Just as manufactured holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day illustrate the hold Hallmark has over our emotions, Valentine’s Day represents the supreme triumph of commercialism over romance.
It’s probably the cruellest of holidays, too, as capable of eliciting joy as it is of inflicting trauma, of building up anticipation, as it is of delivering rejection.
“Will you be my Valentine?”
Even kindergarten kids are conditioned to utter shy declarations of playground love along with cute paper hearts. Later, they’re told that they can send anonymous greetings to their Valentines, emboldening some, and terrifying others. Much later, throughout high school, college, and beyond, it becomes a wait-and-see game for those who are not in relationships.
Some people positively thrive on the whole idea of Valentine’s Day, though. One person’s trite is always another person’s thrilling; who are we to judge what gets someone else’s juices flowing?
For those who give zero fucks, Valentine’s Day, named after Valentine, a Roman martyr-turn-saint, can be quite a bore; for those that do, it can become a chore. The pressure is on to beat the previous year’s celebration, to be more romantic and lavish than the last boyfriend or girlfriend, to find the gift that’s more memorable and sincere, the flowers that are more spectacular, the restaurant that’s more impressive, the music that’s more intimate, the experience to be utterly and unreservedly perfect. So perfect that you’d need Xanax to pull it off.
Of course you’d need Xanax, too, if you’re planning on driving along EDSA on your Valentine’s Day date night. Expect the traffic to be more horrendous than usual. And if you and your date manage to get through the traffic together without killing each other, either by boring each other to death or failing to keep your anger management issues in check, then yours may just be the love built to withstand the test of time and the MMDA. We’ve got to believe that love conquers all, even EDSA.
Because of our innate tendency to go overboard in the pursuit of the perfect Valentine’s Day evening, we sometimes forget that things may not always go according to plan. If you and your date are hoping to up the amorous stakes, try to remember, amid the heart-shaped balloons and flutes of rosé champagne, that certain situations do not often lend themselves to post-prandial action on that special day consecrated to lovers.
However enticing the overpriced menu may seem, steer clear of heavy creams and equally heavy wines. All that dairy swirling around your tummy together with all that wine—not a great combination, and more likely to result in indigestion rather than copulation. Forget beans of any kind, for obvious reasons, but go for the oysters, which are reputed to be an aphrodisiac.
After dinner would be a great time to literally Netflix and chill, assuming you haven’t overloaded yourself with carbs to the point of lethargy. The choice of film to watch is crucial, though, and as a rule of thumb, go for something light and silly but ultimately uplifting, like a romantic comedy with a happy ending. Seeing how most men are clueless when it comes to rom-coms, research before you press play—despite the stellar cast, the cuter and more innocuous-sounding the title, sometimes the darker the movie.
500 Days of Summer. Sounds like a sweet summer romance, with two adorable stars, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoe Deschanel. Not. It’s actually a break-up movie and Summer is the name of Zoe’s character, not the season. The ending, however, is a wee bit hopeful: as seasons change, so does love, and (spoiler alert!) Joseph’s character, Tom, meets a new girl called… Autumn. Of course.
In a typical rom-com, when one character believes in that one, true, all-consuming love, and the other one doesn’t, the idealist often succeeds in convincing the cynic that dreams do come true. In 500 Days of Summer, that doesn’t happen, despite Tom’s persistent efforts to make Summer believe in love, their love.
He—who works as a greeting card writer—even writes her what could be a bitter Valentine: “Roses are red, violets are blue… Fuck you, whore!”
Definitely not on the Valentine’s Day playlist.
Neither is Blue Valentine with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. In theory, wow, what a great line-up. Onscreen, yeah, he’s hot and moody, she’s beautiful and troubled. It’s a depressing look at how the first flush of passion and promise disintegrates into bitterness and resentment.
Not a date movie at all.
Forget Revolutionary Road. If you were hoping Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet would reprise the exhilarating “I’m-the-king-of-the-world!” romance of Titanic, think again. This is a bleak picture of the chapter that comes after “happily ever after.”
And Fatal Attraction or Gone Girl—have you lost your mind? Never, ever watch this with anyone you’re involved with, lest each of you come away from the movie wondering what psychopathic tendencies lurk beneath your loved one’s smiling, composed demeanour.
No, just go for You’ve Got Mail. Or Pretty Woman. Or Crazy, Stupid Love. Because love is crazy and stupid, but you don’t need to boil bunnies or slash necks to prove it.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Film still from Blue Valentine