It’s Valentine's Day. The holiday of love when sweeties across America celebrate with crimson roses, chocolate hearts, cuddly stuffed animals and candlelit dinners for two.
Nauseating, isn't it?
Though many couples and singles do something special to mark the occasion, almost as many on both sides of the relationship aisle confess to loathing the sugary day of romance and the stress, depression, guilt and disappointment that bubble to the surface when it arrives, maddeningly, year after year.
“I think the holiday is total crap,” said a newly married 27-year-old man from Greenwich, Conn., who asked not to be identified.
Some feel icky about the sappy quality that characterizes Feb. 14. Plenty of Valentine’s Day scrooges despise what they say is the corny, forced sentimentalism of a contrived, overly commercialized holiday.
“I really hate it,” said Leslie Robarge, 28, a single editor at Glamour magazine in New York. “I think I always hated it, even when I had a boyfriend. I always felt that it was really hokey. I’m not a teddy bears and roses kind of person.”
Much of what Cupid critics object to is the pressure that comes as part of the pretty (red and pink) package, either to be part of a couple if you’re single, or, if you’re attached, to shower your darling with love — in the form of a fabulously romantic gift and a night out, of course.
“It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” said a 40-year-old married father of three from Nantucket, who also requested anonymity. “There are a lot of things that run across your mind that you’d like to do, but with busy schedules, you don’t always have the time. But when you don’t do them, you feel guilty.”
Some guys lament that Valentine’s Day is all about women and the burden lies on the men to make it special — but they won't necessarily see the lovey-dovey gestures returned.
“All the responsibility for Valentine’s Day falls on the guy," the Connecticut husband said. "If the guy and the girl both agree to do nothing, and the guy doesn’t come up with at least a flower and the girl doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t hold the same value.
“There’s no reciprocated holiday for the guy. Like how about a steak and porn night? Would that be so awful?”
Apparently, Frank Sinatra got it wrong when he sang about "My Funny Valentine." For Feb. 14 haters, there's nothing remotely funny about valentines or a day honoring them.
But no worries, enemies of Cupid. The other side of Valentine's Day is being exposed faster than you can say, "I love you."
The lifestyle and pop culture fad Web site DailyCandy publishes an annual anti-Valentine's Day guide, called "My Bloody Valentine" this year, for those who feel edgy about the day of wine and roses.
Among the suggestions: Take the free "Scorned Lovers" kickboxing class Tuesday night from 7 to 8 p.m. at The Gym in New York City, in which participants pummel targets with a photo of their ex attached; or buy the "Ballistic Rose" by Tobias Wong, a bulletproof rose-shaped broach to wear over your heart.
"It's funny to hear the rage that a holiday symbolized by cute little Cupids and fluffy things brings out in people," said Dannielle Romano, an editor at large at DailyCandy. "That resentment definitely makes you want to not just ignore the holiday but do something as a protest ... a statement against dinner for two and cheesy professions of love."
For single folk tired of annual Feb. 14 girls' or guys' nights out, the "Scorned Lovers" workout might be just the thing to lift the spirits and burn the fat of the heartbroken and the bitter.
"It's a regular kickboxing class, but the only added dimension is that they're bringing in the picture for motivation," said trainer Adam McEleavy, who will teach the session. "They're going to unleash their pent-up aggression on that person. They're going to punch and kick away those hurt feelings."
The Gym General Manager Rocco Greco said he first conceived of the "Scorned Lovers" idea when he worked at a hotel and wanted to offer a Valentine's Day package for people who didn't have someone to spend it with.
"For guys, we'd offer a six-pack of Bud and a paper shredder [for old love letters and photos]. For girls, it was bubble bath, darts and a dart board, and a box of Mallomars," he said. "If they've had their heart broken recently or they're not with someone, Valentine's Day is a little salt in the wound."
Sometimes, even those who are in a relationship on Feb. 14 might not be once it comes and goes, if expectations aren't fulfilled.
"It's often a time of breakups, because one person feels more than the other person and someone winds up disappointed," said Samantha Ozarin, 30, of Hoboken, N.J. "That winds up leading to discussions about where they are in the relationship, and then that just leads to a breakup.
"It's supposed to be a holiday of happiness and warmth but instead ends up being a holiday of stress and fear."
Though it's technically a celebration of all manifestations of love, Valentine's Day — named for St. Valentine, who, legend has it, wrote a passionate letter to the apple of his eye from prison, which he signed "From Your Valentine" — is more about the romantic kind than anything else. The young newlywed from Connecticut said words on a page wouldn't suffice in this day in age.
"If we just wrote a letter, we'd be in the doghouse," he said.
Speaking of the doghouse, the online gift company RedEnvelope promises that it can help guys avoid it by providing Valentine's Day ideas and free or last-minute shipping.
"Valentine's Day is a time for retailers to rape and pillage," said the Nantucket husband.
It's precisely all the pressure — to be part of a couple, to be romantic, to be generous, to be thoughtful — that makes people turn against Feb. 14, sometimes vehemently. Robarge, the Glamour editor, said she "physically rejected" the holiday last year by getting violently ill after a cozy evening of drinking wine and eating cheese with her then-boyfriend.
But as contemptible as Valentine's Day may be to those who think Cupid is almost as much the epitome of evil as Satan, even the staunchest detractors find themselves being manipulated to care.
The Connecticut man said he’s vented to his wife about his hostility toward, as he puts it, “one of those holidays exploited by the Hallmarks and De Beers” — but he still gets sucked into it anyway.
“Yeah, I rant to her, but I always wind up breaking down and getting her something. I’m a broken man,” he said, adding that he tries to spice it up with variety in the gifts he buys. “I don’t think I’ve ever done chocolates. I’ve done flowers and hotel rooms.”
And what does he usually get from his other half on St. Valentine's delightful day of love and affection?
“Nothing. Hopefully sex,” he said, laughing.