VALENTINE’S DAY GUIDE: HARDT TO HEART


So you’re on a dinner date in Georgetown and the infamous flower guy approaches you with a stash of wilted, day-past-ripe roses. He looks at you, then at your date, and he smirks back at you. It seems to me you have three choices:

A) Take the fall, and cough up the money – and feel like a sucker.
B) Just say no – and look cheap.
C) Play it cool and ignore him, saying you were mesmerized by your date’s beauty.

And then add to the gambit that it’s Valentine’s Day.

This Wednesday we celebrate Valentine’s Day. I will be celebrating by fulfilling duties at The Hatchet.

But I’m not just going to gripe and give my blunt anti-Valentine’s Day piece because I have sour grapes and nothing to do. Instead, I want to clarify the fundamental flaw in the logic of Valentine’s Day.

We live in a society that emphasizes moments over totality, seconds over hours and appearances over reality.

As a journalist, I’m not immune to this. I often choose the interesting sound bites over the banal, and by doing this I can even make George W. Bush look as smart (or as stupid) as Bill Gates. After all, Bush can’t misspeak every three minutes.

That’s what Valentine’s Day is. It’s a sound bite of a holiday. A holiday that, with the right light, the right music and at the right time, you get swept up in moments without viewing the big picture.

Maybe Freddie Prinze, Jr. had it right. Prinze says he and girlfriend Sarah Michelle Gellar do not believe in the big V-day because they feel that couples should be romantic everyday. Maybe if he acted with as much brilliance as he thinks, his movies wouldn’t end up as bombs.

Don’t get me wrong. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be bad. Back in kindergarten and elementary school things were so much more laid back.

Why? Probably because Valentine’s Day in childhood was never about moments.

I remember bringing a decorated shoebox to school, and watching endless Valentines pile up from the rest of the class. Every child doled out Valentines indiscriminately, along with candy and toys.

And those notes would say cute little things like, “I like the way you laugh,” “I like your hair,” or even the occasional secret admirer cards. They were given unconditionally, and with no expectation of reciprocation.

But of course things change – you get older and relationships are more exclusive and physical. That’s natural.

But one thing that should not change is learning to appreciate the little things in people – not the hair gel, makeup or facade – but the kindness, the sensitivity, the thoughtfulness.

Although there’s nothing wrong with looking beautiful and sharing Valentine’s with someone special, I believe that even more important than the appearances are the smiles, the cute phrases and the unique traits.

Instead, the moments of Valentine’s too often lend themselves to plastic, making it the cubic zirconium of holidays. This can only lead to moments of false feelings – as U2 sings in my favorite song du jour, “Stuck in a moment you can’t get out of.”

I’m the first to admit that I’m not immune from getting stuck in moments that I can’t get out of; and I’ll be the first to admit there are moments I’d rather not escape. But those moments should only reinforce the bigger picture that your Valentine is a special person, and not serve as a substitute.

I had another run-in with the flower guy while out with some friends at Xando last Thursday.

I had nothing to lose.

I introduced myself and told him that I see him all over the place; and I even was honest to tell him that I was low on cash, and therefore I couldn’t buy any flowers.

My friend and I talked to Muhammad for a few minutes, before he left us to scout out more customers. But there were none.

As he left for the door, he stopped once more at our table, gave the ladies at our table a rose and then left before I could even reach into my wallet to give him what little money I had.

I waved for him to come back, and then he winked at me and left.

Artist Brian Andreas said, “Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life.”

It was like elementary school all over again.

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