BELOW THE BELTWAY

A Comedy of Eros: Gene Weingarten Aces His Valentine's Day Exam

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Have you noticed that the medical term "VD" has practically disappeared, replaced by "STD"? Ever wonder why? I have a theory. I think it was a conspiracy by the greeting card industry to erase a subtle, vaguely disturbing connection: VD, Valentine's Day.

I developed that theory just now after returning from the drugstore, where I'd been leafing through Valentine's Day cards. I was trying to remind myself just how toxic they are, so I could do battle here with my friend and frequent gender combatant, Gina Barreca.

Gina: They are not toxic. They're sweet.

Gene: Why, here she is now!

Gina: Why are they toxic?

Gene: Because every single one of them manages to capture the following sentiment: "Darling, as I was wandering the aisles in CVS in search of antifungal ointment, I was thinking about the depth of my love for you; but, because I am too lazy or dimwitted or emotionally anemic to come up with an original thought, I decided to spend a buck and a half for a few mawkish cliches hawked up like loogies by a failed writer who has sold his soul for a paycheck from the Humongous Greeting Card corporation, which has then subjected his work to editing by a focus group to make sure it has no inadvertent trace of juice or passion that might offend someone in the suburbs of Des Moines; conversely, it may be an attempt at humor as weak and strained as a jar of Gerber pea and pear baby food. So, here it is! I hope you like it, sweetheart! Can we have sex now?"

Gina: You know, you're right.

Gene: Moreover, the syntax is ... wait, what?

Gina: Valentine's Day cards are inane.

Gene: Okay, what game are you playing?

Gina: No game. They are dumb and formulaic, and we women love them dearly only because our expectations are so low. We know we are not going to get an original sonnet mounted on a collage of snapshots of ourselves secretly taken by you in adoration as we slept. We know we are going to get crap cards from Hallmark, and we will take them and be grateful, just as we were grateful in grade school on Valentine's Day. All the kids had to bring in boxes with slots cut into the top, and the girls' boxes were covered with festive wrapping paper and decorative buttons and pipe-cleaner hearts and macaroni with glued-on glitter, and the boys' boxes all said "Florsheim" on the side. And we girls gouged out chunks of our hearts and stuffed them into the Florsheim boxes, valentines upon which, with terrible vulnerability, we had scribbled in blood the rudiments of our feelings for the boys we really liked, boys whose valentines to us, deposited into our glittered and macaronied slots, said "With best wishes" and were obviously written by their mothers.

Gene: You seem to have some baggage.

Gina: Baggage would be nice, actually; a cute tote from Gucci, perhaps, or a Louis Vuitton P├ęgase carry-on, inside of which would be two tickets to Zurich and keys to the rental chalet. Instead, we'll resignedly take a stapler or an ironing board, if it is accompanied by a Valentine's Day card. We will be wretchedly glad it's from you and not your mom.

Gene: What if it says the following, which is verbatim from a card at CVS: "It's a day for being thankful that you are wrapped in a circle of love because it's women like you who uplift us every day you are in the world."

Gina: I would consider that stupid piece of treacle the finest Valentine's Day gift I ever got if you can identify the four most appalling words in there. The four least romantic words a man can say to someone he loves.

Gene: Uh-oh.

Gina: Take your time. The stakes are high. Have you or have you not learned anything from me?

Gene: Okay. Here goes.

Gina: My heart is pounding.

Gene: "... it's women like you ..."?

Gina: Why?

Gene: Because there is no such thing as "women like you!" Because there is only you!

Gina: Bingo!

Gene: Happy Valentine's Day, Gina.


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