I'm here to tell you it can be done: You can ignore Valentine's Day!
On Sunday, my wife casually suggested that we not do anything for Valentine's Day this year.
"Really?" I said.
"Really," she replied.
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"I mean, really?" I said.
"Really, I don't want anything for Valentine's Day," she said.
"And you're not getting me anything?" I said.
"No," she said.
"Really?" I said.
"Really," she said.
As men know, this can be a perilous arrangement. Even if one's wife says she doesn't want anything for Valentine's Day, what she really might be saying is, "Surprise me!"
And if that is what the true underlying meaning of "Don't get me anything for Valentine's Day" is, it is a given that she intends to surprise you. In which case, you'd better be ready to surprise her back.
In the past, I always have bought some token of affection as insurance -- a card, flowers, candy, new windshield wiper blades. And I always have received some similar token from her.
This year, however, I decided to live dangerously. I really, really, really didn't get her anything for Valentine's Day.
And (big sigh of relief here) she didn't get me anything, either.
I know what all you sentimental fans of Valentine's Day are thinking: Not much romance left in that relationship.
Well, that's not the case. If we want to be romantic, we can be romantic the day after Valentine's Day, or maybe next month some time.
My point is, we don't have to have romance dictated to us by the corporate purveyors of Valentine's Day merchandise. The greeting card companies, the chocolatiers, the sellers of lingerie may be pushing red as the color of the day, but they're seeing green, lots of it.
No one is quite sure of the true origins of Valentine's Day as a day for lovers. Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 to be a feast day for St. Valentine around the year 496. But scholars aren't sure which St. Valentine the pope intended to honor (there were at least three of them). In 1969, when the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing feast days for saints with murky origins, St. Valentine got the boot.
We can be more certain, however, of when Valentine's Day took off in the United States. It was in the 1850s when Esther A. Howland, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and native of Worcester, Mass., became the first person to mass-produce greeting cards.
So, there you have it: Valentine's Day as we now know it originated as a clever way to hawk Valentine's Day cards.
Logically, I should enjoy Valentine's Day. I generally enjoy giving and receiving gifts. As months go, February is my 12th favorite, so a celebration of love in the middle of it ought to be like a ray of sunshine. And there's the chocolate.
But it all seems so forced, so regimented. Isn't spontaneity a big part of true romance? Valentine's Day, by contrast, is the gestapo of holidays: "Today, you vill be romantic ... or else!"
Well, this year marks our declaration of independence from the bondage of Valentine's Day. We are free of the clutches of corporate greed. We don't have to be romantic one day a year; we have 364 others to choose from.
It's a wonderful liberating feeling, right dear?
I am right, aren't I, dear? Uh-oh.