Like everybody else, I go a bit crazy when Valentine's Day comes around...
All you need is Love (and all you'll get is chocolate)2/11/04
What you're still here? Not out buying up every heart-shaped thing in sight in anticipation of "the only holiday devoted exclusively to LOVE"?
At least, that's what the ad for some jewelry store called it on the radio today. They also suggested that if it was your first Valentine's day with your new love, you should really be thinking about buying that three-carat diamond engagement ring already.
...no sense of proportion or propriety, either.
But don't fret! If she's not that "special one", you can always get her some diamond earrings instead. Because, hey, nothing says "I kind of like you, but I don't see this relationship really going anywhere" like a pair of diamond studs, eh?
No wonder guys break up their relationships right before Valentine's day - think of all the money you'll save. I mean, there's flowers ($50), and dinner ($100), and jewelry ($299-5000, depending on a number of complicated girl equations that you will never, ever fathom, but will trip you up when you least expect it), and maybe a movie ($20) or a show ($80-500), and then you have to have champagne ($30, unless you buy the $6 bottle of Andre, but you're not fooling anyone), and more roses for the rose petal-strewn bed ($50), and then you pull out the mink-lined handcuffs ($60) and the leather garter belt ($70), and then you have to pay for her cab ride home because she's not staying here another minute, you pervert ($40).
It gets expensive, especially if your girlfriend's been reading girly magazines and watching TV for the month and a half leading up to Valentine's day - the massive advertising push for material symbols to commemorate a day devoted to something that is essentially free have been pummelling her brain, and now she's expecting nothing less than the moon, because Marcie in Accounting got a five-carat ring last year, and there's no way that bitch is going to lord it over everyone for another year, so if you don't come through with something amazing, she'll pout and be mad at you. There's no way guys can win this one, so it's not really surprising that so many of them opt out at the last minute.
Actually, the perfect Christmas gift for the girl you love might be a total sensory deprivation tank - you can let her out sometime in March.
And really, the distaff sex have just as difficult a time with Valentine's day - single women particularly go completely nuts in February. You would, too, if everything around you screamed "If you're not with someone, you're a LOSER" so loudly that you basically felt you had no choice but to go out and have a large scarlet "L" tattooed on your forehead because you aren't lucky enough to be attached to a guy who ignores you and puts you down all year, then goes out and buys you a cheap stale box of chocolates on Valentine's day (most of which he eats himself, leaving the icky ones for you) and expects revoltingly peverted sexual favours in return.
*ahem* Sorry, flashback.
Anyway, for those of you who feel that being with any man at all is more appealing than being alone with that cheap box of chocolates on February 14th, I heard the perfect solution on the radio this morning: "How to Find Your Perfect Mate in Six Weeks", written by a woman whose name I didn't catch, but who seemed pretty convinced that you could get a man if you followed her simple rules.
Actually, I believe her. You can find a man in no time flat, and if your definition of "perfect" means "breathing", then you're set.
Okay. Since we don't have six weeks until Vday, we're going to compress the course down to six hours (all the methods sound like they'll work with just one evening spent in a bar). Ready? Here we go:
1. Change your attitude - stop worrying about what men think of you.
Go to bar. Sit at bar. Throw cocktail cherries at men who piss you off. Tell guy who tries cheesy pickup line with you that your sign is "no solicitors". Flirt with bartender. See how many drinks you can get men to buy for you. Do not feel guilty about, sorry for, or obligated to anyone just because they bought you a drink. Dance better than your partner. Kick him if he steps on your toes.
2. Dress to show off your curves - men like to see curves. Dress colourfully; men like bright colours.
I thought we didn't care what men thought! Now we have to dress the way they want us to? Okay, okay, we'll do it. Go through closet. Pick out anything skintight - sequins, glitter, and lame' are a plus. Try every possible outfit combination until you find one that screams "trailer trash/mob boss's girlfriend". Put on lots of makeup. Make sure your hair is long and fluffy - tease if necessary. If hair is short, go to Frederick's of Hollywood and buy the longest curly wig they have in blonde or auburn. Don't forget the high heels!
