Without mass-marketed, greeting-card-style holidays, we’d be utterly lost. …We’d be like, “Is this the time of year for love? For war? For eating poultry? …For war again? F-CKIDON’TKNOW,” we’d say, and then we’d bash our heads against the wall in agony. So. Thank god that that never has to happen. With that said, screw Valentine’s Day.
…Yeah, I feel the same way about Valentine’s Day that the cartoon character “Cathy” feels about Valentine’s Day: ack, ack, ack, ack. …Which is really all that I have in common with the character Cathy — except for the fact that chocolate also goes straight to my thighs; I FEEL YOU ON THAT ONE GIRL.
There are a few holidays that I get the hang of — these include Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Halloween; I know how to act/ can plausibly have a good time on these holidays. After all, Thanksgiving and Christmas merely require you to hang out with your family without literally murdering your family. …I can do that. I am also capable of dressing up, drinking too much, and having regrettable sex — thus I have always excelled at Halloween. ..And maybe that’s my whole problem with Valentine’s Day: you don’t get to wear a costume. I should try that, maybe. “Hi, lover!” I’d say, while showing up at my lover’s door. “As you see, I am dressed as the Incredible Hulk. And here’s a cheap bracelet from Kay Jewelers. And we will now go to the Cheesecake Factory.” “…Why?” my lover would say. “Why include me in your shame?”
And then there are those holidays that I don’t get the hang of: these are New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. I don’t generally like criticizing holidays — that’s such an obvious thing to do — but in this case, I feel like I have no choice. I guess I have enough trouble not feeling like a loser to start out with, without the extra-added pressure of these two Official Fun Days™. I have had fun on exactly two New Year’s in my entire life, and even those weren’t that fun. And I have had fun on precisely zero Valentine’s Days. That’s a success ratio of — well, I can’t do math at all, which is why I became a writer, but let’s call it a success ratio of 2%. George W. Bush’s presidency had a better success ratio than that. That is not good. I am full of fail.
For my most successful Valentine’s Day ever, I took Alexandra, my then-girlfriend, to dinner around the corner from my house. Flowers were presented. A stuffed animal may have been in play; I can’t remember for sure. Then I proceeded to drink too much at dinner and wanted to go home early to f-ck. This annoyed Alex, who was never a great fan of my sloppy drunken antics to begin with.
Back at home, we had an argument, then had sex on the grad-school-era futon in my living room. We managed to break the futon into pieces during sex; thus, you might be visualizing this as a scene full of great sexiness, full of hot, violent sexy thrusting action — but then, you’d probably also be visualizing a higher-quality and better-constructed futon. That futon would have probably fallen to pieces if I had just looked at it critically. Anyway, then Alex and I fell asleep. And that was it. …And keep in mind that this was my best Valentine’s Day ever.
It must have started in elementary school: that’s where I first remember things going wrong. There were festive brown paper bags taped to the fronts of all the desks in school; these would then be filled with mass-marketed, prepackaged Valentine’s cards; in my case, generally of the “Peanuts” variety. The key to success here — and I’m defining “success” very loosely as “not committing utter social suicide” — the key to success here was to place a Valentine’s Day card in every single paper bag, boys’ and girls’ alike.
Before doing this, you would necessarily remove all cards with messages that implied anything more than very mild, detached, platonic friendship — no cards like “I’ve Got the ‘Hots’ for You,” god, please. You would also remove any card that had even the slightest hint of a double entendre; nothing with the word “rocket” or really anything that implied a penis.
The goal here was not romance. I don’t think I vocally confessed romantic feelings to anyone until I was in my early twenties. The goal was to avoid destruction, and to get the damn holiday over with already by just blindly giving everyone a f-cking card. A sub-goal was to avoid getting pounded into oblivion by some huge guy named Chris or Trevor by accidentally giving him a card with a romantic message on it. The only cards that I ever received were also bland friendly ones, “obligation” cards like the ones I was giving, basically. This is depressing in retrospect, but at the time, I was merely grateful to make it to February 15th without anything awful happening.
And ever since then, Valentine’s Day has more or less continued for me in a similar fashion — I just squeeze my eyes shut tightly and pray for the best. Historically, Valentine’s Day itself has been celebrated since 496 AD; here’s a description of how the holiday came about from the always-accurate Wikipedia:
The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I… Saint Valentine… was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II… He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner – until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor – whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate.
…Which just about sums it all up, doesn’t it? V-Day is supposed to be about romance, but more often I feel like things go wrong and I end up being clubbed to death and stoned and so forth. …Stupid Valentine’s Day. How could it ever go well? “BE SPONTANEOUSLY ROMANTIC, SLAVE!” says the ghost of St. Valentine to us. “HAVE AN EFFORTLESSLY FUN TIME WHILE ALL THE TIME FEARING THAT YOU WON’T. MWAHAHAHA.”
…This year, for V-Day, my plan was to make a present for my current “lover.” I scored an old and awesome-looking copy of the The Great Gatsby in a thrift store, and after finding arts-and-crafty style directions on the internet, I learned how to transform a vintage paperback into an awesome hipster-y clock. I thought this would be a good present; it speaks to my lover’s love of books, it’s handmade, it’s cheap as f-ck to make which is good because I’m poor… But somehow, magically, things went wrong.
Yesterday, according to my calculations, it seemed like there was at least a week to go until V-Day. But today, I woke up, and magically it’s the 14th and Valentine’s Day is today. WTF? WTF for reals? I have clock, no timepiece, no hipster present; all I have is a pile of gears and a cruddy old paperback. What could be more symbolic? My life is a race against time to have a single fun Valentine’s Day, and in this race, I haven’t even put together the damn clock yet.