With dull eyes and open mouths, they crowd the streets and fill the restaurants. Some are teenagers, some are straight, some are gay, and far too many are married adults who would usually be found at home watching the television at night. They are the zombies of St. Valentine's Day, and they're just as miserable as they look.
Nothing says "I should have joined a monastery" or "I wonder what's in the medicine cabinet that might kill me" like sitting in the neighborhood Applebee's with 200 other local couples who would all rather be playing that bird game on their phones, alone, at home.
The true origins of Valentine's Day are ... well, it hardly matters. Chivalry, age of romance, Chaucer, ancient Catholic saints of dubious existence, Christians fed to lions, etc. None of that has anything to do with American Valentine's Day, which is a retail and restaurant event disguised as the most awkward holiday ever.
Never has so much consumer garbage been so unhappily purchased for people who don't want it. New surveys prove that men want "sex" for Valentine's Day, while women prefer "flowers." So if you are male and your partner is male, do some sex on each other and save some cash, give a hoot. If you're female and your partner is female, give each other flowers. If you're transgender, do whatever feels right and don't tell that sports blog.
If you've been married more than a year, skip February 14. You don't want to do Valentine's Day, and your spouse sure doesn't want to do Valentine's Day. If you still love each other, prove it by taking your spouse out on the town after the dreaded day. Try Sunday night! It's much easier to get a babysitter, the restaurants won't be crowded, and the servers won't be upselling some garbage Romance Meal for $120.
Even with 46 percent of American adults "opting out" of Valentine's Day for reasons of either being alone or poor or just hating consumer festivals of love, there's still a lot of money being blown on February 14 paraphernalia and forced merriment—$17 billion dollars is this year's estimate, according to the National Retail Federation.
This is why the drug store chain Rite-Aid has a press release in the Wall Street Journal saying it will "pull out all the stops," because nothing says romance like picking up a stuffed pink bear and a heart-shaped box of corn syrup blobs while you're already at the Rite-Aid picking up your prescription.
But there are signs that Valentine's Day spending is in permanent decline. Even those who take part are spending less, with national sales expected to drop by 10 percent this year. And as increasing numbers of Americans live and die utterly alone, Valentine's Day has begun to stink of intolerance.
So this year, enjoy the gift of dignity. Whether or not you're coupled off, isn't it better to stay home and watch that House of Cards or have a gunfight with the police or something?
[Image by Jim Cooke.]