3. If you see a cute guy walking down the street, he might be your soul-mate. Introduce yourself to every cute guy you meet.
(I wonder how many women met Ted Bundy this way.) *Smack* Ow! Okay, I'll do it! Stop hitting me! Go to bar. walk around bar, checking out cute guys. Give your phone number to every guy that looks remotely cute. Introduce yourself to guy. Introduce yourself to his girlfriend. Offer to jello-wrestle for cute guy. Blow off less-than-cute guys by saying "you could never be my soul mate, you're not cute/tall/thin/rich/etc. enough".
So, in a nutshell: Dress like a slut, give your phone number to everyone, and don't worry if men think you're cheap.
According to the author, you should have your pick of men at this point, so take a moment to decide who you want to go home with. Don't feel restricted to just one man - two guys means more Valentine's gifts!
Sounds good to me. The "Perfect Mate in Six Weeks" woman and the guy who thinks buying an engagement ring for his first Valentine with his girlfriend is a good idea should get together - it's a relationship that will burn with the brightest flame and last through the ages...
Or at least, until the mink-lined cuffs come off.
Ask Not For Whom The Bear Blushes...2/10/04
I made gluten-free chocolate chip cookies from a mix last night. I had high hopes for them, since the same company makes a GF snickerdoodle cookie mix that's really good.
I don't know how to describe the flavour, but "good" definitely wasn't it. They tasted like someone had decided that the cookies should taste like health food - a sort of whole-wheat chocolate chip with a hint of styrofoam flavour. Ugh. Cookies are one of those foods that really shouldn't be made over into a "healthy" version; like oven-baked french fries and fat-free salad dressing, the ersatz kind are just depressing. So, there's no need for me to use *that* mix again.
I tried to think up a smooth segue into my Valentine topic today - going from icky cookies to the day-that-celebrates-chocolate-as-long-as-it's-heart-shaped, but aside from the presence of chocolate and the similarity between the vaguely sick feeling you get when you bite into a bad cookie and the slightly nauseated sensation you get when you realize all your Valentine's day gifts came from the Dollar Store, there isn't much of a connection.
So, I'm just going to take a hard right turn here, if you don't mind.
Advertising always gets interesting this time of year - from the endless jewelry store ads touting compressed lumps of coal as a symbol of undying love ("Why are you still crying?" "It's not big enough... er, I mean, I'm still happy."), to the car ads touting a Lexus as a much larger symbol of undying love with crippling interest charges - and all of it's geared towards buying stuff for girls. I haven't even seen an ad for diamond cufflinks, and you'd think the jewelry stores would take any opportunity they could to sell more expensive useless stuff. But as always, guys don't get anything for Valentine's Day, because apparently we all feel that putting out is the best gift you can give your man on February 14th.
It doesn't seem fair; I mean, aside from the revolting polyester satin boxer shorts with cute sayings and hearts that seem to proliferate this time of year, there just isn't anything cool to give the man in your life except you, dressed in lingerie - and that's kind of depressing to think about. Not because I don't like lingerie, but because it somehow perpetuates the idea that sex is something a man buys with gifts and flowers, rather than an continuing expression of love. Alternatively (in case I've suddenly spoiled your Valentine plans), power tools are a nice thoughtful gift. Remember: Horsepower = Manliness. Don't sell your guy short!
Anyway, in amongst the straightforward "Guys! Buy something sparkly and you'll get laid" ads, there's one that adds a sinister new level of anxiety to the whole Valentine's Day neuroticism. It's a Hallmark ad - Hallmark being the bastion of all that is cute and evil (except me, I'm an independent contractor) - and shows a girl running down some steps in a flowy gown (you don't see her face - this is important later), dropping a teddy bear in an obvious play on the whole Cinderella thing (it's not entirely clear it's a Hallmark ad at this point, but as soon as you see the teddy bear, you know something's not right). The guy, completely captivated by a woman who would carry a teddy bear around in public, goes from door to door (somehow knowing which neighbourhood she lives in), trying to find the match for the toy he clutches in his hopeful hand.
