Today is Valentine's. It's a celebration that I wish I could like more than I do. I'm well aware that it's currently regarded as a slightly silly faux-holiday, and I'm very well aware that it's regarded as problematic by the gender warriors. Ms. Flox, who's one of the few sex bloggers I find worth reading, has dismissed Valentine's--- and Steak & BJ Day, its semi-serious March equivalent for males ---as both ridiculous and somehow oppressive. Nonetheless, Valentine's has the power to make me melancholy.
I enjoy rituals and formality, of course. I like the clear guidelines for social rituals, and I like it that social rituals are goal-oriented. There's a clear goal to social rituals, an everything is about checking the boxes on the way to the goal. A graduation ceremony, a Mass, a wedding service, a funeral, a formal dinner party: clear goals, and clear steps to reach the goal. Once you begin the ritual, you say the right words and make the correct gestures and the protocols carry you through to the end. I have to like that.
Valentine's, I always believed, was about the formal presentation of romance. That matters to me. The romance itself is important, yes, but I like the formal, ritual presentation of romance. Just as New Year's Eve is a night for champagne and stylized kisses at midnight, just as where you kiss someone on New Year's Eve matters at least as least much as who you kiss, Valentine's is about dinner and drinks as a couple, about stylized gifts, and about sex infused with the power of ritual. You can have champagne and chocolate truffles any night of the year, but 14. February has the special power of ritual. Ritual has that power, you know. A gift given on 24. December or on a lover's birthday has an aura that makes it very different from one given on a random night, no matter how heartfelt the gift may be.
Presentation matters. Restaurants and museums know that, and it's no less true for romance.
I suppose that Valentine's is a FOMO thing. Being alone on Valentine's means missing out on socially-assigned rituals of romance. It means missing out on the aura of high romance. It mean missing out on one night where romantic gestures are encouraged, and where all the accoutrements of romance are on display. You're encouraged rather than just allowed to make stylized gestures. Whatever happens physically, in bed, isn't just sex or lovemaking on 14. February. It's regarded as somehow qualitatively better, as occurring on a higher level of style and passion. And of course having a lovely girl agree to be your Valentine's date is a way of affirming your own social value. You've been judged by a beautiful girl and found ritual-worthy. What could be better?
I'm sitting here on a Valentine's night typing on my laptop rather than holding hands across a table while champagne is poured for the two of us. I'm sitting here all-too-aware that no one in this city found me worth being with tonight, that I didn't fit anyone's idea of a romantic partner for the evening. No champagne in my glass, no chocolates shared. No warm, silken, taut, tanned, bare flesh to caress--- no lovely young companion's bare thigh under my hand in the taxi or under the table. Well...I am all-too-aware of my failures. I'm missing out on the actual physical experience of romance, I know. But missing out on all the social proofs of romance--- the ritual of chocolates and champagne, of dinner and passion in stylish locales ---may be worse. Missing out says too many things about your social value, about whether you're worth the time and effort for a ritual of romance. That makes14. February more melancholy than any birthday or New Year's Eve spent solo.