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The Valentine's dance

Posted: July 17, 2008 12:42 a.m.
Updated: July 17, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 
Within days after the new year begins, the stores throw up their Valentine displays - big, bright-red, and threatening.

Even with that dreaded holiday still a month or so away the television assaults your eyes with images of assembly-line jewelry and perfume that every woman simply must have to prove she is unique.

If you're a guy with female loved ones, the guilt and fear immediately set in.

The guilt is because you really don't have the least bit of interest in Valentine's Day. The fear is because you still have to do the dance. Your females, even if they say otherwise, have bought into the scam, and your bad performance for the "holiday of love" will be marked in the romantic grudge-book of eternity - again this year.

You're really not unfeeling, you tell yourself.

When you were young, you were thrilled to give that Valentine card to that cute little girl in class. You agonized over just what to write and whether to sign it "Love, Bobby." You settled for "Happy Valentine's Day, Bobby," which was a good choice because she didn't even give you a card.

Then there was your first love(s). Elegant dinners out, roses and chocolates showed you knew how to work the system - and you even meant it. Your first few Valentine's Days after marriage, you still meant it. There was poetry, jewelry and imaginative surprise evenings.

But, then you had kids. And, at some point, your imagination and motivation got sucked away, along with the color in your hair and any interest in anything except curling up in the fetal position.

Of course, Valentines for the kids were easy when they were young. At the end of your two-hour commute home on Valentine's night, in the middle of your 60-hour work week, you could stop at the grocery store and snag a couple stuffed bears and some candy. Your girls would give you a hug and toss these on the piles they had collected at school, and everyone was good to go.

Later, when they became teenagers, you could let their boyfriends worry about it. The girls didn't appreciate anything you gave them, anyway.

But your significant other, your long-suffering spouse, who deserved your best - that was always the gut punch. You really wanted her to be happy. Seriously. However, as the years went by, everything, and I mean everything, became cliché. And if you wrote her a poem now, she'd bust out laughing and look for the "Punk'd" cameras.

Well, the season of guilt is here again. They say insanity is to keep doing the same thing you've always done and expect a different outcome. But that's what you'll do, and so you start the Valentine's Dance once more.

The music for this dance would, appropriately, be the theme from "Jaws," with the far-off horns, followed by the slow bah-rump-beat, speeding up as the danger gets closer, reaching crescendo on Feb. 14 - then drifting away after the carnage.

Weeks One through Three, Side-step: The side-step is the predominant step in the Valentine's Dance. It can be used at any point, except that is, at the finish. During these first weeks after New Year's, you blithely ignore the gaudy red displays and television ads. It's early January. Who are they kidding? But the increasing tightness in your chest by the end of week three tells you the step needs to change. The bah-rump...bah-rump...bah-rump of the music is slow, but coming closer.

Week Four, False-step: You swear that this week you will think about sometime, maybe, looking into V-day gifts. Maybe an online search will help you get focus. But, when you finally do type in Valentine's Day gifts in the search window, the barrage of oh-so-wrong items saps your remaining energy. When you find yourself considering the Angelina Jolie replica blood vial on a necklace (you fill 'em), you give up and go to bed.

It's still January. You know you've got time. Right? Bah-rump...bah-rump, bah-rump.

Week Five, Reverse-step: You won't do it. Yeah, that's the ticket. You convince yourself that you and your spouse are above this silly holiday. You're mad as heck and aren't going to take it anymore. You march around the house flailing your arms and loudly making your case against commercialism. But all your wife hears is the wah, wah, wah sound the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons make. She's seen this act before, and she just turns up the volume on the TV. At some point, even you hardly believe what you are saying anymore and, again, you go to bed, this time with a headache. Bah-rump, bah-rump.

Week Six, Slide-step: This week slides by while you are still kidding yourself that you won't celebrate Valentine's Day. Of course, that little tiff you had with your wife (Did I do that on purpose?) helps you think that, this time, she really doesn't want anything from you for Valentine's Day. She even said so, loudly. The neighbors can confirm that. Bah-rump, bah-rump...bump-bump, bump-bump.

(FYI, you are here)

Last Weekend, Stutter-step: You've got three nights and two days, with only your office banquet, a soccer game, church, your brother's birthday party and fixing the leak in your roof to take care of. On Friday, you figure that's plenty of time to find the right gift.

By late Sunday night, up on the roof and in the dark, you know it wasn't. But you've still got a couple of days. Bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump.

Feb. 12, Italian Shuffle: Something in the deep recesses of your memory bubbles to the surface, and you think your wife told you once she had always wanted to visit that out of the way Italian restaurant. You can't reach them on the phone, so you actually drive there to make a reservation, praying they'll take you on V-day.

You realize your wife must have mentioned the restaurant a long time ago, because the restaurant is now a psychic parlor.

But, never one to overlook an opportunity so obviously provided by fate, you go in for advice. An hour later and a hundred bucks lighter, you know the day and method of your death and that, until then, good things are on the horizon.

And the gift? Well, even you don't fall for the psychic gift certificate suggestion. BUMP-BUMP, BUMP-BUMP, BUMP-BUMP.

Feb. 13, Spin: The fateful day is tomorrow and panic has truly set in. You can't concentrate on work and your head spins from one bad gift idea to the next. You briefly consider hiring her a male stripper, but decide you don't need the comparison. You're dizzy and feel ill and - that's it. You'll call in sick tomorrow. You'll have the whole day to shop for your darling (Did we make up?).

You exhale, at piece with the lie you will tell tomorrow. But the music still pounds in: BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BUMP.

Feb. 14, Step-up: You're at the mall, bright and early. You've stepped up to the challenge and your charge card is burning a whole in your pocket. Those romantic feelings from the old days have stirred and you'd actually be getting into this now, except, ironically, you woke up with a savage sore throat and a splitting headache.

If you could afford a shrink, he'd have fun with that.

The hours fly by as you drag around, your watery eyes bewildered by the sheer amount of stuff that your wife would not want. You keep finding yourself in Frederick's, but you know that's just because the atmosphere helps you think.

BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BUMP.

The thumping in your head brings you to your senses. You crawl up from your knees in front of the "lacy" table and stagger out past the other empty-eyed men who wander the mall like zombies. CRESCENDO, blood in the water.

You give up. You've failed. You sag into your car in the parking lot, fall asleep and into fitful dreams.

But, somewhere in those fevered dreams you get fully in touch with who you both were when you decided to get married. You wake up and carry that warm feeling off to that little shop - and there it is, the perfect gift, which only you and she would know.

It's an 11th hour pardon from the great governor of love. The teeth of the red holiday will pass you by.

Feb. 15, Step-off: Finally, you can step off the Valentine's Day dance floor - at least until next year. If you would have blown it big time, again, you might be doing the step-out, as in moving out.

The music fades away to the sound of seagulls squealing, as they pick at the floating entrails of the men who failed this year.

Now, about that anniversary coming up next month.....

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