**Insert amusing bit with cat here - in fact, my favourite bit of the ad**
The right girl opens the door, the teddies in their hands kiss (and one blushes), and it's happily ever after. Suddenly the scene fades, and the same girl is in the Hallmark store, holding the teddies, and you realize it's all an elaborate fantasy she's cooked up because she clearly isn't on enough medication.
Many things disturb me about this ad. For one thing, is she going to bring those damn teddies everywhere? Will she drop one of them at the feet of every cute guy she sees?
If she's doing it in bars, this could get messy - and a beer-soaked, cigarette-ash-encrusted teddy bear is just kind of gross. And what if it doesn't work the first time? Will she keep doing it? Will she become known as "The Teddy Girl", psychotically hurling an increasingly filthy stuffed toy at guys she wants to date?
It's a unique pick-up method, I'll grant you that.
Our girl is interesting, too. Cute, but not beautiful - a little chunky (i.e., normal-sized outside the advertising world), okay hair, slightly alarming tendency to dress like Kelly Clarkson (scarves should really only be worn when one is cold), very girl-next-door. She's the best-friend-who-doesn't-get-laid type, and it's actually a slight shock when she opens the door to the guy, because she isn't the willowy blond Cinderella type at all.
Which is presumably why she's in a Hallmark store concocting elaborate Cinderella fantasies involving midnight jaunts with teddy bears. She's clearly single - she wouldn't be daydreaming about romance in a Hallmark store if she was with someone (though she would have combed through the entire rack of Valentine cards, trying to find the one that describes "their" love perfectly, not realizing that her boyfriend not only won't pick up on the sentiment, but will probably lose the card on the way home from their date). I assume we're supposed to identify with her, but honestly, haven't most of us decided that being swept off your feet by a guy you hardly know is a sure-fire guarantee of relationship disaster? I suppose Hallmark is hoping we'll be momentarily blinded by the romantic ideal of a guy who will singlemindedly search until he finds his perfect teddy bear, but it just kind of creeps me out.
Bob says if she was more beautiful, the ad wouldn't work, because there'd be guys lining up to give her teddy bears - she ha* to be slightly pathetic and not as 'advertising-beautiful' as normal for her fantasy to be believable.
Ah, the wonders of "inferiority complex" advertising! Initially, I wasn't sure it was a smart idea to pitch the product as only suitable for single girls still expecting their prince to appear magically at their door, but now I understand the sheer genius of the campaign.
Which demographic feels left out on Valentine's day? Who is likely to walk into a Hallmark store and actually buy something just because it's cute? Who normally stays away from cute heart stuff during February, because it's a miserable reminder that society doesn't think you're successful unless you're hitched?
Well, it's not single guys, that's for sure.
Unless they're buying the bears for target practice.
When you care enough to shoot the very best, eh?
Bubble gum hearts and candy kiss-offs2/9/04
Welcome to the COUNTDOWN TO VALENTINE'S DAY!
(I know, eeeuwww. Heh.)
Of course, in the stores, it's been a countdown to the-most-dreaded-day-of-the-year-for-guys-because-there's-no-way-in-hell-they-can-measure-up-to-all-the-hype since slightly before New Year's, but trust me, guys don't really plan stuff more than a week in advance.
(unless you have to buy roses - THAT has to be arranged at least six months in advance, or you'll be SOL.)
We'll start this year's festivities with the perfect gift for the guy that broke up with you right before Valentine's day so that he wouldn't have to spring for roses or dinner: Broken Hearts Bubble Gum. Now, personally, I can't think of anything more inappropriate for Feb. 14, but obviously I'm missing a whole market segment of royally pissed-off people out there. Whoever came up with this idea went all the way - there's a form-rejection letter printed on the side (it's a small package, so it won't cost much to send) that invites you to "Send the letter below to your heartbreaker".
