Defy Valentine's Day

Celebrate being single — or show solidarity with your single friends — by subverting and redefining Feb. 14.

Eight Februaries ago, I was getting over one of those breakups that involves grueling goodbye talks about your alleged character flaws. My newly-ex-girlfriend, a vegetarian, came up with this spectacular parting shot: I ate so much meat, it "grossed her out." So I was in no mood for the chipper e-mail from a co-worker asking everyone in the office to wear red on Feb. 14 to celebrate "Valentine's Day, the day of love!"

I'd been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash, which gave me an idea. "Till things are brighter, I'm the man in black," I told myself. That was the year I turned against Valentine's Day.

But I can't simply ignore VD, as the bitter like to call it. That'd cede the day to the smugly coupled. No, the myth that romance is universal and sugary-sweet must be resisted. Someone needs to remind the world that romantic love does not come to everyone equally; that it often ends cruelly, even ruthlessly.

That "someone" might as well be us. Go ahead: Defy Valentine's Day and celebrate it your own way.

1. Read "Against Love." Razor-sharp Laura Kipnis wrote an entire polemic about the flaws of coupledom. It's essential reading for anyone who enjoys watching cherished myths slashed apart, or anyone who's at all ambivalent about romantic love's promise. She includes a nine-page list of all the things you can't do when you're coupled, including: "You can't leave the house without saying where you're going. You can't not say what time you'll return." "You can't eat what you want." "You can't lose track of time."

2. Take a trip. Go solo or with a platonic friend. Go as far from Cleveland as you can — to another country, if possible. A friend went to Brazil a few years back, where, he reports, it's warm in February and, "They're too obsessed with Carnival to worry about Valentine's Day."

3. Enjoy whatever your ex hated. That could be every single album by the band you love that your ex-girlfriend couldn't stand. Or the chick flicks your ex-boyfriend wouldn't see with you. Or your best friend from college who always annoyed your ex.

4. Throw a singles party. A friend who shares a house with roommates used to do this every Feb. 14. Couples could come, but only if they brought a single friend.

5. Get people together to watch or discuss an unromantic movie. Some friends once organized a film-discussion group — basically a book club for lazy people. We all rented "The Godfather," then got together on VD at someone's house to talk about it. We got too caught up in family loyalty, criminal notions of honor and romantic violence to think about love.

6. Go somewhere unromantic for dinner. "Many, many years ago, my single girlfriends and I always went to McDonald's for dinner on Valentine's Day," says a friend. "We ordered whatever we wanted and usually even splurged on a sundae for dessert." The idea, she says, was to "revolt against the •couple' holiday" by going "someplace we were sure not to see any lovebirds out to dinner."

7. Revel in anti-love songs. One friend marks VD with an annual mix tape titled "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself For Loving You" and The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" were highlights of last year's edition.

8. Make plans with a friend who just got dumped. I discovered the bittersweetness of this by accident one year, when I went out with a friend whose years-long relationship had just ended. We wandered Little Italy, wondering why we couldn't get seated at any restaurants, until someone told us it was Sweetest Day. Lucky for us, La Dolce Vita had a table, so we ate a great dinner and lamented love's dark side.

9. Symbolically purge your ex from your life or exact voodoo revenge. The recently divorced or divorcing often commemorate VD with destruction, reports prominent local divorce lawyer Andrew Zashin. "They take something they got in the divorce that was the property of the other spouse and they break it."

Others turn to black magic. "There are two typical approaches," Zashin says his clients tell him. "The cleaner version is amateur voodoo, with straw and dolls and things like that.

"The more involved and less clean method, the hands-on method for people very eager to make sure Valentine's Day is special, is experimental witchcraft. Sometimes salamanders and other amphibians are used." Zashin can't comment on how well revenge spells actually work, but he reports they're "particularly satisfying to the newly divorced."

10. Take a "sexpert's" advice. Susie Bright, author of "The Sexual State of the Union," recommends turning Feb. 14 into a solo erotic extravaganza — the details of which are left to your imagination.

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