My Valentine’s Day Rant

By Poison Ivy,

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, and that means a lot of men are under pressure to perform (sound familiar?) and a lot of women have unrealistic expectations.

Oh, it’s not that bad, you say. Men enjoy rushing out to the stores and buying cards and chocolates, jewelry and roses, and perfume and lingerie. Men enjoy taking their sweethearts out to elaborate dinners, some complete with serenading and romantic (if smelly) horse-and-buggy rides afterwards. Or hired chauffeured limousines with bars and champagne.

Right.

And women are grateful and thrilled and happy with all the cards and candy and attention. And that night, every man who gave a Valentine’s Day gift, whether modest or lavish, is rewarded with willing, inventive, and loving sex from the grateful woman he wooed.

Right.

Our crazy consumerist society pushes romantic spending, flooding the media for weeks in advance of February 14th with all kinds of cutesy, helpful suggestions for how men can show they care with gifts. How to create a romantic mood. How to orchestrate a romantic date. How to spend lots of money.

Sounds great, you say. And some of it is great, because it is accepted in the spirit in which it is given. Valentine’s Day as a seasonal ritual can be fun. Valentine’s Day M & Ms, anyone?

But women’s expectations keep rising. A card isn’t enough. A box of candy isn’t enough. A dozen roses aren’t enough even though they are very expensive.

Why? Because we now have a couple of generations of women who have been raised wearing pink and lavender princess costumes complete with tiaras. These cute little girls turn into the demanding divas of Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet Sixteens, and Quincearas. And then it’s on to Bridezilla! Do you seriously think that a box of chocolates or an ounce of French perfume—or even a tasteful diamond heart-shaped pendant—is enough for these spoiled creatures?

Is there a real man out there who can possibly fulfill the outsize expectations that now permeate and poison Valentine’s Day? Very few men have the wealth, let alone the creativity. Fictional men have both, of course. That’s why we’re wild about them.

Meanwhile, back in real life, Valentine’s Day is turning into one of those nightmare situations for men in which they can never do the right thing. Nothing is ever good enough. Over the course of my short lifetime (well, short compared to the pyramids of Egypt, okay?), Valentine’s Day has ramped up from a day of love tokens to a day of major spending. Businesses thrive on this and they push us with relentless, guilt-inducing advertising. The result? Both women and men can end up miserable at the end of the big day. The women expect the men to keep pouring on more and more gifts. And the men, set against each other in public competition, feel the pressure to win. It’s not enough that he gets you something. He has to get you something bigger and better than what the other women received. This is not romance.

Is it fair for women to demand that men prove their love with gifts on a certain day of the year? Is it is even rational to accept enforced gifts as from the heart? The higher the expectations fly, the more unfulfilling Valentine’s Day becomes. Can’t we just bag this?

So, here’s a thought just in time to keep you from ruining a good relationship with some decent person: Keep your romantic expectations simple this Valentine’s Day. Give gifts if you want to. Accept any you receive with graciousness. And then just relax, will you?

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