Actually, it's a pretty useful document, so I'm reproducing it here (all words copyright the Topps company, Inc., 2003.):
"Have a Broken Heart? Send the letter below to your heartbreaker.
"Dear ________(name), All ________(adjective) things must end. Your ______(adjective) attitude is worse than the ___________(adjective) noise your 1978 __________(Car Name) makes.
"Presents like the __________(adjective) ___________(noun) you gave me confirm that I wasn't that important in your _______(noun). So now, in the spirit of ________________(Famous separated couple), it's time to say __________(expression for goodbye).
Seriously. Clip and save, folks! I especially like the slur on the "heartbreaker"'s vehicle - 1978! Ouch! You tell him!
(I'm assuming it's a him that's doing the heartbreaking, because I can't imagine a guy buying fruit punch flavoured bubble gum just for the break-up letter on the side, but in these days of metrosexuals, you never know. Sending your girl a form break-up letter in pink is a nice touch, though. Very Valentine-ey.)
There's a little note on the package that says "Not for children 3 and under" - I think that's nice. Children under 3 are really too young for that kind of heartbreak.
Also, the size of a standard 1978 American car makes it extremely unlikely that anyone under 3 could reach the pedals to drive, thereby making part of the letter irrelevant, and you don't want to lessen the impact of your soul-crushing form letter by marking out huge sections of it. It would look like it was censored by your Mom before you sent it, and people, that just doesn't look cool.
Tasty gum, though. I should break up more often.
Worst Valentine EVER. 2/14/03
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Did you get a gift? Did you buy one for someone else? No? Still want to? There's time.
And to make your task easier, I have gone out and checked the three most popular places to get that last-minute gift that says "I didn't think of this until the last minute, but hey - it's still a gift".
(Yeah, that statement always gets me hot, too.)
I went about this assignment with the verve and zeal of a man who's just remembered it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, i.e., I hit some stores on my way home from work. First stop: CVS.
Now, I knew CVS had possibilities, because that morning I had read the paper, and there was a full page ad that said "Stay out of the Doghouse. CVS... one easy stop for Valentine's Day Gifts." How could I resist? I didn't want to be in the doghouse, no sir.
Well, I may still be in trouble. They had but the one measly aisle of V-day gifts, and most of it was chocolate. Heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. So generic in its appearance, that I truly think that you'd be better off buying the regular candy - who doesn't love a King-sized Snicker's bar? And really, so much better for you than those chocolate covered cherries - much less in the way of red dye #2.
(Oh, yeah. My ex. He was crazy for them. I think that says all you need to know about him. :P)
They had the requisite number of stuffed things, supposed to make the woman of your dreams go all girly and misty-eyed. Some of them even said things when you squeezed them. But not rational things like "Ouch! Stop squeezing me!", but vaguely icky things like "I've got the hots for you!", conjuring up visions of an army of crazed plush toy stalkers, creeping up the bed in the dead of night, wanting some serious loving.
However, this was not the most disturbing thing in the store (okay, the clientele was the MOST disturbing, but bear with me here). Why buy your love some real roses that will die in a couple of days, when you can demonstrate how eternal your love is by buying her a silk rose that has a half-life of approximately five thousand years? I know, I know, but bear with me, this one is *really* special. It sings.
I don't know what it sings. I couldn't identify the song after ten seconds, and I really wasn't willing to listen to it any longer than that. Even in the service of hard-hitting journalism, I have my limits. Suffice to say that this... thing... would be a Valentine's day gift she'd remember for a long, LONG time. Even after therapy.
CVS: Worst gift - singing rose. Best gift - duct tape, batteries, and first aid supplies.
From there I went over the street to the Giant grocery store, mostly to pick up bread and snacks (if I'm going to die in a terrorist attack, I don't want big jugs of water, I want Pringle's Cheez-ums). It was an eye-opening experience.
The first thing you see as you walk in the door is the enormous shrine to pastel pink pastry products. The first thing to hit your nose is the aroma of those products wrestling mightily with the heavy scent of the thousand potted plants on display immediately behind them.
