Dateland: The Stupidest Day of the Year

I’ve never had a good Valentine’s Day. I might forgive Valentine’s Day its many disappointments if, in fact, I had a few monumentally disastrous Valentine’s Day stories to dine out on. But every Valentine’s Day has ranged from mediocre to just plain blah. The only memorable one took place when I was in my 20s. I got so drunk on margaritas that, for the following decade, every time I heard word “tequila” it caused me to have dry heaves.

So, last Valentine’s Day when my girlfriend, who is romantically inclined and tends to take these types of celebrations seriously, proposed a big night out, I was less than enthused.

“Oh, let’s just stay home and order a pizza,” I said. And I don’t even like pizza.

But she gave me that look that tells me that she’s deeply disappointed in me and is considering leaving me for someone who likes industrial dance music, so I reluctantly gave in.

“Don’t worry,” she trilled. “I’ll plan everything. You won’t have to worry about a thing.”

This, of course, only made me worry. I am the planner in our relationship. I book our flights, find our hotels, and keep our social calendar. I do this because a.) I’m a control freak and b.) she couldn’t plan her way out of a paper bag. I mean that literally. Once I stuck a paper bag over her head to keep her from working at her computer on a Saturday morning, and she left it on and continued typing.

I made the mistake of letting my hopes for the evening soar when she announced that we would be going to one of my favorite restaurants for a steak dinner. This restaurant has a jazz quartet with a singer who performs to an enthusiastic senior citizen crowd. And since I’ve been a senior-citizen-in-training since my teens, I was delighted! Red meat, a relish tray, and a Frank Sinatra knock-off. Heaven!

Valentine’s Day hopes started their predicable slide the moment we stepped into the restaurant. Instead of being taken to the main dining room—with the jazz band—we were led upstairs to what appeared to be an unfinished attic with blaring fog lights. We were told that the room was only open on “special days” for “special people.”

We took one look around the room and immediately discovered that “special people” meant “freaks and losers.” The tables were filled with single moms and their kids, single women holding dateless Valentine’s Day support groups, people with missing limbs, and “non-traditional” couples, such as us. I actually burst out laughing because it was so ridiculously obvious. But my girlfriend seethed with anger and insisted we leave.

I argued against it, saying that it would be impossible to get into another restaurant on this stupidest of all nights, and, plus, I was really looking forward to that steak. But she was deeply insulted and was already starting to mouth off to the wait staff. So we left, with her telling anyone who would listen that we’d never return. They collectively shrugged with indifference.

I don’t have enough column inches to describe the long, tearful and desperate search for food that followed. Suffice it to say, we wound up at home several hours later with a pizza.

This year, as the calendar marched toward February 14, I asked if she’d like me to take over the Valentine’s Day planning duties. She looked stricken, as if I had just belted her in the puss.

“Absolutely not! I’ve got it under control,” she exclaimed. “We’re going to have the best Valentine’s Day ever!”

I immediately made a mental note to put a couple steaks in the freezer and to have a tissue box at the ready for the inevitable flood of tears.

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