Love lyrics played on the radio as the bachelor party got under way inside the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel.
A good buddy, God rest his soul, had flirted with a woman until the flame of passion ignited in his heart, then courted her with roses, and wine, whispering "sweet nothings."
Now he was about to make Mistake No. 3.
While it was not the place of his comrades to discourage a pending marriage, it did seem that, in this grave hour -- as Cupid turns marksman and half the town seems headed for the altar -- the chronology of events leading to his St. Valentine's Day appointment might save others, lest they be so stricken.
"It was my idea," he said, as his comrades sighed with disappointment.
No one had ever accused him of being smart, but surely he had heard some variations on the cruel epigram by the Greek poet, Palladas: "Marriage brings a man only two happy days; the day he takes his bride to bed, and the day he lays her in her grave."
Of course, Palladas lived in the old days, and what the new age of love had wrought was even worse. Indeed, it would probably be he who was laid to rest now, cutting his happy days to one.
"She's a nice woman -- and she likes to do more than hug," he added with bravado. Holy matrimony! We gasped.
The history of love teaches what happens to sex after marriage, but as loyal commrades, we raised our champagne glasses in a toast anyway.
All of the party guests were die-hard bachelors, including those whose ex-wives had almost killed them over alimony payments.
Yet, it was clear to all that there had been virtually no changes in the love game since the word was invented through the creation of that little sadist, Cupid, with his damn arrows.
It was painful to watch such a good buddy succumb to Greek mythology.
As a successful financial consultant, with a nice wardrobe and car, he had the right stuff for the makings of a man-about-town.
With all of his money, he could easily overcome the shortcomings of his calculator-like personality.
But he had spotted this woman riding up a Metro subway escalator -- and zap.
He loves to tell how he ran down his side of steps, then ran up the other side with such Olympian determination that he was too breathless to ask the woman her name.
So he just tagged along behind her -- panting like a puppy, until she stopped to see if he was sick.
Within a few days, it was clear that what had started as a playful exercise in flattery and flirtation had become a spiritual force in his life.
He was changing right before his comrades eyes, preferring the softness and cuddly cooing of his girlfriend to the brotherhood of men.
One comrade had simply tried to bring him into the 20th century, explaining that he should hold off on marriage, which was a concept out of the Dark Ages.
It was one thing to be helplessly addicted to squandering time and money in the amorous intrigue of courtship, but marriage was a fatal mistake -- in which the enjoyment of sex and experience of love became impossible over the long haul.
The comrade suggested that he try a "monogamous group," a new Washington life style in which lovers are involved in an exclusive and sanitary sphere, which relieves boredom in the bedroom and reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
This caused him to call his comrades, "dogs."
Rapidly, he was being lured into his love affair, seeking refuge from the fellows only when he was caught up in love's crosscurrents, contradictions and quarrels. Then, as soon as all was reconciled, he would be off to see his fair lady.
The sociologist La Rochefoucauld thought all of this was naive, that "love" existed only as a result of cultural expectations. "People would never fall in love if they had not heard love being talked about," he wrote. Indeed, even Teutonic savages of the Dark Ages thought love was a ridiculous passion that had nothing to do with good old lust.
What it was that our good buddy saw that made him fall in love, he won't say. But the comrades who have seen her exquisite figure know that Sigmund Freud was correct when he theorized that the secret of love was biological and that sensuous stimulation was strategically linked to sound mental health.
So why did it have to be ruined with marriage? None of his comrades could say for sure.