Love, and Other Mercantile Pursuits

It’s that time of year again: young men and women from around the world become star-crossed and dewy-eyed as winter turns into spring; romance fills every empty crevice, emanating from every flower, every cloud, every sunset; people, walking, jogging, running, filing taxes hand-in-hand, looking deep into the eyes of that special someone and thinking about the same universal thought that has driven mankind since time immemorial: Money. Er, Love. I mean Love.

Capital-L Love is one of the few things that we cannot put a quantitative price on, at least not until we get married. And, to represent this upswelling of emotion, we have an entire holiday devoted to love: Valentine’s Day. (As opposed to, say, Thanksgiving, the main purpose of which is not to recognize love, but, rather, to restrain yourself from killing every member of your family with a carving knife, or Memorial Day, so government workers can leave work to get half price off of shoes.)

Valentine’s Day was invented by all those tenth grade guys who were much taller and better-looking than you and had pretty cars and fast women and could afford to blow their money on such frivolous items as sweaters from Kaufmann’s for their girlfriends. Valentine’s Day directly benefited them. And, despite the fact that the average teenage romance lasts about as long as a sitcom on the CW, it left people who took AP Calculus sitting at home on Valentine’s day reading J.R.R. Tolkien novels and wishing that women didn’t have the inherent power of being so attractive that state secrets should be kept from you.

Not that I ever had that problem. I hated The Hobbit. But Valentine’s day is still very popular, especially for Hallmark store managers and reality show producers, and the superseding emotion of Valentine’s day has certainly never been forgotten: Forgiveness.

This is the day that all men buy very expensive and very unnecessary items in a badly misguided but well-intentioned attempt to get their mates to forgive them for every rotten thing they have ever done, which, if publicly revealed, would probably be reasonable grounds for execution in many states.

There are many ways for men to do this. Take chocolate. Chocolate was invented decades ago by Latin American leaders who, for some reason or another, do all their business through banks based out of the Cayman Islands. There are typically two kinds of chocolate:

1. Chocolate manufactured in America that tastes like chalk and is used to bait mouse traps, and

2. Chocolate that tastes so good that, if it were biologically feasible, you would want to marry it.

Men who are not in trouble buy chocolate from acceptable if pedestrian American companies that like to experiment with toffee and other vaguely defined atrocities. Men who are deeply in trouble buy chocolate produced in small European countries that have no armies. The best bet for men who feel like taking out another mortgage would be to buy something like Godiva’s chocolate, which is apparently manufactured by extracting traces of candy from gold nuggets and of which a single box is worth at least two affairs.

Men who don’t feel like watching their significant others blow up like Tyra Banks could take another route: flowers. I never quite 100% understood what the big deal about flowers is. The main purpose of flowers are to A) smell up the place and B) lay around and eventually die. That’s what dogs are for, yet men still buy them for women who still act like you just gave them a winning lottery ticket or crystal meth.

Yet another way for men to create that “romantic” feeling is to take out their spouse or girlfriend on a “Mystery Date,” or, in technical terms, “sheer torture for everyone involved.” This entails surprising their female acquaintance with a trip to an expensive fancy restaurant, where the underlying principle is to serve the worst-tasting food in the smallest portions scientifically possible for the largest amount of money.

The female is so pleased to see that the object of her affection (or, perhaps, affectation) has committed so many resources to not taking her to the Eat ‘N’ Park Valentine’s Day pancake breakfast buffet that she forgets that the entire purpose of the date, at least by his perspective, is to make her forget that the only instance in which he would remember her birthday (or her name, for that matter) is if it was somehow connected with the outcome of the Super Bowl.

Is all of this pseudo-bribery worth it? To many people, the answer is: yes. Otherwise, our national economy would plummet and we would have to invent some other holiday based on a different emotion, like envy or greed. I, personally, favor greed: we could go around, trying to make as much money as we want, and then we could go home and gloriously bask in our newfound infatuation with materialism. And, really, isn’t that what love is all about?

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