This is really not a good smell.
Leaving aside the whole insanity behind centering a holiday around gifts of major carbohydrate proportions combined with gifts of skimpy lingerie, I want to know how many pastel pink things the bakery department managed to make before going mad. I felt my sanity teetering on the brink just contemplating the enormous pile of sugary pink.
I certainly didn't feel like buying any of it.
And those flowers are expensive.
Venturing further into the store, I took notes on what I found:
Oh, my God! They have Valentine Barbie, and she's at the grocery store! What a great way to get little girls hooked on domesticity! First, encourage her to regard V-day as something really special, then position Barbie so that you see her surrounded by all the icons of American homemaking!
Next get your little darling an apron and an E-Z Bake oven, and presto! Your little snoogums will never have to worry about getting a man!
(Unlike Barbie, who is forced to throw herself into a desperate career search after discovering Ken in bed with G.I. Joe, shattering all her illusions of a happy, albeit sexually unsatisfying, union.)
(It's true, I swear. I heard it from the Hello Kitty toys in Target.)
Oh, man, who buys TIES at the grocery store? They were losing their shape as they hung there. I pity the man that gets that present.
Actually, I was having a hard time finding any of the normal things on my list, as most of the usual grocery items were completely hidden behind a wall of mylar balloons and bouquets of cut flowers. This store is the Jeffrey Dahmer of the plant world - there are beheaded flowers everywhere.
...I wonder if sushi counts as a V-day gift. It's pink, it tastes good, and it's better for you than candy.
*sigh* I had to escape. It was so crowded in there I couldn't stand it. Apparently, the imminent end of the world has not stopped everyone from doing their weekly shopping. It was really getting unbearable in there, so I gave the candy and promotional aisle only the briefest of glances. The same heart-shaped boxes of chocolates stared back at me from all sides. I felt like I was in a Valentine funhouse, except instead of mirrors, I was reflected back a thousandfold by shiny red mylar boxes.
Feeling like you're in a Fellini film at the grocery store is not conducive to massive Valentine spending.
Giant: Worst gift - "love coupons"; pieces of paper you give out, granting each other such basic human courtesies as "you get the remote ALL EVENING", tied with the resin heart-shaped photo frame decorated with bears called "The Unique Collection". God, I hope there's only one of them. Best gift - Haagen Daz 'Bananas Foster' ice cream and Krispy Kreme raspberry filled glazed doughnuts. Hey, it's a food store.
My last stop of the day was (and here's where you get to appreciate how much I sacrificed for you, my loyal readers): Wal-Mart.
Yes, I descended into the pits of hell that is Wally World, and braved crazed zombie greeters shoving carts at me, mouth-breathing shoppers that filled the entire aisle with their butts, and people shopping with carts so full of children they had to drag another cart along for their purchases.
(Maybe they were buying the kids THERE, I don't know. I couldn't find the shelf the kids were stocked on, even though I looked all over the department called "Children".)
Actually, the pickings here were pretty slim. Obviously Wal-Mart customers plan their V-Day purchases well ahead, for half the shelves were empty. There was a whole aisle of lip-shaped things which everyone had very sensibly left alone (what does getting a lip-shaped plastic box say about your relationship, anyway? "Hey, honey, I got the money for your collagen injections!").
I particularly liked the LOTR Valentines. I was hoping for a Gollum one, but no joy. There was an Ent one with the legend "I'll be there for you on Valentine's Day!". Brrr. That's a pretty creepy thought.
But, again with the acres of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates! It's like a butcher's shop, and the special is heart, with a side of lips. Yum!
Wal-Mart: Best gift - The chocolate rose in a box with heart-shaped truffles. Make your heart go pitter-pat with sugar overload. Worst gift (and possibly worst gift EVER, edging out the singing rose by a narrow margin) - the pink t-shirt hung up in the Valentine display that said "I love boy trouble".
Well, on Valentine's Day, you're going to get your wish, baby.
Especially if your man does his Valentine's Day shopping on the way home from work today.
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.