How to Ruin Valentine's Day

I'm pretty apathetic when it comes to Valentine's Day. For me, Valentine's Day falls into the same category as, say, President's Day. I just don't really give it too much thought. Of course, I know people who absolutely love Valentine's Day....these are typically girlfriends who have been trolling for a little blue Tiffany's box since Christmas; and I know people who loathe Valentine's Day....typically the folks with girlfriends who haven't shut up about Tiffany's since December.

Last year, I was in the grocery story at about 6:00 on Valentine's evening. I saw a steady procession of harried men with frenzied looks in their eyes, haplessly snatching one of the last picked-over bouquets and rushing to check out. I imagined their wives at home, anxiously waiting to see what their husbands would bring them. I conjured up the thought that most of the women had spent the afternoon cooking a dinner that would work well by candlelight, then put the kids to bed early and squeezed themselves into some semblence of lingerie. I wanted to pull them aside and tell them that they'd probably get more ass if they just went home and offered to do the festive Valentine's Day dishes. But I digress...

My favorite Valentine's Day was the one I spent with a good friend in college. That year, we were the only two out of our group of friends who weren't dating anyone. So we decided to go out to dinner together, and deliberately chose the least romantic place we could think of, lest anyone treat us like a couple. (My lack of a penis conclusively precluded any interest he might have in me.) So we headed off to a place where we were regulars, a bar in the city that was known for its pizza and beer selection.

When we walked in, we felt betrayed. Valentine's Day was in full effect. All of the high-top tables were covered in white tablecloths, and waiters we'd never seen before were traipsing around in starched white tuxedo shirts and bow ties. We stared at each other for a full minute, both wary and amused. "What the hell?" the look said, "They got us." We grabbed a table near the bar, and a waiter came scurrying over to fawn over us. I think my friend grew even more pissed, as the waiters all clearly lacked any ability to pull off their formalwear for the evening, immediately pegging them as straight.

We asked for menus, but were told the only option was their Valentine's Day prix fixe menu, consisting of--get this--a heart-shaped pizza and a bottle of either red or white wine. We could order beer if we chose, but the wine was included in the price regardless. I wondered what teetolers would think of their $30 pizza, then began to scan the room looking for anyone who might fit that description so that we could score their bottle of wine as well.

With the waiter standing ready, we proceeded to have a bitchy conversation about the 'correct' wine to drink in a downtown dive bar with a heart-shaped pizza. The humor was lost on our clueless server. We went for the red, which of course, turned out to be some table schlock that I'm sure the bar had procured for about $2 a bottle wholesale. Like the pizza, it was shaping up to be a heart-shaped night, the very thing we were trying to avoid.

My friend spotted the jukebox and pulled out a $5 bill as we waited for our Valentine's Day pizza. I'd already slugged back a glass of the wine, complaining that I could still taste the feet of the hairy bitch who'd crushed the grapes. We headed over to play some music, and a few pages into the catalogue, I started furiously punching numbers into the machine. My friend grabbed my hand, trying to pull it away from the box as I repeated the same four-digit code over and over again. "What are you doing?" he hissed. The giggles growing inside of me threatened to become tears of laughter as I shook free of his grasp.

Just then, the music I'd chosen began to play over the speakers. Paul Simon's melancholy "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" was starting to get the attention of the erstwhile romantic couples. My friend froze, his eyes grew wide, and he doubled over in the same fit of laughter. I continued to hit the code on the jukebox, and when our credits were exhausted, we returned to the table to survey the Valentine's Day carnage as the song played over, and over, and over again.

The Valentine's Day revelers were looking pretty annoyed as we each poured another glass of the cheap wine. Our heart-shaped pizza came, and we could finally appreciate it. Just as the offending song ended, it would start up again, each time sending both of us into another fit of laughter. By the time our obligatory chocolate dessert arrived, we had effectively reclaimed Valentine's Day.

On the drive home, my friend developed a conscious about how we'd thoroughly fucked up the holiday for everyone else in the building. I reasoned that anyone who would seriously take a date to the pizza dive on Valentine's Day deserved to be cock-blocked. And any woman who found it acceptable for her husband or boyfriend to get by with such a lame display of affection needed the encouragement.

Years later, I still don't feel bad about what we (I) did. It's still one of my favorite Valentine's Day memories, and I think it probably always will be. Because the revelry came in a form that is too often lacking in these monstrously pre-planned holidays--spontaniety. No way would that Valentine's Day be as memorable if we had planned to go out and bitch-slap the fun out of everyone else's night. But that's the way it just so happened to work out. And every Valentine's Day since then, I think of my college friend at least once during the day, and always wind up telling a shocked co-worker the story.

Happy Valentine's Day, all. May it be what you make of it.