February 13, 2008
I have some news today, and it may be a bit unsettling. Tragically, there’s a very good chance that by the time you are reading this column it is already too late. Don’t panic. We’re going to get you through this. Just breath deep and accept the facts as they are, then we’ll figure out what to do next.Here it goes: Today is St. Valentine’s Day and yes, it is a big deal.Now settle down. Thrashing about and weeping like that is doing nobody any good. You’re just drawing attention to yourself and you do not want to do that. Women can smell panic on you, like feral dogs but with access to your checking account. Trust me, you do not want to incur this particular wrath. Just stay calm.What’s that you say? Oh, you’re saying it’s OK that you forgot St. Valentine’s Day. Oh, you’ve had this discussion with your wife already and she agrees that Valentine’s is just a Hallmark holiday, doesn’t really count, better to spend the cash on the gas bill or something? She’d actually be offended if you did get her something, she’s that kind of woman?SMACK!!Yes, that was me smacking you upside the head, my literary way of saying wake the heck up and come back to reality. Sure she said all that stuff, but don’t be idiot enough to believe it. You have to understand, this is what they do, they say one thing but mean the total opposite, like when she says she likes her men a little pudgy or asks you to be honest about your feelings. I’m not sure why they do it, but suspect it has something to do with compensating for our superior strength by keeping us perpetually confused and frightened. It’s working by the way. In any case, now that we’ve established this is a big deal, it’s time to get to work. First, consider the time. If you are relatively bright (and let’s face it, if you fell for the “St. Valentine’s Day doesn’t matter” line that’s seriously in question) then you’re reading this column over your morning coffee and you still have time.If you’re dumb enough to have waited until after reading the sports page, obituaries and whatever wackiness little Billy’s gotten himself into in the “Family Circus,” or, God help you, if you’re one of those who still pretend this is an afternoon paper, we’re going to have to alter our plan some. In fact, you might just want to start splitting up your stuff now. If you hide your Meatloaf album before she calls the lawyer you may just get it in the divorce. That will be about it. Assuming it’s still early, the first thing we need to do is let her know that you know what day it is. Don’t go overboard here — we already went over the part about them sensing panic — just give her a smile and peck and simple “Happy Valentine’s.” Do not be tempted to make up some excuse for why there’s no box of chocolates on the table, no lies about lost packages or missing mail, just stay cool and get the heck out of the house.Now that you’ve made your escape, it’s time to start shopping, Being a man, you’re going to be tempted to overcompensate here, don’t. If history has taught us anything it’s that great, grand gestures rarely if ever impress women and more often than not lead to physical injury. Every year you hear the same tragic tale of some romantic plot gone terribly wrong: the guy who breaks both legs trying to paint “I Love You” on a water tower; the fellow who hires a string quartet only to find a polka band at his heretofore romantic table; or the poor sap who has his true love’s name tattooed on his butt only to discover much too late that “Debbie” contains two b’s. Don’t be that guy.There are times in life for creativity, this is not one of those times. There’s a reason everybody gives flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s, it works. Call a good florist and hope they can help you. Again, don’t pretend you know what you’re talking about, just give them your Visa number and let them do the rest. If your wife works, have them sent to her office. Trust me, among women the only thing more important than getting flowers on St. Valentine’s Day is having the other women in the office know she got flowers on St. Valentine’s Day. If you’re too late for flowers, go with chocolates. Remember, not all chocolates are created the same. A Snickers bar might be fine between meals, but it’s not going to fly today. Look for Godiva, Dietsch’s or anything with a Teutonic name. Again, if you can find a kid to deliver this to the office, all the better. She’ll take great if slightly malevolent joy in sharing her chocolate with those office mates whose husbands didn’t care enough to remember the holiday. Finally, there will need to be a card. Go to the store and pick out something fairly simple, preferably something that doesn’t rhyme. Avoid bright foil and, above all else, no funny cards. And no, you can’t just sign it, you have to write a note. Again, keep it simple. Unless your last name is Yates or Whitman, avoid poetry. Tell her you love her, you appreciate her and even though she considers Valentine’s silly and unnecessary, there is nothing silly about telling her how very necessary she is to your happiness. And dot your eyes with little hearts. It shows you’re sensitive. And if all that doesn’t work, you’re on your own. Don’t forget to hide that Meatloaf album, and feel free to panic.