I hate Valentine’s Day. Even when I was taken, I found it ridiculous. Hallmark Holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day all occupy a space in my mind reserved for things I consider unnecessary. A special day set aside to show how much you love someone? Shouldn’t that be every day? Sadly, ours is a culture that shames people into buying things and ‘going that extra mile’ to prove that they care, so we’re saddled with these days like these.
My problem is that such holidays propagate the myths we tell ourselves about ourselves. In spite of our drive to claim we love everyone for who and what they are, regardless of what they do and do not have, what the continued existence of these days tell us is that we favour uniformity. The hidden message behind Valentine’s Day, for example, is: “I’m in love, and it’s so much work showing that I love them. What’s that, you aren’t? Let me pity and console you! Plenty of fish in the sea!”
Eat uranium. We the single don’t want your pity. We just want the only things in life single people desire: distance, respect, and the occasional blowjob (and cunnilingus for those of us who possess ladyparts).
And yet, in spite of my disgust towards this day, I feel it necessary to write a special Valentine’s Day post. The things I do for views.
I’m going to come right out and say that I am not a wizard at romance. I have only been romantically involved with four women, of which two of them could actually count as girlfriends, and I’ve officially been single since October 2009. The past four years were spent dating around and testing the waters with different women and going nowhere. This is owed to the fact that I am terrible at escalating a relationship, the unreasonably high standards I started imposing upon myself two years ago, and the fact that sometimes I get very, very jaded about the whole idea of getting back into a relationship.
I’ll explain: unlike most men in my position, I’m not nearly as afraid of being told ‘no.’ Most of the women I’ve asked out in my life have said ‘no,’ so it’s something I’m quite used to. What I’m most afraid of, in fact, is being told ‘yes.’
Yes to a date, yes to a movie and dinner, yes to holding hands and kissing and vows and all that. I’m scared I won’t be able to hold it together, that I’ll say the wrong thing or lose the right job and I’ll end up cold and alone again. Possibilities enthuse and terrify me, thoughts swirling around my head so violently that I can’t make my mind up over making the next move. Perhaps the most prominent thought I’ve had is along the lines of, “If I do this, will I get decked?” This is the greatest threat to my chances of finding someone. I can’t count the number of times I’d be locked in a woman’s arms staring her in the face or walking next to someone who starts to move in closer than normal and then just …drop everything and pull back, and return to that comfortable world of loneliness I’m accustomed to.
Wait, yes I can. Five. Five times. God, I’m a mess.
So, no, I’m not a love guru. What I will say is that it’s not easy being a guy, and nor has it ever been easy to be a woman. We both face major societal pressures to bend into a shape we’re supposedly meant to be in. Men, as I ranted in a poem from way-back-when, are expected to be movie-version James Bond (not the pseudo-rapist from the Ian Fleming novels); classy, charming, tough, experienced, and dangerous. Women, meanwhile, are expected to be the Sphinx from Greek myth, a beast-woman hybrid who channels grace and ferocity, but is also highly secretive and self-destructive. Looking for love becomes a chore when you put these expectations on someone.
Plus, all the rules for dating can be annoying, with whole checklists imposed on people ranging from appropriate attire to recommended levels of closeness per date. All this is arbitrary. True romance doesn’t flourish through such regulation. It grows and develops over time, like anything else in this world, and those who fall in love with someone right off the bat are fewer in number than we think.
It doesn’t help that asinine romance advice columns have spread across magazine racks and the web. “Ten ways to charm her.” “Five signs that he likes you.” “How to tell if he’s serious.” “How to win her back.” How many people actually benefit from these? Then there are the sites and books about pick-up artistry, the path to devaluing and dehumanizing the other sex and treating access to their loins as a victory. To me, they’re almost in the same boat, although manning different oars. Advice columns enforce gender-normative stereotypes about typical and acceptable male/female behaviour, and pick-up artists enforce deception and cruelty wreathed in the concept of “getting what you want.”
If you were to ask me for advice on getting with females or fellas, however, then this is the only piece of wisdom I’d pass on to any hopeful on the hunt for love:
Sort yourself out first.
Remember that any kind of romantic relationship requires time and resources. Making one work also requires a lot of emotional maturity and mental fortitude. If you’re lacking in any of these four things, you might have a hard time. Bear in mind I’m saying might, here, because some people can do fine with half of these. The fact is, you need to figure out your standards, not just in a romantic partner but also in what you want out of life. Get to a point where you think you’re ready for a relationship, then consider pursuing one.
And maybe along the way you’ll find out you’re not fit for romance. That’s not a bad thing. So many people think that the answers to life’s problems will just unfold before them the minute they find a partner, but that’s the message vapid romance-injected media and advertising enforces, that our worth is only measured by our attractiveness to others. Lots of us are better off alone anyway, but minds can change, but only if you decide to change.
How do you do that, though? What steps do you take to figuring out who you are and what you want? What do you need to improve on, what matters, and in the end how will these improvements make you attractive to the kinds of men and women you want to attract?
I don’t know, it’s your fucking life. You figure it out. Godspeed.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
P.S.: I have a special message for the hopeless guys who say all the good girls like bastards and that all the nice guys live in the Friendzone: Stop It.
Those “bastards” only look like bastards only because they’re dating the girl you want. What you’re thinking are actually lizard brain impulses telling you to rip the competition’s throat out and mount the female while the blood’s still warm on your chin. Being a “nice guy” doesn’t mean expecting anything in return. Being a nice guy means dong the right thing, even though and especially because it increases your chances of people treating you like dirt and ignoring your kindness, because being good to people is the right thing to do and is its own reward. The sooner you realize that, the happier you’ll be.