Smelling like roses, or pushing up daisies?

A View Askew

Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2007

I am, on occasion, accused of being a not very upbeat, not very sentimental and, in general, not very nice person.

This is not true. I happen to find many things exciting and worthy of sentiment. For instance:

Other people’s misery.

Wait, that didn’t come out right.

It’s not human misery in general that I find amusing, just the specific instances where an unsuspecting victim finds themself floundering in unfamiliar territory.

Don’t pretend you’ve never laughed at this phenomenon:

The pee-wee player who scores a point for the opposing team; the first-time fisherman decked out with the most expensive gear who can’t seem to keep his pricey lures attached to his line; former Gov. Frank Murkowski trying to pretend he was likable and had a personality.

My favorite example is men on Valentine’s Day. I could spend all day hanging around the floral section of a grocery store watching guys shuffle aimlessly about, trying to decipher which combination of wilted blooms and generic greeting card will avoid the disappointment or all-out wrath of their significant other.

They don’t know what to get or why to get it; all they know is it could be wrong.

In their defense, it’s not fair. The holiday is a commercialized excuse for retailers to hawk jewelry, cards, flowers, candy and anything else that can be packaged in red and pink hues (heart-shaped toilet tank cleaners, anyone?).

It’s more shallow than Anna Nicole Smith’s IQ level to believe that a plush bear stuffed by a Third World 8-year-old working for 2 cents an hour represents the feelings one person has for another. If somehow that does represent your feelings for your significant other, you’ve got bigger problems than striking out on Valentine’s Day.

But all that is beside the point: Guys, if your lady buys into Valentine’s Day, you had better, too.

Or more appropriately, if your lady’s friends, co-workers and other female acquaintances buy into it, you’d better get your act together.

One of the basic concepts of Valentine’s Day that men seem not to grasp is it’s a competition. Not for your love’s affection, but between you and every other man — living, dead and fictional.

Your female friend may be generally low maintenance, easygoing and not worry about trifling matters like you leaving the seat up or not noticing her new haircut. But even if she says she doesn’t care about Valentine’s Day, she’ll be bombarded all day by stories about how Sheila got breakfast in bed, Steve just dropped off a dozen roses and a handwritten poem, Larry bought a $3.99 box of chocolates and ate two of them, and that one guy in that one movie showed up outside his girlfriend’s window and held a boom box over his head to show his love for her even though her father didn’t approve ... .

She will be questioned again and again about what you did for her. She’ll answer. And she’ll embellish with exactly what she thinks of your gesture.

This is because women in groups are mean. They talk. About you. All the time. You know that embarrassing thing that happened last weekend? So do her friends, and by extension, her friends’ boyfriends.

But this can work in your favor, because Valentine’s Day is the great equalizer in women’s estimation of masculinity. A guy may drive a Hummer, bench press 250 and earn eighty grand a year, but if he’s lacking in romance skills, he could be shown up by a guy on a bicycle who lives with his mother and has to ask her to open jars for him.

To come out smelling like roses, rather than being food for them, here are a few things to keep in mind this Valentine’s Day:

· Different flowers mean different things. Yellow roses are for friendship; red are for love and wilted daises mean you couldn’t be bothered to get to the store before everything decent was sold out.

· Candy is risky. It could be you chose right and she loves white chocolate truffles; or it could be she’s been on a diet for a month and now thinks you’re trying to sabotage her. But no matter what, do not go the low-calorie, fat-free route. If you don’t know why, then you’re beyond any help I can give you.

· Writing songs or poetry requires extra effort and therefore can garner extra bonus points — but don’t succumb to temptation to cheat. That Hallmark greeting card may be exactly what you want to say (in that it expresses feelings, which you’re not fond of doing), but don’t pass it off as your own.

She will know. Even Anna Nicole would have been suspicious of someone who usually communicates in grunts and monosyllables suddenly spouting off about how “love grows old like sun-drenched wine” until “golden moon meets midnight drear, and cupids hover at one’s ear.”

And yes, I know Ms. Smith recently died, and it’s not nice to make fun of the dearly departed.

Please refer to my first sentence.

Jenny Neyman is the city editor at the Clarion.

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