February 12th, 2007

2/14 911 (or 411. Or Both)

February is a complicated month. You have the joy of Presidents’ Day weekend, the anticipation of a forthcoming spring, the insanity of a holiday devoted to a prognosticating rodent… and the big one. The stress-inducing one. The one invented by the card companies, the candy companies, and the jewelry companies. Oh, and the lingerie companies. (Wow—what teamwork on their part, huh??)


So, in the spirit of my nice-Amish-girl-giving-relationship-advice-to-the-single-masses persona, I would like to share the following tidbits.


  • Got Valentine’s angst? Check out Yahoo! music, where they offer everything from Urban Valentine and Country Valentine to Breaking Up is Hard and Love Bites. (As for me, I’ll stick to alternative rock. Plenty of romantic angst there as it is. I mean, think about it: aside from politically earnest U2 songs, isn’t everything musical basically about love? Unrequited, undesired, unsatiated, unhappy or superfabulous, superintense, superidealized?)
  • Friends can make or break a Valentine’s day. In college, all my pals who weren’t currently in a relationship used to dress in all black and go out together on February 14. (Not only did we feel it was a Very Dramatic Statement—it was kinda sexy. And even if we weren’t celebrating that particular Valentine’s Day… well, let’s just say I always did like to plan ahead.)
  • Above all: keep your sense of humor. And remember, men and women are differently wired altogether. (As a friend of mine succinctly put it: “Men are dumb, and that’s frustrating—but women just think way too much.”)

The best example of this is a truly outstanding Trader Joe’s commercial I heard while driving the other day. (Note to self: when laughing so hard that your stomach cramps, pull the car over. Do not continue driving.) It’s just some guy talking, in a very calm and soothing voice, about the terror Valentine’s Day strikes into one’s heart: Are we at the gift-giving stage? Is a card sufficient? Why do all the cards include references to various aerobic activities? Should I pretend Feb. 14 is just another Wednesday?  

So this pleasant little man offers the ideal solution. And though he is addressing a gender neutral audience, I just got the feeling that he was speaking to men everywhere—which is what concerns me. Because while it’s true, a dozen roses may be more of a next-Valentine’s-Day-for-sure-but-we’re-not-quite-there-this-year gift, I do not think that his suggestion is going to make for an angst-free Valentine for any guy who takes it at face value. 

Marinated mushrooms. With garlic.                                                                                                                 

“Finding a gift that reflects your feelings for your ‘friend’ can be stressful,” he intones. “What should you do if you're not sure just how special your special someone is? Trader Joe's recommends a jar of marinated mushrooms with garlic. They are wonderfully flavorful and at just $2.69, your budget will be in line with your feelings. Of course, if you're sure, Trader Joe also has a large assortment of roses and chocolate at great prices, but a jar of marinated mushrooms with garlic is a great way to say, ‘I like you, but let's not rush into anything.’”

Men, pay attention: women are Very Unlikely to interpret a jar of garlic marinated mushrooms in this way. To an overthinking woman, a gift of this nature would more likely say something like, “Garlic? So he wants an excuse not to kiss me? A jar of mushrooms—because what, I should use them to cook him something? Why didn’t he use them to cook me something? He couldn’t have just picked up a bouquet of daisies at the grocery store? It took me 45 minutes to read through all the cards at Hallmark and pick out just the right one, and then it took me 20 minutes more to figure out what to write in it, and he just whipped over to Trader Joe and while he was doing his grocery shopping he picked up some mushrooms for me? I thought we were moving right along, but now he gives me these mushrooms, I just don’t know—does he think I’m some kind of mother figure? Or is he trying to say he just wants to be friends?” And then she’ll call her friends and cry and tell them about the jar of mushrooms, and they’ll get all outraged, and the situation will escalate, and her temper will flare, and I fear it will be resolved only when the jar of mushrooms is flung at the poor dimwitted guy and he is splattered with garlic-infused marinade.                                             
Unless, of course, she keeps her sense of humor.                                                                                                         

I just hope Trader Joe doesn’t end up with a lawsuit from some woman too upset to laugh about her Valentine mushrooms. (And I humbly propose that they rethink their Valentine’s ad campaign for next year. While it is very hilarious, I feel that the potential for emotional breakdowns resulting from it is just too great.)   

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