The Valentine's Day post
Media Girl is calling out for feminist analysis of Valentine's Day, which I think is a great idea. And since we here at Mouse Words are obsessed with how dating and romance function to reinforce stifling and unimaginative gender roles in American society, we figure we might as well throw all one of our collective hats into the ring.
That being said, I definitely celebrate Valentine's Day, because any excuse to act silly and swap presents is a good one. I wish it would just stay that way. If it were just that, I don't think it would cause people so much angst. Instead, it's a time when the ever-present Romance Monster really pulls out its fangs and starts ripping into people's soft, human flesh. And make no mistake, in America at least, Romance is a monster with a single-minded desire to get people to conform. Even extremely bright, independent-minded people fall victim to pangs of guilt and weirdness on Valentine's Day--does he really love me if he doesn't get flowers? Does he love me enough if he doesn't skip the mortgage payment to buy me a diamond tennis bracelet?
The best way to resist is to take this as open season for mockery. I mean, aren't those diamond commercials on TV just begging for MST3K-style commentary? "A diamond is forever or until she finds out about your other family." I am particularly fond of the commercials on the radio for teddy bears, the whole kick being that it's a present that is different in that it's not flowers, but you still don't have to exert any effort to educate yourself on your lover's taste.
A stroll through a store at this time of year can be seen as chastisement for single people or those of us who could barely hide our disdain for dumping $30 on a bunch of cheap chocolates, or it could be a time to enjoy the weird pleasures and insecurities of what appears to be the majority of Americans that are out on display for your pleasure. My boyfriend and I happened to be in Target this past weekend, looking to buy a present for a friend's new baby. On our way to the register, we passed the Valentine's display of boxer shorts, right on the edge of the men's section for maximum visibility and also so female customers do not feel the need to linger. Novelty boxer shorts perplex me. Are they supposed to be sexy? Funny? Do many men enjoy it when a woman laughs as they pull their pants down? Are there legions of men who really enjoy having little cupids and hearts decorating their asses?
As I pondered the novelty boxer shorts, my boyfriend ran over to the silk novelty boxer shorts section and started petting a pair like it was cat. He looked over to me and said, "I have no idea how anyone can walk in these without getting a woody." I suggested maybe that was the idea, getting all worked up on Valentine's Day, making it sort of a relic in these post-Viagra days.
Balloon bouquets might be my absolute favorite of gifts I would never want. Well, maybe second to huge teddy bears. Or statues that look like they want a hug. Flowers seem like a waste of money to me, but at least they are attractive. But balloon bouquets cost the same and are appalling and corny. I suppose the idea behind them is that the sender wants to be romantic but also wants to convey the message that he/she may be in love, but that doesn't mean they aren't a goofy, humorous sort. Which would be okay if ever there was a balloon bouquet that was funny, but there's just not. It's like the Hawaiian shirt of romantic gifts--the wearer of the Hawaiian shirt thinks he's a devil-may-care sort, but the rest of us are thinking, "Dork."
Edited to add: My apologies to anyone who thought they were going to get a thoughtful analysis of Valentine's Day instead of jokes about balloon bouquets and the word "woody".