A Practice Exam for Valentine's Day

Just a friendly reminder: By the time you read this there will be less than two weeks between you and Valentine’s Day. What are you going to do about it?

A: Run out and begin a cheap and meaningless six-week fling to avoid being alone?

B: Stock up on chocolates, ramen and down comforters so you can hide out for a good week before and after the dreaded day of love?

C: Look into the wide world of personal escorts?

D: Binge, purge, binge, purge, binge?

Or, hopefully,

E: None of the above?

This is where I come in.

Believe me, I know the pressure of Valentine’s Day that hangs over the heads of those in and out of the blessed state of couplehood. No matter who you are, the big V-Day brings a challenge.

For those with someone to call “”honey,”” it’s like a final exam — arbitrary, hard to study for, a huge source of performance anxiety and an easy way to screw up something you know how to do right.

For those living la vida sola, “”el dia del gran corazon rojo”” — for those of you experiencing espanol deficiency syndrome, that’s “”day of the big red heart,”” often brings a case of the blues instead of a vase of flowers. No matter which end of it comes at you with a pointy stick, this day dedicated to the uplifting power of love can easily become a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat sour grapes special. And, to quote the guy who paraphrased the bard, “”that sucks.””

How do we avoid being one of “”les miserables”” — for those of you still struggling with francophobia, that’s “”frowny folks”” — when fateful Feb. 14 arrives? Do the same thing the stationery suppliers do: Take stock now and plan ahead.

Maybe you’ve got no particular sweetie-sugar-pumpkin-cupcake-lover-dearest, and you’re in no rush to change your ways. Good for you! Spend the weeks to come contemplating the people in your life. Who are the joyful souls, who are the fast and firm friends, who are the blessings in human-guise you wake up looking forward to seeing?

Thank yourself for finding these people, and thank them for being there to be found. When the time comes for hearts and Hallmark cards, be that cool kid who gives homemade cookies to everyone.

Maybe you’ve got someone in mind to trade treats, or even swap spit with, but don’t know if you’re on that someone’s mind yet. Put yourself there! Send flowers this week, anonymously, asking for a date on the upcoming wishful Wednesday. Get an anonymous e-mail address and request a wish list for the perfect evening. Then make it so, Number One.

If you don’t have the confidence for this maneuver, keep up the secret admirer front through V-day itself, and know you’ll be covertly making your crush’s day. In either event, make sure to shower affection on some other special people (Mom, Pop, sis, etc.) who you know will reciprocate. Not all the eggs in one basket, not all the candies in one envelope, eh?

Maybe you already have that special somebody. People who don’t have such luck may think V-day is easier from the inside of a couple (or triple, quadruple or Darkstar sex cult, etc. This is a new millennium after all, and we are in college, in California no less). People who don’t have that special somebody do not understand the subtle hell that Valentine’s Day can become. It’s that final exam phenomenon. Except that in academia, sleeping with the person who writes the test usually bodes well (but it’s bad — very bad). In everyday life, dating/kissing/sleeping/whatevering with the person who’ll be grading you on your V-day performance only ups the ante.

Here’s my best advice if you have a siggy — for those of you who aren’t masters of my personal made-up slang terms, that’s significant other: Take stock and plan ahead. Perhaps these words seem familiar. That’s because I’m an environmental columnist, so I always recycle. Take stock by thinking of what special tricks in your voluminous romantic repertoire you haven’t trotted out lately. Surprise your siggy. Do it a week in advance, thereby taking the pressure off, showing you can be spontaneous, and giving you a chance to say “”So what should we do on Valentine’s Day, together?”” This is the planning ahead part, of course.

Valentine’s Day is tough all over, but it need not be a black mark on your calendar, folks, no matter who you are, no matter who you are or aren’t with. Let me leave you with two final bits of recycled wisdom:

1) Love is something that if you give it away, give it away, give it away … Love is something that if you give it away, you end up having more.

2) “”It’s the thought that counts,”” is only really applicable if you are schizophrenic.

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