Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why Men Hate Valentine’s Day

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I plead guilty as charged: I too hate Valentine’s Day.

However, I have done my time and have been rehabilitated. So much so, that I am now considered by my wife and her friends as well, to be the most romantic, caring, sweetest and giving man on the planet. Gooey but true.

Like many men, I have spent most of my married life dreading Valentine’s Day with all its pressures and demands – real or imagined. It’s not that we completely lack sensitivity or that our feelings are strictly limited to our Neanderthal origins. But whether are behaviour on this holiest of holy love days is directly linked to our Homo habilis brothers or not, we men feel the need to be capable providers and know that what we provide will satisfy our partners. However, the general consensus amongst the male population is that there is a maldistribution when it comes to the planning and implementation of romance on Sweetheart’s Day. The National Retail Federation, (NRF) reported that in 2007 the average male spent $156.22 on Valentine's Day, nearly double the $85.08 that the average female spent. What happened to equality? Apparently, parity is forsaken when it comes to Cupid.

When my wife of twenty-one years and I have a domestic squabble she’s the one that says, “We’re in this together. It’s about us. Please say “we” not “you.”” This phrase of hers is rarely uttered on Valentine’s Day. Of course, it is expected that we will, as a couple celebrate our love but how we celebrate and demonstrate that love is another story. We men feel seriously tested every February 14th and many believe it to be a no win situation.

In an independent and unscientific survey I conducted of male friends and colleagues, everyone of them said that they begrudge having to take the lead on Valentine’s Day and that they feel they will be graded their efforts. That being said, I know of no living male who ever told his wife or girlfriend, ‘sorry baby but these red, silk boxers that you bought me that I will wear for approximately 3.2 seconds before we make love, just doesn’t make me feel appreciated enough on this, our special day.’ That’s quite a sacrifice don’t you think?

Since my rehabilitation over ten years ago when I went out on a Valentine’s Day strike, pronouncing to my wife that Valentine’s Day was “stupid” and that she and every other woman in the western world had been brainwashed and duped by the retail industry and that I was starting a revolution of unprecedented proportion that would no longer “feed the insatiable restaurant, greeting card, and flower industries” I have become more sensitive and understanding to why this day is so important. It wasn’t easy and it looks like history played a role.

The history of Valentine’s Day as told by some is that a priest, later to become Saint Valentine had a disagreement with Claudius II. It seems that Claudius wasn’t all that warm and fuzzy and was laden with extra testosterone that he put into being commander and conquer. He decided that unmarried men made stronger and more efficient soldiers than those with wives so he outlawed marriage. The soppy Saint Valentine rebelled against Claudius by performing secret marriages for young lovers desperate to be joined in holy wedlock. When Claudius got wind of Valentine’s clandestine actions he had his head chopped off. Wow! Just think about it, the origins of this sweet and romantic holiday lay in a priest’s beheading.

That was around 270 A.D. and I don’t entirely hold Claudius and the headless Saint Valentine accountable for creating what we men sometimes refer to as the ‘greed of Valentine’s Day.’ Legend has it, that sometime around 1418 King Henry V paid a writer named John Lydgate to compose a Valentine note to Catherine of Valois. It was the olden time’s version of CVS and Hallmark. Today’s romancers consider him a loser. All he had to do was write a few lines of his honest feelings on some musty parchment and Catherine would have rendered him her mind, body and soul indefinitely. Everyone followed suit and trudged narrow, cobbled stoned streets in order to purchase poems and sonnets setting the stage for what desperate and procrastinating men now do every year.

So, after so much disdain and rebellion why did I capitulate to what is deemed by some as a lovey-dovey dope? For one, I grew up and two, I realized that not all holidays are about me. (Darn that little boy in hiding in my subconscious.) Yes, I show and tell my wife everyday how much I love and appreciate her but there is no such thing as ‘banking’ one’s efforts. What counts is each day and if my wife is my number one customer, so to speak, then why wouldn’t I want to treat her as such? Do retailers really care if we have a lovely snugly holiday? Do they inflate prices ten fold on roses, Italian dinners and greeting cards every February 14th? Of course they do but so what? So what if I go out of my way just a little bit to make my wife happy? Isn’t that what giving is all about? Gentleman readers don’t hate me but last year I made hundreds of tiny, multi-coloured umbrellas that I stuck in between the floorboards of our apartment that led a path to the living room where I projected one of my wife’s favourite movies, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Her tears of appreciation and gratitude made the effort so worth doing and I have to admit, I had a really good time creating the evening.

According to my wife’s friends, I am in the minority and they want to know how they can get their husbands and or boyfriends to be more romantic. Every year they excitedly ask my wife, “What did he do for you this time?” (A couple of years ago my wife’s best friend Lona received a tape dispenser. Her poor husband is still paying for that.) Recently I asked my wife what she considered romantic when it came to my efforts on Valentine’s Day. She replied, “When you surprise me.” And I sincerely asked, “You mean when I actually listen to you?” We both had a hearty laugh over that!

My wife suggested that I start offering Valentine’s Day coaching for men. The old Draco me would have laughed at this but I thought it a good idea. So ladies and gentlemen, since I have been branded a good romantic, my experience and rehabilitated self are at your disposal, all in the hopes of the only thing you are guilty of this February 14th is of being in a state of perpetual bliss and happiness.
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