Editorial by John Ziegler

Valentine's Day

2/17/2002 6:10:30 PM

The "Toll Booth" on the "Relationship Highway"

Valentine's Day is almost here, and men everywhere are worried. If they are in a relationship with a woman that they want to stay with and are not at least a little bit frightened, they should be. They are about to face an important, but unpredictable test.

The modern version of Valentine's Day has become a veritable "toll booth" on the "relationship highway," at least for men. Men are now asked to shell out a certain amount of money in the form of cards, flowers, gifts, and dinners for the right to continue receiving the affections of the woman they are currently "with."

Don't believe me? Think that I am just another male whining about his gender's dramatic loss of power in society? Well, just check out some of those Valentine's Day advertisements.

One billboard for a diamond company makes them the self-proclaimed "official sponsor of hanky panky." A newspaper ad warns, "use this ad to make it (Valentine's Day) perfect, or use it to line the doghouse you'll be sleeping in." Another (nearly pornographic) ad for jewelry displays a scantily clad and gorgeous woman on top of a man with her bead of pearls draped in his mouth with the disclaimer, "Actual results may vary." A perennial magazine ad for flowers (which was hopefully retired after 9/11) promises, "Heroes always GET the girl… Be a hero."

Our culture's Valentine's message to men is about as subtle as Britney Spears' sex appeal or our government's intentions towards Iraq: Either buy enough of the right stuff for your woman or risk losing the one you love (or at least like).

Forgetting for a moment the thinly veiled prostitution aspect of this phenomenon, the really maddening part of this "toll booth" is that it is nearly impossible for the man to gauge ahead of time what the fare is going to be. Not only is there no "easy pass" at this relationship checkpoint, but the one to whom the toll is paid is rarely the same person he is really trying to satisfy.

The proverbial "dirty little secret" of relationship gift giving is that it is usually the friends and co-workers of his woman who a man is actually required to impress (any man who has ever seen his fianc? show her engagement ring to other women will hardily agree with me here). Why else then would flower sales be considerably down whenever Valentine's Day happens to fall on a weekend? As my current girlfriend recently explained with a straight face, "What would be the point of sending flowers to someone's home if no one else is going to see them?"

So not only do men need to show their love by slaughtering innocent plant life, but they have to make sure that the flowers get noticed by as many other women as possible. Once, I sent a dozen roses on V-Day that didn't arrive at my girlfriend's workplace until late in the afternoon. She was so upset that it was clear that I had actually received negative "points" for my efforts. Though we are still good friends, we are no longer dating.

Part of me is extremely frustrated by this clear Valentine's Day double standard when it comes to relationships. After all, I thought men and women were supposed to be equal these days. However, I must admit that another piece of me is in awe of the female ability to have it "both ways."

Ironically this amazing female talent is most prominently displayed in institutions that were formerly vehicles for men to exert their dominance over women. Much like marriage, which began as a way for men to define women as little more than their property and has been transformed over time into a way for women to make natural male tendencies a legal excuse to take half of his belongings, Valentine's Day has also evolved in a way that would make any chapter of NOW beam with feminine pride (or would that be vengeance?).

The Valentine's Day tradition actually began as a Roman pagan celebration in mid-February commemorating young men's rite of passage to the god Lupercus. The ceremony featured a lottery in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls from a vase. Each girl would then be that man's sexual companion for the remainder of the year. For better or worse, there is absolutely no historical record that the male was required to buy anything for the girl.

The vast alteration of this lovers' holiday is further testament to the increasingly obvious reality that for women in modern America to claim their equality with men is for them to deny their clear superiority over us.

Excuse me, I have some shopping to do.

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