Sunday, January 30, 2011


January 30, 2011

The theme is love and yet it’s such a cheerless spectacle.
Long lines at the checkout counter and they’re in evidence on only one day in the year. Guys, all of them, standing there. Cradling heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and musical cards and beribboned red balloons and roses and cuddly teddy bears and they can afford none of it. Not really. Not in this current economic climate .
Which is why they all seem so glum. That money might have been better spent on something worthwhile, but no – here they are, dollar bills at the ready, a few still in their work overalls, clutching armfuls of crimson gifts.
Heartbreaking, in a way, so sad. It’s the same every year – the last-minute lotharios shelling out dough they don’t have, or cash that could have gone towards food or perhaps paying the rent or the phone bill. Instead they’ve succumbed to the Valentine’s Day Guilt Trip.
Brainwashed into buying. Somebody – and it’s not Cupid - wields this invisible cattle prod that’s propelled them into Walmart’s “love and romance” aisle and on to the waiting cashier. And their womenfolk have been conditioned to expect this stuff. If your man don’t buy you nothin’ he don’t love you no more
Our reluctant romeos wait till the twelfth hour itself, February 14th. And it’s plain that many would have preferred not to be lashing out the $40 on that gift box, half of which is puffed-up red wrapping anyway. Or $60 for the heart-to-heart pendant that’ll be lost inside a week when the flimsy chain breaks.
But where do those plush animals come into it? And since when did you tell your tootsie you love her with a pack of Tootsie Rolls?
It never used to be such a giddying spend-a-thon. A card was all, perhaps a home-made one, or even - from the aspiring Keats, Byron or Shelley - a tender thought, handwritten. The idea was to send anonymously: Be My Valentine! Girls would compare notes. How many cards did you get? Who might your secret admirer be? That was the magic of St Valentine’s Day, but now it’s all gone.
Now it’s St Merchant’s Day, one of many such ‘holidays’ during the year dedicated to the great pagan deity we’ve all been forced to follow – Greenback, God of Money..
Like some kind of avaricious incubus, the wicked St Merchant has already penetrated the souls of our beloved festive characters, infected dear old Santa and the innocent little Easter Bunny. His co-conspirators in the marketing world have even created artificial holidays for which we’re coerced into spending even more to avoid appearing heartless.
There’s Mother’s and Father’s days, Grandparents Day, even Secretary’s Day, now unisexed as Administrative Professionals Day but invented in 1952 by advertising executive Harry Klemfus. Six years later Patricia Haroski countered with Bosses Day. Where will it all end?
The answer is it won’t. Already we’re being urged to buy one another stuff for St Patrick’s Day – something green, mostly to do with alcohol. Doesn’t matter if the only Irish in you is a shot of Jameson’s. And preposterous presents for April Fool’s Day like the world’s largest bra for $20 or, at five bucks more, the Kissme Bad Breath Detector.
Next up: Hallowe’en gifts, Thanksgiving gifts, MLK gifts. We’ll soon be shamed into buying goodies for Aunts And Uncles Day, Pet’s Day...
Give! Give! Buy! Run to the store and spend! If you don’t you’re a grinchy old party pooping wet blanket stick-in-the-mud sourpuss spoilsport. And a meanie.
But back to the holiday at hand.
A certain Lisa Riggs has posted ideas for what to give your car for Valentine’s. Not kidding here. Make red and pink covers for seats and steering wheel, scatter little foil and paper hearts all over the back seat and the floor. She says the second idea is no good if you have children in the car. So this is for adults?
We have to watch our spending here in Walton County, but there are some for whom a price tag is just another piece of wrapping paper.
If there’s anyone in this area gifting a $6 million Harry Winston pink diamond ring for Valentine’s don’t waste a second, ladies, elbow his current sweetie aside and marry him quick. Naturally he’ll need to buy you the Renee Strauss diamond encrusted wedding dress for $12 million and the 34-acre Cornish Cay Island in the Bahamas for $7 million: you can honeymoon there.
Glamorous, amorous and affluent. Lucky them, right? Or could it be that the more you spend the less actual love is involved. I hope so, because here I might be a contender for the championship, as I bought my - very understanding – wife a gorgeous present for our first Valentine’s together... and none since. Take that, Madison Avenue!
Some ardent Don Juans give sexy lingerie from Victoria’s Secret and elsewhere, which is fine. Except a gift like that comes with expectations, so it’s the giver himself who’s the chief beneficiary. If you’re going to go the bedroom route for Valentine’s I’d say do it right. Get her a mattress..
But whatever - tell her you love her and not just on the day the marketing puppeteers say you’re obligated to do it. Make your own card. She’ll love you for it. Or just write a note. Buy her something, but don’t be stampeded into doing it to a deadline set by the advertising execs.
Sorry honey, there’s less housekeeping money for you this week. But here’s an outrageously overpriced box of chocolates loaded with palm and coconut oils and partially hydrogenated trans fatty acids to give you heart disease. And dip your cute little hooter into these gorgeous toxic flowers from Latin America for a hearty sniff of the cancer-causing pesticides the US banned 30 years ago.
Oh, and may I have one of your Valentine’s Tootsie Rolls?
So February 14th is effectively just another calendar date for ridding yourself of wages because there is no St Valentine any more. The Pope dropkicked him off the Calendar Of Saints in 1969, perhaps because he wasn’t a single person in the first place but a vague amalgam of three or so Roman-era martyrs.
I believe we should dispense with St Merchant in the same brusque fashion. We won’t need the Pope for that.


© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.