Fair warning, guys: Thursday is Valentines Day.
Never mind the fact that true romance cannot be purchased from a seasonal display in New World or that large swathes of the population will be single on any given February 14 (and must instead celebrate Singles Awareness Day - SAD for short - on the 15th). It's time to line the coffers of Hallmark, Interflora, Cadbury and the estate of Nora Ephron by getting gooey over a box of Continentals and When Harry Met Sally.
We call people who don't like Christmas Scrooges, but we need a name for those who don't buy into the Valentines hype. I propose we call them Schrutes, after Rainn Wilson's character Dwight Schrute in the American version of The Office. Take it away Dwight:
''My perfect Valentines Day? I'm at home, three cellphones in front of me, fielding desperate calls from people who want to buy one of the 50 restaurant reservations I made over six months ago.''
It's one thing to bag Mandatory Romance Day as a money-making scam, but joining the Valentines cabal and ripping off the poor saps who think they're being romantic? That's taking it to another level of cynicism.
In recent years, attempts have been made to ban Valentines Day in certain high schools (too much commotion and canoodling) and countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia (Christian associations ... and canoodling). The result? A black market in roses and wrapping paper (courtesy of a Schrute, no doubt) and more than 100 couples arrested trying to check into hotels.
Nothing says ''I dig you'' like risking an appearance in a Sharia court.
Valentines in the West seems tepid in comparison and I find it hard to begrudge those who'll make a pretty penny off hapless romantics on Thursday.
As Hallmark says on its own website: ''We often hear the term 'Hallmark holiday' used in a disparaging way. As a business, we wish it were so easy that we could dream up products and people would flock to our stores to buy them ... It's really the public who gives occasions like Valentines Day widespread acceptance as celebration events.''
Translation: ''You brought it on yourselves, men of the world, by not being romantic enough the rest of the year.''
We're not stupid. We know true romance is spontaneous and personalised. The German cultural critic Walter Benjamin reckoned the more something could be replicated, the more its aura faded. This doesn't hold for everything (Benjamin didn't live to see the mass-produced glory of the Buzzy Bee children's toy) but it's bang on for romance and Valentines.
Even the most emotionally unco-ordinated guy knows that giving a hideously overpriced bunch of roses on February 14 is about a 3.5 on the Romance Scale (it drops to a 2.5 if you share a joint bank account).
After observing another V-day we've all vowed to buy seasonal flowers later in the year and surprise our belle with tickets to the ballet, but life intervenes and all of a sudden it's early February again ...
Valentines: It's our heart-shaped box to bear.
Craig Cliff is a writer and a fledgling Schrute. He writes a fortnightly column.
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