alike, make romantic dinner plans for Valentine’s Day, often weeks or months in advance. There is much pomp and circumstance surrounding these occasions – fancy clothes; fancy food; fancy table arrangements you think are part of the appetizer and then have to disguise with your napkin after you discover they’re not meant to be eaten – and passing the evening in the company of one’s love is always a delight.
Fun? You bet. But also SO STRESSFUL! Jockeying for position in the restaurant queue, trying to find parking, being seated next to a party of Single Girls Who Don’t Need a Man, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, So Please Bring Us Another Pitcher of Cosmos, Garcon; any or all of these can compromise or even eliminate the romantic enjoyment of the evening and turn what should be a cherished memory into a story you tell on Maury while waiting to find out if your au pair really is the mother of your neighbor’s kid sister.*
The obvious solution, then, is to cook at home! Why share your repast and affection with a bunch of overdressed schmucks when you can lovingly create a feast for the senses in your very own home?
Because you’re not a goddamned moron, that’s why.
Nobody makes out with the girl who has homemade pesto all over her new blouse and smells like a Fazoli’s, even if she’s wearing her boob shirt and “accidentally” drinks two bottles of wine by herself. Ditto for the dude who confuses “microwaved take-out” with “haute cuisine.”
Just make the reservation, and tell Pierre you want a table by the window.
*Hint: Of course not. I mean, look at the mug on that kid. Unless Ingrid had reconstructive surgery back in Oslo, which is weird, because now that you think about it her teeth are suspiciously even.
PART THREE: THE LOVIN’
Ah yes, l’amour. It’s sure to be in the air come February 14th, and many couples will be planning sultry assignations in airy hideaways and dark deeds in dark corners. The fulfillment of shattered humanity’s attempts to shove itself back together in a post-Symposium world, the art of physical love presents opportunities for pleasure and pain alike (or both at the same time, if you’re willing to come up with a reliable safe word) on Valentine’s Day. Many rookies wrongly believe that tonight is the time to try out that “new move” they’ve been working up the nerve to attempt on their unsuspecting lover. They could not be MORE WRONG.
Consider this: you’ve come home from a lovely evening out with your love-ah, a little tipsy on bottomless champagne and strenuously regretting your choice of clams casino. And all that bread. Why did you eat all that bread? They just put it out so you’ll feel stuffed when you order your overpriced and undersized entree. Bunch of thieving jerks, et hoc genus omne. Your sweetheart puts Dusty Springfield on the hi-fi* and you brush your teeth in a half-assed way, because, come on, clams casino? It’s a miracle he or she puts up with you, honestly. Slightly bloated and minty-fresh, you set your eyes to “bedroom” and sidle up to your lad or lady to begin the dance of love.
Let us pause here to consider your options. Yes, you COULD break out your hitherto-concealed cat o’ nine tails/mascot costume/suggestive vegetable collection, but SHOULD you? On tonight of all nights?
I think not.
No, tonight needs to be about soft kisses and soft-focus lenses. You want the booze-drenched memories you make tonight to carry the bittersweet tinge of gentle romance and tenderness. You want to remember, in the theater of your mind, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr lying on the sand next to the two of you, murmuring, “God, why do I smell clams casino?”
Because tonight is about romance.
*Most of my romantic assignations take place in a hypothetical early-70s that may never have existed.