Whether you're coupled or not, the saccharine-drenched holiday seated smack in the middle of February usually brings with it a sense of obligation: to dive headfirst into the warm, fuzzy commercialism, or wallow in self-pity with commiserators (or cats). But for the single and proud, or the less-than-mushy sweethearts, tapered candles and cutout hearts aren't the only entertainment options when Tuesday rolls around. Check out our top picks around town for the anti-Valentine's Day set to spend this Feb. 14--without any cupid cartoons or red/pink motifs in sight.
Anti-Valentine's Day Party
If you're going to be decidedly anti-Valentine's day, commit to it and follow the pros at the Chicago Reader's third annual themed party. Chicago comedians Seth & Kellen will host the antagonist bash, and the first 150 ticket buyers will walk away with a gift bag full of Pleasure Chest goodies and more. Windy City Rollers derby girls will be on the scene, passing out bubbly and delivering Valentines to partygoers for charity. (They'll probably deal a knock-out punch, too, if that's more your style.) Musical performers include 2nd Story and the Black Belles.
Where: Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie Blvd.
When: 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. music
Martinis and Manicures
Significant other or not, the person most deserving of pampering on Valentine's Day is you. Show yourself some love with sips and polished tips--hit up Beauty Bar's manicure and martini deal at their party on Tuesday. The Feb. 14 festivities include a set from DJ Timbuck2 and some as-yet-unannounced special guest DJs and artists. RSVP in advance to hit up the hosted Grey Goose Bar from 10 p.m. - 11 p.m. Slip in before 9 p.m. to skip the cover charge.
Where: 1444 W. Chicago Ave
When: 9 p.m.
Society of Midland Authors
In a committed, long-term relationship with your burgeoning writing career? Schmooze with your ilk and soak up advice from Chicago-based romance authors Jennifer Stevenson, Sherrill Bodine and Patricia Rosemoor, who will share tips they've picked up about writing and publishing from their extensive harlequin collections. (Rosemoor has written 86 books; Stevenson's romance novels include "The Brass Bed" and often intertwine fantasy, and Bodine, who also writes as Leslie Lynn, is known for "All I Want is You.") Drinks and snacks will be served before the talk, sponsored by the Society of Midland Authors and hosted at the Cliff Dwellers Club in the Loop.
Where: 200 S. Michigan Ave.
When: 6 p.m.
Mercadito Chicago may have a couple-centric Valentine's Day prix fixe on the menu, but they also appeal to the single and non-celebratory with a romance-free five-course sharing menu optimized for groups instead of couples. And for the anti-Valentines who wouldn't say no to an offer, they're offering a special tequila shot tray that bachelors can order to be delivered to another table with a special admirer's note. Definitely an upgrade from the tear-out Disney cards that used to be passed along to crushes.
Where: 108 W. Kinzie St.
When: 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.
Beer and Chocolate Pairings
The booze-and-chocolate combo is far from a Valentine's Day specialty. Eliminate any semblance of thematic romance by replacing the customary champagne with a no-frills brewski at Fizz Chicago. On Feb. 14, the restaurant's offering a special flight of beer paired with their homemade dessert offerings. Beyond that, Fizz's 12 beers on tap and dozens of bottle selections can keep the evening going even after you've had your fill of sinful sweets.
Where: 3220 N. Lincoln Ave.
When: 4 p.m. - 2 a.m.
The Happy Hooker
While Valentine's Day may seem more sex-positive than most days, that mindset has been far from constant, or even safe, in American history. Follow the a year in the life of former high-profile madam Xaviera Hollander--1971, to be exact, when she was working as a prostitute in New Yorkat the height of that era's sexual revolution. Part of their Sex+++ series, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum will screen the film "The Happy Hooker: Portrait of a Sexual Revolutionary" and host a follow-up dialogue after the film (with refreshments).
Where: 800 S. Halsted St.
When: 7 - 9:30 p.m.
A Nude Hope: A Star Wars Burlesque
Scantily-clad ladies may be a Valentine's Day mainstay, but add light sabers and Darth Vader masks and you've got a decidedly un-festive evening ahead. The action-packed burlesque reenactment stays relatively true to the George Lucas script, save for some opportunely-timed breaks for the stars to disrobe. (Yes, that includes Obi Wan Kenobi's robe.) Marie Curiosity, Cinnamon Twist, Hello Dali and Diva La Vida star as a ragtag team of intergalactic heroes with a different kind of force over men--one that not even Luke Skywalker could ever flex.
Where: 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave.
When: 9 p.m.
Ladies' Night at Soha Comedy
Join a special all-female cast for stories of love-and-a-lack-thereof at Soha Comedy's Ladies Night. Stand-up gals including Bridget Clymore, Kate Steit, Megan Gailey and Kristen Toomey volunteer and skewer their on romantic foibles in a night-long event sure to make you feel better about your own. The show is hosted by North Side restaurant Sopo, where margaritas are half price that night. Admission is free for women--sorry guys, it IS ladies' night.
Where: 3418 N. Southport Ave.
When: 9 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.
If your ideal Valentine's Day involves Wanton Looks and Handcuffs with or without a partner, expect to be at the Double Door, where both bands join three other acts performing along with headliners The Siderunners.
Where: 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.
When: 9 p.m.
Modern art can undoubtedly be thought-provoking for its viewers, but what about the impact it can have on its own creator? Hear the source ruminate on her artwork and thought process at Culture Catalysts: Chicago's Movers and Shakers hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art. This month, featured artist Laura Letinsky, a photographer known for her still life work, will discuss her art and her process in a lecture at the museum.
Where: 220 E. Chicago Ave.
When: 6 p.m.
Price: Free with museum admission
This Much Is True
Share in "the humorous, embarrassing and poignant moments that make up a life remembered" at This Much is True, a monthly showcase of storytelling that offers a peek into the lives of performers. Join newcomer Natasha Tsoutsouris, teaching artist Paul Whitehouse, returning favorite Shannon Cason, and published author Carol LaChapelle as they spill their guts over craft beers at The Hopleaf.
Where: 5148 N. Clark St., Chicago
When: 7:30 p.m.
Wine & Wildlife: Animal Attractions
V-Day antagonists have something in common with the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo--neither need champagne or chocolate to get the romance going. Learn about the science behind critter coupling from the "matchmakers" behind all the zoo's baby-making. Speakers include Mark Kamhout, who optimizes animals' environments to get them in the mating mood, and Dr. Rachel Santymire, an endocrinologist who analyzes the pheromones and other biological responses that help pair off animals into perfect matches at the opportune moments.
Where: 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago
When: 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 - 9 p.m.
Adler Planetarium Free Day
You can't get further away from silly Earthly diversions than outer space--and to make the trip for free? Cue Lance Bass' raging jealousy. Show up with proof you live in Illinois for free access to the Adler Planetarium, and learn about gravity, galaxies, the solar system and the new frontier that is cyberspace.
Where: 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago
When: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Chicago History Museum
Consider yourself in a committed relationship with the Second City? Show her some love by boning up on her back story at the Chicago History Museum, which offers free admission to all Illinois residents on Feb. 14. Current exhibitions include "Out in Chicago," a profile of the city's gay culture and history, a Charles James retrospective and several Lincoln-themed displays (his birthday is Feb. 12, but we think he'd forgive a belated celebration).
Where: 1601 N. Clark St., Chicago
When: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.