Something’s smelly in Loveville 

A cynic’s view of Valentine’s Day.

You love her, but she loves him

And he loves somebody else, you just can't win

And so it goes, 'til the day you die

This thing they call love, it's gonna make you cry

I've had the blues, the reds and the pinks

One thing's for sure ... Love stinks

--J. Geils Band

Valentine's, Schmalentine's. Despite the statistic that over 74 percent of Americans claim to celebrate Valentine's Day, how can they call it a holiday? You don't get the day off like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Heck, even banks and schools close for the newest holiday--Martin Luther King's Day. Valentine's the Western (i.e. Christian) world's third oldest holiday still around--right behind some prophet's birth and death. That has got to get some respect. Right?

No, Valentine's Day gets short shrift because it deserves it. From elementary school, to going out, to the time of year, to the fact that love is overrated, to the cards (oh, don't get me started on the cards), to the crappy little candies made with what tastes like recycled sugar--Valentine's Day sucks. Here's why.

humiliation of rejection and public school

Valentine's Day, unlike any other holiday experienced in the halls of public school, was the most humiliating, embarrassing and soul-crushing experience for me growing up. I remember the days well. They are burned forever in my psyche, so deep even therapy cannot dislodge them.

Little foldable, punched-out pieces of cardboard printed with that year's favorite cartoon characters and pithy phrases with some of the worst puns imaginable (a kitty saying "I have felines for you,") were prepared at the kitchen table weeks in advance. Parents armed with school rosters, tried to teach all-inclusiveness and make sure one was made for every kid in class. But the way to school is a long walk and many of them ended up in the gutter. Kids would rather the sewer take cards than be forced to give them to someone they didn't like. I saw many with my name on them as I walked to school.

We put them delicately in paper sacks taped to each other's cubbies or lockers. The popular kids would always end up with the most overfilled bag. Me? I'd get two or three, usually from the kids that ate their own boogers. One year I got a Strawberry Shortcake valentine from the pretty girl in class, but later found out to be a joke at my expense.

Nowadays, they have the e-card where you can send valentines (via the Web) to people--friends and lovers alike. Once again society has created something I get to be snubbed by. How is my fragile ego going to take another rejection? Will the pain never end?

Going out-can it get any worse?

If you are lucky enough to be in a relationship--one that is actually working and not dysfunctional-- then I'd bet you would rather have a root canal with no pain medication than suffer a night out making googly eyes at your significant other. Being a person of the Y-chromosone gender I have big issues with going out on a date with someone you've already wooed into a relationship.

First, it is typically the man's job to make dinner reservations. It is against the male instict to be organized enough to plan ahead. Men are opportunists. We don't plan. We wait until that dumb animal lopes along, and then-wammo! We eat! In the downtime we tend to sleep and conserve engergy.

Secondly, you have to dress up a little more than a baseball cap and your most comfortable jeans with the hole in the rear. Ech.

Third, don't forget the roses. Fifty million roses are sold for Valentine's Day and each for triple what they're worth any other time of the year. If you have to get flowers do yourself a favor and buy her cheaper tulips or gladiolas. She just might buy your B.S. about being creative enough to buck the tradition.

Fourth, she might expect a gift. Go sentimental and find something you gave her years before. Clean it up a little and rewrap it. Then make up something corny about "remember when ..." as you give it to her. This might get you off the hook for blowing the reservations and being forced to eat at McDonalds.

Even after dinner your nightmare may not end. If you fail to wine and dine her to the point of a food coma, you might be subjected to an onslaught of nostalgic conversations about your best dates, cuddling and--the worst of the worst--spooning. My father always advised me to break up before big holidays and get back together afterwards to avoid such rituals.

Love is overrated

If you were paying attention in high school biology class instead of getting horny over Betty Sue's developments or Billy Bob's new muscles then you might have connected the dots and realized that all love--all evolution for that matter--is a series of chemical responses to stimuli designed to ensure the survival of the species. Speaking generally, without taking into account the myriad of human pairings possible, men instinctively look at attractive women with--ahem--assets that would make them a good mother and nurturer. Women, on the other hand, instinctively know to look for the smart, strong, charismatic men with "skills" around them--the good providers. Love is an emotion created by a chemical bond that begins to take effect once attraction develops. This "honeymoon" effect usually only last a few years, after which it fades, never to return unless sparked by a brain injury or lightning. Love's purpose is simply to solidify the relationship, ensuring that offspring have not one, but two parents to watch over them until maturity, when the whole thing happens again. Sorry to burst your bubble. It's a cruel world out there.

Why February?

Forget history. Valentine's Day is in February because the month represents the typical aspects of most people's love lives. It's the shortest month, it is depressing and cold and you get only one extra-exciting day every four years, just like leap year.

Cards

Americans send over 192 million valentine cards each year (85 percent sent by women) and despite the hoped-for belief that valentine's cards are a construct of the greeting card industry, valentines are perhaps the oldest form of card. It is documented that the Duke of Orleans sent a Valentine's card to his Duchess in 1415 while a prisoner in the Tower of London ... another example of prison love. (see "Saint Valentine's Day" on the next page) While people were sending little valentines to each other in the 17th and 18th centuries, it wasn't until the 1840s when commercially produced cards became available in the U.S. You could say that the entire card industry arose from the story of Saint Valentine. Meaning ... we can blame him for the suffering we have been forced to endure over a lifetime of Hallmark moments.

Candy

America is suffering from an epidemic of obesity. If you really love someone then why would you give candy? Americans ate 24.6 pounds of candy per person in 2003 (down from 27 pounds just a few years earlier) and most of that was given on Valentine's Day. Only Halloween trumps the day of love when it comes to sugar and cocoa.

But Valentine's Day is the holiday when candy makers pull out the good stuff. Chocolate is renowned as an aphrodisiac. It contains a chemical called phenylethylamine--a neurotransmitter resembling amphetamines with other euphoric qualities. In other words, chocolate is a drug. Combine it with all that sugar and you've got one hot momma on your hands. Of course, you have to eat 45 pounds of chocolate in one sitting to really feel the effects. And if you eat that much chocolate in one sitting ... well, you'll be sitting for some time afterwards too, if you catch my drift.

If you still haven't realized the truth that Valentine's Day is for suckers, we found some great stories about being dumped at http://happyrobot.net/robotchow/getting dumped.asp.

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