MAD DOG: Valentine's Day Confusion

It's almost Valentine's Day. And just as New Year's Eve makes us think about our past accomplishments and future goals, and Easter makes us wonder exactly what the hell rabbits are doing sneaking around during the middle of the night hiding multi-colored hard boiled chicken eggs, February 14th conjures up thoughts of romance, dreamy candlelight gazes and "Is it 5:30 already? I sure hope the drug store still has a 25 lb. heart-shaped box of chocolates left!"Men and women see Valentine's Day very differently. Then again, men and women see just about everything differently. But the stakes are much higher on Valentine's Day. It's like the final exam for a relationship, except of course there's no book to study, no Cliff Notes to cram with, and even though there are movies which would give a man a good idea of what the day's all about, there's just no way he's going to sit through it since Jean-Claude Van Damme isn't in it.A woman's idea of the perfect Valentine's Day is to wake up to breakfast in bed with a dozen red roses sitting in a vase on the night stand. When she goes out to the car she finds a bouquet of balloons tied to the antenna that all say "I Love You". When she gets to work there's another floral arrangement--the largest in the tri-state area--waiting on her desk. She gets taken out to dinner at the most romantic restaurant in town, a strolling violinist plays her favorite song tableside, and the night winds down with wine in front of the fireplace.A man's idea of the perfect Valentine's Day is to not be reminded of its existence.Men, having an inexhaustible ability to rationalize, will say "I don't need to set aside a special day to show you how I feel." This is true, since as a species we're basically capable of neglecting to show our feelings 365 days a year. If we're nothing else, we're consistent. Woman, on the other hand enjoy the trappings of Valentine's Day. The flowers that die in two days, the candy that makes them feel fat and ugly for weeks, and the big red toy heart stuffed with sneeze-inducing ragweed pollen are small gestures that make them very happy.How did this all get started, anyway? Well, Valentine's Day is named after Saint Valentine who, according to varying stories, was one of two different Christian martyrs who lived in the third century and were supposedly executed on February 14th. Gee, now there's a reason to celebrate.Over the years this has magically metamorphosed from a wake into the second largest card-sending day of the year, the first of course being Election Day, when every person who's been dead since the 14th century mails in their absentee ballot. Experts estimate that 925 million Valentine's Day cards will be exchanged this year. That's 3.7 cards for every man, woman and child in this country. Or to put it another way, an awful lot of trees being chopped down so men don't have to sleep on the couch for the next week.Interestingly, teachers receive more Valentine's Day cards than anyone else. Husbands receive the most presents, followed by children, other relatives, mothers, friends, and disgruntled postal workers who try to make themselves feel wanted (and save ammunition) by pulling gifts out of the mailstream and writing their own name on the package.While flowers are highly prized by women as a gesture of love, men are more prone to buy Sweethearts. These, in case you haven't been in the candy aisle of a drug or grocery store since the day after Christmas, are those tiny tasteless candy hearts which have such romantic sayings stamped on them as "Be Mine", "Kiss Me", and "Awesome". At least when they're readable. And yes, I said "Awesome".This year, as always, the New England Confectionery Company (better known as Necco) went through and updated their candy heart slogans. There's nothing like giving a loved one a great big bag of chalky hearts with outdated messages to say, "Honey, they were even cheaper than usual because they're last year's." That's why on the 8 billion Necco hearts they pump out this year -- which is 32 for every man, woman and child in the country -- you'll find such modern expressions of love as "Page Me", "e-Mail Me", and "I Don't Think So". I don't know about you, but I can't begin to count the number of times I've won the heart of a woman by leaning over a romantic dinner table, taking her hands in mine, gazing deep into her eyes and saying, "My darling.....email me."So you see, contrary to what die-hard romantics like Jane Seymour and Camille Pagglia say, love really has changed over the years. What hasn't changed is the fact that if you don't get your butt out and buy your wife, girlfriend, or any woman you ever hope to speak to again in your life a present, you might as well disconnect your phone and join a monastery. And don't bother emailing them from there, it will be too late.

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