Observations on Valentine’s Day

As someone who writes about awkward romantic encounters and the other general nonsense of the social world, I felt it was necessary for me to bring up Valentine’s Day, quite possibly the most awkward day of the year (besides Columbus Day).

I used to be one of those people who combated that spirit of Valentine’s Day with bitterness and disdain. Down with men! Let’s burn our bras and eat cookie dough with our hands! I no longer feel this way, perhaps because I’ve learned there is no enemy greater than apathy, or perhaps because I really just don’t give a hoot. As far as I’m concerned, if I don’t get the day off from work, there’s little to celebrate.

Thinking about what to write in this post caused me to reflect on this very strange day, its traditions, and the way it makes people behave. I am going to list these reflections for you chronologically for your convenience and mine.

Elementary School Valentine’s Day

Everyone MUST send a personal valentine to every single member of your class. Then we get to all get up at the same time and walk around the room, making a mess of everyone’s desks with 28 new slips of paper that will be stuck in our backpacks and forgotten until our mothers discover them and throw them all away. In the meantime, when you get back to your desk, you get to read cards that have messages like, “I think you’re swell,” with pictures of Scooby Doo on them, from people who any other day of the year (and possibly at lunch time today) would be throwing pieces of bread at you.

It’s alright. It’s very silly, but I get the system. They don’t want any hurt feelings. They’re democratizing love. It’s wasteful but rooted in kind-heartedness.

But then….

Middle School/High School Valentine’s Day

Hold onto your hats, kids! It’s a carnation sensation!

When you’ve finally gotten used to the elementary school system, they hurl you over to the other side of the fence: the side where suddenly how many Valentine’s gifts you receive illustrates your social stature and thus how worthy you are of love. Why oh why would any school allow those ridiculous carnation sales? If you want to milk Valentine’s Day for all of its capitalistic potential, at least sell something like brownies that everyone can enjoy. Do you realize by doing so you could double your sales demographic? Oh wait, I forgot that middle school and high school are about ostracizing the socially uncomfortable kids while their hormones rage and their bodies and faces get weirder by the minute.

If you couldn’t tell, I was one of those kids who rarely got a flower. I laugh about it now, but at the time, I remember feeling incredibly hurt by it. And it all could have been avoided if one astute administrator just looked around and said, “Hold on…this is really stupid.”

College Valentine’s Day

College is where Valentine’s Day becomes more “sophisticated” for its participants. I mean, you’re adults now, and your level of adultness is directly correlated with the girth of your Valentine’s Day activities. I had my first Valentine’s Day date my freshman year of college. We ate pasta and saw Taken and it was awesome. Neither one of us had a car and we had to be driven around by a friend, who brought another friend, which made it more fun, I think.

College Valentine’s Day is when people start to get really up in arms about the holiday. The pressure is real. I guess because relationships tend to be more serious. I can’t really say. But I do know that my sophomore year, I was in a play, and the director wanted to schedule a rehearsal on Valentine’s Day, and I had never seen such an uprising. Profanities were shouted, tears were shed, lives were ruined. The director ended up not scheduling the rehearsal and there was much rejoicing. I was secretly very bummed out because I liked the idea of having something to do.

As I watched the evolution of Valentine’s Day that comes with age, I also found myself extremely amused at how much pressure is put on the boyfriend to make the plans. The guy has to buy the flowers and the chocolates and make the reservation and provide the entertainment. And if he messes one thing up, all hell can break loose.

Which brings me to…

Working in a Restaurant on Valentine’s Day

…Why do people still go out to eat on Valentine’s Day?

I’ve worked in a restaurant for the past three Valentine’s Days and I honestly don’t understand how it can be a pleasant evening for diners.

Firstly, unless you booked your reservation a month in advance, you are going to get a terrible table and bad time. I have heard boyfriends get badly scolded over the phone when they find out all we have left is 10 o’clock and later. Many desperate men have tried to bribe me with jewels and finery to get them in the coveted 7 o’clock slot. But alas, my hands are tied to the integrity of the seating chart.

Any couple that I’ve served on Valentine’s Day also looks thoroughly miserable. For one, there is barely space to breathe, as the restaurant is trying to pack people in like sardines by adding tables anywhere there is space. There is no time to enjoy your meal because the servers have been told to turn the table over as quickly as possible. And they are charging you $45 for pasta. It’s a trap, everyone! You’re being hosed! Get out while you still can!

But people will continue to eat out. It’s just their nature. I, too, find food very romantic.

This year will be the second time I’ve had a date for Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend and I are doing a concert, a comedy show, and then will probably eat our weight in takeout food as we watch TV and unbutton our top pants buttons (because when he asked if I wanted to go to a restaurant, I immediately said, “No way, Jose!”). It will be nice. Love is a beautiful thing and it deserves to be celebrated. I just have a really hard time fathoming the celebration tactics we have chosen as a society.


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