I am a woman who is pretty confident that, as usual, this Valentine’s Day my boyfriend will not exactly overwhelm me with gifts and shows of affection. Why are men so lousy at celebrating Valentine’s Day?—Hoping but Not Hopeful
Dear Not Hopeful,
The problem is not that men are lousy at Valentine’s Day. The problem is that men are too good at Valentine’s Day.
You are to be forgiven, Ms. Hoping, if you have accepted as truth the common misconception that men don’t feel emotions as deeply as women. As anyone knows who in the company of a man has ever watched a Super Bowl or listened to the song “Free Bird,” nothing could be further from the truth. I think it’s reasonable to posit, in fact, that the reason that men on average die five years younger than women isn’t because they love bacon-wrapped onion rings or repairing their own roofs. It’s because a man feels his every last emotion with so much intensity and passion that, in the end, the stress of having to process it all prematurely kills him.
Men feel Valentine’s Day cheapens their emotions, so they hate it. A man in love is absolutely, instinctively convinced that no one but he has ever loved with his degree of infinitely sublime ferocity. The emotions of a man’s love are to him so powerful, riveting, and blindingly personal that he finds almost physically repelling the idea that they should be used by Madison Avenue for nothing more noble than turning a profit. The whole day feels to them like one long evisceration.
To a woman, romance means doing things like getting dressed up, and going out with her man to a fancy restaurant. To a man, romance means doing things like sitting on the couch, watching TV, and just knowing that the love between he and his woman is so deep and real that the only thing that could ruin it would be to talk about or ever refer to it in any way.
And if a man is told that on a certain day he has to act just like every other man is supposed to act on that same day, and do exactly what on that day every other man is supposed to do, which is to make of his deep and passionate love a contrived and public display?
Well. Instead of a cute little Cupid’s arrow, you might as well shoot him with a whale harpoon.
I would like to say more on this matter, but I’m just now stepping out to shop for the makings of a display of a dozen red roses, a box of Godiva chocolates, and a bottle of Mumm’s champagne, which my wife will find perfectly arranged on her bedside table when she wakes up on Valentine’s Day.
When it comes to romance I’m as naturally clueless as any man alive. But I haven’t been married for twenty-nine years for nothing.