Trouble With Valentine’s Day

Feb 08, 2001 |Marshall Allen

Why do gals take Valentine's Day so seriously? It can make a guy sick. Literally.

Valentine's Day is often a polarizing force for guys and girls.

Take the whole idea of an elegant date for instance. A girl will see a Valentine's date as an opportunity to get decked out — she'll buy a new dress and look her finest. Meanwhile, 10 minutes before the date, a guy is scrambling through the clothes littering his floor, searching for an outfit with minimal wrinklage and odor.

Girls have heart shaped dreams of Valentine's romance — dinner with Romeo, mutual disclosure in conversation, and poetry praising their virtues. Guys wish they were back in elementary school and could just sign their names to a batch of Snoopy cards and stick 'em anonymously into tissue-paper-decorated shoeboxes.

Guys and girls rarely see eye-to-eye, and sometimes go toe-to-toe over the holiday of love. Valentine's Day can even turn the nicest of guys from Jekyll to Hyde. Take myself, for instance — I always tried to be a good boyfriend. I planned creative and fun dates and treated girls with respect. But February, like a full moon to a werewolf, aroused my inner demons. Just when life was going great I'd see the inevitable red decorations of Valentine's Day.

Let me be clear — I've never petitioned Congress to have Valentine's Day expunged from the calendar, organized Hallmark sit-ins, or led a million-man protest march — but I just couldn't embrace Valentine's Day without working through some issues. Sadly, this emotionally damaged every unfortunate girl who dated me in early February.

For years Valentine's Day didn't strike my heart with love, but fear. If I was sans girlfriend, this was the only time when I felt certain I needed to make one materialize from the matter-less void that was my love life. The lonely know no cruelty like Valentine's Day. And when I did have a girlfriend, Valentine's Day was just a yearly opportunity for conflict. Fortunately, after years of healthy marriage, and positive self-analysis, I've come to understand that some factors from my youth left me with an affliction that's common to men — Valentine's Day Dysfunction Syndrome (VDDS).

Experts say the symptoms of VDDS are many, and range from the mild to the extreme:

  • Mentally blocking out Valentine's Day until it's too late to do something special, and then taking your date to the obligatory all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • Hating guys who insist on seeing Valentine's Day as another opportunity to plan a creative date.
  • Instead of writing a love poems she asked for, writing a dirge about being manipulated into writing a love poem.
  • Breaking up with a girlfriend before Valentine's Day, and getting back together the week after Valentine's Day.

If a man exhibits any of these symptoms, he likely suffers from VDDS. One cause of VDDS in men is that Valentine's Day makes a subtle power play on our culturally engrained masculine independence. Take me, for instance. I'm no dummy, I watch the truck commercials. I'm a freethinking manly-man with a "don't tell me what to do" attitude. And consider my heroes from TV and the movies and their impact on my development:

  1. John Rambo — One man, psychologically disabled, vs. dozens of crazed nuts.
  2. Arnold Schwartzenegger — One man, verbally disabled, vs. dozens of crazed nuts.
  3. Homer Simpson — One man, intellectually disabled, vs. dozens of glazed donuts.

My heroes didn't have anybody telling them what to do and always came out on top. They were free thinkers, not followers.

Thus, VDDS rears its ugly head when I sense the greeting card barons and flower industry magnates using Valentine's Day to manipulate me for profit. My Alpha-male mentality is repulsed when it's communicated that I must buy my "Sweetheart" cards, candies, bouquets, foofy little lacey pillows, and other assorted trinkets. I get all amped on testosterone and think to myself, "ME, TARZAN, BUY WOMAN GIFT WHEN TARZAN WANT BUY GIFT!"

Another event that seared VDDS into my being was my first Sadie Hawkins dance. It's no coincidence that many schools plan their annual Sadie Hawkins dance during Valentine's Day. Sadie Hawkins, the dance where the girls ask the guys, is a not-so-subtle plot by the female illuminati to program the tabula rasa of young males — romance and Valentine's Day go hand in hand. That is, if romance can be defined as a girl dragging some pimply-faced guy in his dad's suit coat out to dinner and a dance. My first Sadie Hawkins dance was a night that left me with trauma induced VDDS.

The dance came along just as I was just exiting my Toughskins and Underoos wardrobe phase — it was my sophomore year of high school. I wasn't a geek, but certainly not popular. I wasn't an agoraphobe, but I blushed easily and often, even dreading the fact that "Allen" was always the first name called on role call. I would have died had Christi Coleman — my crush — learned that I sometimes sniffed the air for the scent of her Anais Anais perfume when I passed by her locker.

