Here's a riddle for you: What do Valentine's Day and Fox News have in common?
If you're like my boyfriend and answered, "They are both phony constructs manufactured for the sole purpose of making money," you are not only wrong, you must also immediately report to the nearest Michael's Arts and Crafts Store, because you are clearly overdue for Boyfriend Retraining Camp.
The correct answer is this: Valentine's Day and Fox News are alike in that when it comes to people's take on either of these things, there are no middle-of-the-roaders. Don't believe me? Try bringing up either topic at work tomorrow and count how many "mehs" you get. (Spoiler alert: The final tally will be exactly zero.)
But since Valentine's Day is breathing down our necks like Cupid revved up on a twelve pack of Red Bull (and Fox News, by contrast, seems a little passé after last year's presidential election), we're taking on Valentine's Day today.
If you are one of those people who loves Valentine's Day, this is your season to shine. So, stop reading this and start writing love poems or drawing hearts on your significant other's boxers with a red Sharpie or whatever other romantic idea you have been dreaming up for the past eleven months.
If, however, you hate Valentine's Day, this column is for you!
There are two types of people who hate Valentine's Day: those who are in relationships and those who are not.
For the hater who is also a lover:
If you are in a relationship and you hate Valentine's Day, my advice to you is simple: Suck it up. Quit bellyaching about how much you resent the holiday and all of the artificial hype and pressure that Hallmark and Kay Jewelers have combined forces to gin up. No one wants to hear it -- especially not your S.O. or your single friends. One day each year, you have to pretend to be into your relationship and for the other three hundred and sixty-four, it's business as usual. It's not that hard.
Here are some tips to help you get it right:
Don't wait until the last minute. Whatever you do, don't put this off until 5:00 p.m. on Valentine's Day, then pop into a grocery store on the way home from work and expect to get it right. Nothing says "my feelings for you have died" like the triple-insult of a runt-of-the-litter grocery store bouquet, a Whitman's Sampler and a Hallmark card.
It's the thought that counts. Put some thought into how to celebrate this day. What you come up with doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate. It just has to be considerate. What does your S.O. really like? Time spent alone with you? Then how about booking a weekend getaway? And I'm not talking about something exotic or international. Just pick a destination an hour or two away, book a hotel room on Priceline, make dinner reservations on Open Table and you're good to go.
Does your S.O. enjoy massages? Then a gift certificate for spa services is a great idea. But a word of caution here: Unless you work next door to the Four Seasons, don't just pop into the spa that's closest to your office. Make sure to get a gift certificate to a spa that you know your S.O. likes.
Think of it like this: If you are a sports fan, you would probably dig it if you S.O. gave you tickets to your favorite team's big game. But tickets to some random team's game that you don't care about? That's a swing and a miss.
Don't outsource your affection. When you pawn off something as personal as a getting your S.O.'s Valentine's Day gift you greatly increase the risk of a misfire. Gifts are supposed to be a token of your affection. And your affection isn't something you can outsource. It's fine to bounce ideas off of other people or ask for input. f your sister is a buyer for Neiman Marcus or your brother is a manager at Tiffany & Co., by all means, take advantage of those resources. But in the end you should pick out -- and pick up -- the gift yourself.
For the solitary hater:
The traditional way single people honor Valentine's Day is by slipping into a Snuggie, cueing up the Meg Ryan movie marathon, then chowing down on a large pizza with a side of crazy bread, washing that down with a bottle of chardonnay, and chasing all of that with a pint of rocky road.
But as fulfilling as this custom may sound, it can actually both cause depression and increase the likelihood that you'll enjoy many more years of similar "celebrations."
The following blueprint for observing Valentine's Day is not only healthier, it is also a lot more fun.
Don't romanticize it. There's nothing like a holiday dedicated to celebrating romantic love to make you feel inadequate and incomplete about flying solo. But here's the thing you have to remember: The holiday can be an even bigger bummer when you're in a bad relationship. All the romantic propaganda can make people who are coupled up come face-to-face with the realization that the thrill is gone.
The worst Valentine's Days I've lived through were ones that occurred while I was unhappily married. And some of the best Valentine's Days I've celebrated were ones when I was blissfully single. So, whenever you find yourself falling for the fairy tale ads suggesting that everyone who is coupled up is going to have the most romantic Valentine's Day ever, remind yourself of the current divorce rate -- that should bring you back to relationship reality.
It's better to give. Just because you're not in a relationship at the moment doesn't mean you have to sit this one out. Zoom out a little and make this a day to celebrate those you love. Whether it's your BFFs, your kids, your sisters or all of the above, go buy the cutest Valentine's Day cards you can find and send them to the people you love. It will make you feel great, I promise.
But getting is good, too. If you were in a relationship, Valentine's Day should be a zero sum game: You would spend a few bucks on your S.O., but you'd also receive a gift or two in return. This year, take whatever amount you would have spent on him and treat yourself to something nice instead. Economically, you should come out about the same; but satisfaction-wise, you're guaranteed to come out ahead because you are sure to get what you want.
Goodbye, diamond pendant from Jane Seymour's collection at Kay Jewelers. Hello, deluxe spa pedicure!
Imagine: A Valentine's Day without the pressure of having to feign appreciation when you unwrap the stuffed teddy bear holding a heart-shaped box of chocolate that you spotted in the "$10 and under" section at Target the week before. Now you can take that $10 and buy yourself the purse-sized L'Occitane shea butter hand cream you've been wanting instead.
Own the night. Just because you are single on Valentine's Day doesn't mean you have to act like you're a Democrat living in Dallas. Quit tiptoeing around hoping no one notices you. You have as much right to celebrate this evening as anyone else. Coordinate with other single friends whose company you love, book a reservation at a fabulous restaurant, and make a night of it.
And while you're out, make sure to represent your demographic well. Don't be apologetic about being single on Valentine's Day -- be proud of it. If you start to feel insecure, take a look around at the other couples at the restaurant. Count how many look like they're having a good time versus those who look like they are simply going through the Valentine's Day motions. And don't forget to note how many people are looking enviously at your "single friends" table.
Whether you are single or in a relationship, the advice above can serve as a love potion powerful enough to turn even the biggest Valentine's Day hater into a legendary lover. So, get busy and start making your Valentine's Day plans today.