Anti-Valentine’s Day: how to weather Feb. 14

Numerous websites and even a handbook give suggestions on how this contingent can spend Valentine's Day. Comfort food is in; steaks and candlelight are out.

John Burgess/The Press Democrat/AP
A man buys a Valentine's Day balloon bouquet for his girlfriend from Custom Balloons Creations, on the Old Redwood Highway near Penngrove, Calif., on Tuesday.

Fed up with the romantic industrial complex, oops, Valentine’s Day? Don’t want to be among the Americans who fork over $17.6 billion for everything from flowers to chocolates to, well, whatever else retailers can emblazon with hearts and seductive sayings?

Join the growing crowds of Valentine’s Day protesters. This contingent has its own guide, “The Anti-Valentine’s Handbook” by J. More, not to mention numerous websites, such as meish.org, that suggest how to spend the day. Tips include the ebulliently juvenile – think taking old photos of an ex and decking the person out with fake mustaches and the like.

Or, compete online for the worst-nightmare date scenario. An early entry on Squidoo.com recounted a foray to a local petting zoo where not only was the writer jumped by a filthy-footed goat, but her date was spit on by an angry llama.

Throw a party, says Squidoo, but avoid the following: anything pink or red, stuffed animals of all shapes, and couples who cannot obey the “no PDA” rule. Also, serve only serious comfort food such as macaroni and cheese or pizza. No steaks or candlelight.

And definitely, Squidoo says, no candy in anything resembling a heart-shaped form. Basic squares will do just fine.

A good shortlist of anti-Valentine’s Day music would certainly include such hits as “Love Stinks,” “You’re No Good.” For a movie night, top picks could include “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Heathers –20th High School Reunion Edition.”

Universities are particularly attuned to the “singled out” fallout from Valentine’s Day. In fact, far from seeing more anti-Valentine’s Day sentiment, Lane Neubauer, associate dean of students at La Salle University in Philadelphia, sees “a continued longing to be in a relationship.”

She notes that the commercialization of the holiday is not geared toward a realistic depiction of a healthy relationship. “The images you see in the media benefit the florists, card shops, and chocolate industry and aren’t representative of real life,” she says in a follow-up e-mail.

Amid the media blitz of the day, Ms. Neubauer’s advice for anyone – not just students – is to celebrate the relationships with family and friends that are meaningful. Also, do something that is not couple-centric, such as visiting the museum or the local orchestra, she says, and don’t go to activities aimed at singles. “You will be preoccupied with the hidden purpose of being there, which is to find a match,” she adds.

Or, as the New York Daily News recommends, head on over to the comedy club in your town. Laughter, as they say, is still the best medicine, and who can feel lonely surrounded by jokesters and belly laughs? For a tad of self-pampering, go to a spa that will slather gook on your eyes so you wouldn’t know who was next to you even if you had a date.

All this advice aside, marriage – which is where these roses and jewelry boxes are supposed to go, right? – appears to be losing its luster for some folks. According to the Pew Research Center, which released a study on the topic last year, some 44 percent of young people consider marriage obsolete. In some cases, Valentine’s Day itself seems to have a bad effect on the venerable institution. According to Avvo.com, one of the largest Internet forums for legal and medical experts, questions about divorce lawyers, divorce laws, and divorce counseling shoot up about 40 percent on Feb. 14.

In a sense, Valentine’s Day is now governed by Henry Ford’s principle of mass production, as standardized cards, chocolates, and roses spew forth. However, here’s the rub: Even the anti-Valentine’s Day mood has been captured by the maw of commerce. Websites hawking merchandise with cynical slogans such as “love bites” “Happy Singles Awareness Day!” abound.

So maybe the problem is not love itself, but the money machine, suggests Dr. Ben Agger, director of the Center for Theory in the sociology department at the University of Texas at Arlington.

“It is not enough to ascribe this to conformity and capitalism,” he says in an e-mail. “[P]erhaps we all seek a haven in a heartless world, even if we know that the roses will wilt.”

Staff writer Daniel B. Wood contributed to this report.

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