In breaking free of my mother dictating my mojo, I started doing what I saw the cool guys doing — I put mousse in my hair. Unfortunately, the bottle of White Rain I covertly purchased didn't give a play by play tutorial, and this being pre-Internet, there was nowhere to go for anonymous advice. Thus, I made the amateurish assumption that more mousse was better than less mousse and ended up wearing a daily coiffure of concrete. My skull was protected by a Class III helmet of hair - suitable for skateboarding and bicycling, but not motor sports.

Needless to say the Sadie Hawkins dance was not on my list of things to do over Valentine's weekend. I was hoping to play some RISK. Thus was I the perfect target for Cupid: insecure, hopelessly naïve regarding girls, and without plans the night of the soiree.

Meanwhile, in a social stratosphere far, far, away, a chain of events was set in motion that was beyond my control. Apparently Ben Biffinger, captain of the wrestling team, beefcake extraordinaire, and until-then-boyfriend of Christi Coleman, accepted an invitation from Amber to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Christi, dumped by Ben the day before the dance, had her rep on the line. Through a series of connections to the nether regions of the social chain, she learned that I didn't yet have a date to the dance. In fact, I barely knew there was a dance! Thus would I be her straw man. I got the call on Friday evening, just as I was invading Siam from China.

"Hello, Marshall? This is Christi Coleman from school. Whatcha doin'?" She spoke as if we'd talked on the phone — or in person — before. I figured I'd play it cool.

"Playin' RISK — Er, I mean, I'm uh, feelin' risky...." That was stupid, but Cupid had apparently emptied his quiver into Christi's hindquarters — she was calling me! This was my big chance to climb the social ladder to its upper rungs.

"I wanted to know if you'll come to the Sadie Hawkins dance with me tomorrow night? Will you?" She sounded serious, so I moved in for the kill.

"Uh, sure," I mustered suavely.

Thus, was my fate set. Right about then I was thinking that a Sadie Hawkins dance was about the coolest thing anyone could have invented — a girl calls you up and asks you out with no strings attached? What a deal!

I felt great until the next night when we walked into the dance. There was Ben staring at me, his pecs heaving, with an animalistic look in his eye. Christi paraded me to the dance floor for a slow dance right in front of her ex. It became apparent to me that I was just Christi's date — a nameless, faceless guy holding some kind of position. This must be what it's like to date Madonna, I thought to myself.

Ben snarled, grabbed Amber, and stalked to the dance floor, his heat-seeking eyes tracking me. There was no doubt to his intentions. As Christi and I hugged and swayed, at a moment when I should have been entranced with romance, I felt raw, naked, primal fear. Unobtrusively at first, I jockeyed Christi around the floor, doing switchbacks while Ben and Amber gave chase.

Making sure to always spin Christi between me and my aggressor, and still in beat to the music, we danced as I've never danced before. Ben and Amber in hot pursuit, we left the crowded confines of the dance floor and jerkily swayed to the refreshment table. After several laps around the punch bowl, it became clear that running was futile. Ben would tear my flesh from my bones in front of the entire student body and I would be known as the worst Sadie Hawkins date ever. I turned to face the music.

"WHADYA DOIN' WITH MY GIRL!?" Ben screamed at me in a blind rage. I considered reasoning with him, pointing out that he, in fact, accepted another date, and that Christi had invited me to the dance. I looked to Christi for support, but she seemed to be pleased that Ben was saving the day for her. Ben was radiating heat, his head looked like a cherry red, pulsating road map — webbed with throbbing cords and pulsating veins.

Before I could compose a response, Ben swung his meaty fist at me, a haymaker aimed at my jaw. I flinched so as not to take it in the face, ducking my head so his sledgehammer of a fist struck me right in the top of my head, which was fortunately protected by my White Rain engineered Class III helmet. It must've been like socking a ball-bearing because Ben's face got so screwed up with pain and confusion that he burst into tears. Shamed by his display of emotional vulnerability, he sprinted from the dance.

Never having been a fighter, I was quite shaken by the event, and unfortunately projected my trauma onto all Valentine's Day related festivities. I would argue that many men have had scarring Valentine's dance experiences that have contributed to their VDDS.

Fortunately, I can write now and say that while I haven't totally been cured of VDDS (it's something most men will always live with), I have learned how to celebrate a normal Valentine's Day. The key to my overcoming VDDS is having a patient and understanding wife and refusing to allow an opportunity to celebrate her go by.

It's been a long road to overcoming VDDS, but now I celebrate every Valentine's Day with class, romance and an extra plate at the all-you-can-eat buffet.

Copyright 2001 Marshall Allen. All rights reserved.

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