When you’re sitting at a ballpark or other sports stadium, the crowd is doing the Wave, and you see the crest heading straight for your section, do you rise and raise your arms in rhythm with your neighbors? Or do you scowl, remain in your seat, and lecture your friends about how the Wave is conformist tomfoolery?
When your coworkers decide they’re not in the mood for cafeteria food or the tiny Weight Watchers meals they brought in their lunch bags and decide to order pizza or Chinese takeout together, do you go with the flow and chip in a few bucks for a little something different for yourself? Or do you denounce their impulsive extravagance and consign yourself to the turkey sandwich you brought because it was slapped together with only the purest of motives?
When you need to buy drinks at the grocery, do you base your decision on advertising? Do you buy drinks regardless of their advertising? Or do you specifically boycott any drinks that have ever been advertised in any way because advertising is shallow and irritating and unholy, and instead limit yourself to buying only products that have never been advertised in any medium?
If you’re at the theater watching a movie that the other patrons seem to be enjoying a lot more than you are, do you leave them to their difference of opinion and count down the minutes till the travesty is over? Or do you castigate them for their life choices and demonstrate the superiority of your disdain by chasing them around the theater with a stun-gun?
Rhetorical survey questions. Feel free to dismiss without thought.
I dread being online no other day of the year more than I do Valentine’s Day. Throughout my years of active Internet participation, no other single day brings out the worst in people, inspires a higher complaint-to-compliment content ratio, and triples the world’s normal daily usage of the word “sucks” like Valentine’s Day does. If I bother turning the computer on at all, I’m strictly in lurker mode, evading the social hotspots most likely to have virtual soapboxes lined up wall-to-wall. I can’t even distinguish between the complaints of single, unattached people from those of married couples, because both sides lodge the same complaints. Offline, the day is celebrated and I never see anyone punch each other over it. Online, everyone’s a bitter street-corner preacher.
The complaints repeat like clockwork. We know the surplus merchandise is overkill. We know Madison Avenue is a cabal of soulless profiteers. We know Hallmark is the greedy Mafia don that threatens to snap the limbs of anyone who doesn’t cough up a little protection money to buy greeting cards in the name of Big Holiday. We know it’s not hard to say “I love you” to your loved ones on the other 364 days per year. We know your expressions of affection aren’t required to be in lockstep with anyone else’s. We know some people lose their sense of priorities and overspend for the wrong reasons. We know the dedicated movies and TV specials are cheesy and clichéd. We know candy and flowers aren’t the only gift options in the world.
We know. We heard the news. Valentine’s Day sucks.
I’m not sure which bothers me more, the vitriol or the repetitiveness of it all. Even when I was single and lonely, that shtick grew boring after about my second or third year online. It’s definitely not my thing anymore. If that’s how you want to spend your typing time, rest assured you’ll be in good company with millions of other habitual protesters. For value-added fun, swap rants with a fellow hater and see how many identical phrases you both used.
My wife and I note the occasion each year and spend the day as we see fit. Sometimes we’ve had a nice meal, sometimes not. Far as we’re concerned, we’re always game for a fun change of pace from the ordinary weekday. That’s the concept of many holidays in a nutshell — a random excuse to do something different besides run the rat race and go through the everyday motions. If several million other people are enjoying their own fun change of pace at the same time using the same manufactured excuse, then hey, cool. We have a pretty good idea of which restaurants to avoid so that our momentary detour from routine doesn’t include hours of standing in line with them.
And we’re not saying our I-love-yous any more or less frequently than we would on a normal day. Thus is our love-language equilibrium maintained without guilt or any sense of forced appeasement.
Tomorrow night we’re staying home; I’m making burgers by popular demand (not just my own); then our NBC Thursday lineup will take it from there. Knowing my wife, there’ll be a token gift exchange, nothing involving jewelry or electronics. No overspending, no pressure to kowtow to outside expectations, no overthinking. Short, simple, sweet. That’s all it’ll be, and all it ought to be.
(Special note to my wife, one of my most loyal readers: I hope you enjoyed the Lugash card; I hope your work day is less stressful than mine; I look forward to seeing you tonight; and I’m dreadful sorry Valentine’s Day is such a corporate-mandated bourgeoisie sham. Love you!)