Screw You, Valentine. I’ll be Romantic when I Feel Like It
It's Tuesday morning and I can't find any interesting sex news from the past couple of weeks except for an of a 6 year old economics study on the likelihood of ladies putting out in response to different type of gifts. (Economists' conclusion: in a purely theoretical system that doesn't take into account the varied and often irrational behavior of actual human beings, a dude's chances of getting sex improve if the gift he's giving is expensive but worthless to the receiver. My conclusion: economists really need to stop assuming people will always behave "rationally." Also these particular economists probably don't get laid much.) I've spent the last few days of my day job reading mountains of scientific articles, so forgive me, but I don't feel like digging up something scientific and analyzing it in depth this week. This is gonna be one of those columns where I just write about my thoughts on a particular sexual subject without the benefit of rigorous data to back me up (Scandoloso!). Specifically, that upcoming holiday of love and romance, Valentine's day.
Given what I know about the readers on this site, I imagine most of you respond to the hype surrounding February 14th with something between an eye roll and boiling fury. I assume this because that's about where I stand on the issue. The idea that we could set aside one day to spend time with our significant others and celebrate romance is nice on paper. Hell, it can actually be quite lovely when people do so on their own time and in their own ways. But the instant you make it an obligation to do so on one specific day, it becomes hollow and obnoxious. Valentine's day has become this weird ritual in which men are expected to buy roses and chocolates and maybe a teddy bear or jewelry, and take their women out to expensive dinners (or possibly make a nice dinner at home), and women are expected in return to....well, actually I'm not sure what women are really expected to do in return. Have sex if the guy is lucky and the couple inhabits the world of bad tv shows where men always want sex and women only do it for a reward? Wear the nice underwear instead of the old cotton ones? (Men don't want romance themselves, obviously, it just a way to get into a lady's pants.) If you're inventive, maybe you can inject some spontaneity into the proceedings by doing something unusual, but even then, because it's Valentine's day your partner won't be as completely surprised and charmed as they would if you just did something sweet and creative out of the blue. Setting aside a day for required romance has the effect of sapping any actual romantic gesture of its power.
I love surprises (romantic and otherwise), both receiving them and coming up with them for others (one of the many things I hate about Valentine's is the sexist one-sidedness of it), but I hate feeling obligated to do something for arbitrary reasons, and I imagine most other people do as well. And it isn't any better for me being on the receiving end of the obligation. Looking back, I cannot think of a single Valentine's day that was special to me. I remember the tragedy of being a single high schooler on Valentine's day, and watching cheesy movies with my similarly single friends. I remember one Valentine's Day when (still a teenager, natch) I made my boyfriend go through the motions of buying me roses and taking me out. It was stressful and not the least bit romantic and I still feel embarrassed about behaving like such a diva over one silly day. On the other hand, when I think of the most romantic moments of my life they tend to have happened on random calendar days when there wasn't any particular pressure or expectation. I realize that some people are able to make Valentine's day something special, and some of you may have much better memories of Valentine's past, but I think at this point it's become so commercial and scripted that it's nearly impossible to turn it into a romantic highlight. There are people who buy into the hype and want romance according to the script (I know at one least one woman who made her husband "surprise" her with a dramatic proposal even though they'd bought the ring together and basically made a joint decision to get married, for example). For most of the rest of us, Valentine's is just another manufactured holiday to rebel against.
Romance, sex, and relationships tend to be complicated and fraught enough without throwing in pressure to perform (in one way or another) on command. I for one will be treating Valentine's day like any other this year, and reserving my romantic surprises for Steak and Blowjob day.
Dr. Pisaster has a doctorate in biophysics, not actually anything sexy. She does however enjoy having sex, reading about sex, and talking about sex. Especially when she's had a little whiskey.