Valentine’s Day–from a guy’s point of view
GRIN # 21
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Today, humorist Dan Bain, a good friend and colleague of mine, weighs in on romance and gift giving. Dan writes the monthly column Bain’s Beat for Midtown Magazine and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer. This piece appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of Midtown Magazine (www.midtownmagazine.c0m) and was the result of a bunch of us women writers haggling Dan to tackle Valentine’s Day from a guy’s perspective.
Take it away, Dan!
Romance by Any Other Name
by Dan Bain
Don’t blame me. I wanted to write about a guy topic, or maybe tell a story about the class reunion I’d attended the month before. But I was voted down by the flock of women holding the definite majority at our last editorial meeting (I think Matt might have abstained from voting, but I know he had my back). The ladies seemed to think it would be fun to read my take on Valentine’s Day. I tried to warn them, but they insisted.
They went on to discuss the merits of other stories related to February 14. One of them suggested an article on Valentine’s Day gifts for less than $100. I had to stop them to ask if people actually spend more than $100 on Valentine’s Day gifts. All I got in reply was several rolling eyes and the giggling verdict of, “I feel sorry for his wife.”
My wife is fine, thank you. She doesn’t suffer on account of my lack of Valentine’s Day enthusiasm; rather, she shares it. We simply prefer to express our love every day of the year, instead of just one.
See, I don’t have a problem with love. It’s the romance part that irks me. I believe romance has been overly, umm, romanticized. Let me tell you a story (not about my class reunion) to illustrate my point.
During the third century, St. Valentine defied Roman rule by performing secret wedding ceremonies for soldiers who had been forbidden to marry. This so enraged Emperor Claudius II that he developed a facial tic, which was prone to manifest itself at the mere mention of Valentine’s name.
Wishing to hide their marital status, the soldiers pretended to share this disdain for Valentine, often imitating their emperor’s tic to show solidarity. This came to be known as the “Roman tic” and in time, any young man who married against the wishes of authority was called a “romantic.”
Sound plausible? It’s not. In fact, it’s a complete fabrication.
I apologize and promise not to do that again, but in my defense, I had a reason for lying – I wanted to prove I can be just as romantic as the next guy.
I’m serious – romance is all about lies. If you don’t believe me (and I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t, considering the whopper I just told), ask Noah Webster. I did some research via his online dictionary, and this time my claims are verifiable – feel free to go to http://www.webster.com to check behind me.
Enter “romance” in Webster’s search engine and you’ll pull up several possible parts of speech. Click on the noun, whose first definition starts out, “a medieval tale based on legend….” Aha! Even Webster’s Dictionary admits that romance doesn’t exist!
But why settle for one definition? The next one calls romance “something (as an extravagant story or account) that lacks basis in fact.” Just as I suspected. Further evidence comes from the first definition of the intransitive verb form of the word: “to exaggerate or invent detail or incident.”
Look up the word “romantic” as an adjective and you’ll find definitions such as “having no basis in fact” and “imaginary.” Therefore, if you brag that you have a romantic boyfriend, your gal pals are quite accurate to say there’s no such thing – if he’s romantic, he’s imaginary.
I researched this only to prove romance is a sham, but was delighted to find bonus fun in the form of other equally amusing definitions. For example, Webster also says “romantic” means “impractical in conception or plan.” No surprise there, really.
But look at definition 5c – “conducive to or suitable for lovemaking.” Guys, I want you to remember this the next time a woman calls you “romantic.” What she really means is, you’re suitable for lovemaking – bit of a backhanded compliment, isn’t it? When it comes to lovemaking, there’s not a man alive who’d be content with being called “suitable.” In our minds, that translates to: “Eh. You’re sort of okay, I guess. Plus, you don’t sweat much for a fat guy.” No, thanks.
Ladies, go back to the noun definitions of “romance” for a disturbing surprise at the number 4 spot – “romance” means “love affair.” In all caps and hyperlinked, just in case you miss the implication. Better think twice before you say you expect more romance from your husband – he might interpret that as, you expect more love affairs from him. Carte blanche.
I think my favorite definition, though, is for “romance” as a transitive verb: “to try to influence or curry favor with especially by lavishing personal attention, gifts or flattery.” That’s romance in a nutshell – sycophancy at best, bribery at worst. False all around.
To illustrate the level of sycophancy, I did more research, and this one’s true. The Greeting Card Association estimates that we send one billion Valentine’s Day cards every year, raising a couple of questions in my mind.
First, why do we have a Greeting Card Association?
Second, how much does this alleged holiday cost? Assuming a very conservative $3 a card, that’s at least $3 billion. Now let’s further assume half of the cards – 500 million, by my count – accompany a gift of some sort. Chocolate, diamonds, a chainsaw – that sort of thing, I guess.
How much would that cost? Based on our editorial meeting, I’m clearly not the best person to estimate how much one pays for Valentine’s Day gifts. But maybe I’m the only Valentine Grinch, and the aforementioned $100 actually is a decent amount to spend on a gift. Multiply that by 500 million cards and you have another $50 billion being spent in the name of romance. Does this seem wasteful to anyone else?
That’s why this year, I’m starting a movement – instead of spending $53 billion on cards and gifts, let’s pay down part of the national debt. Who needs romance when you have the Government? They’re pretty similar, anyway – both based on lies, told for the same ultimate goal.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
To see more of Dan’s work, visit his site at http://www.danbain.net.