The Real Trouble with Valentine’s Day

The reason John chose to ask me to marry him on February 13, 2013, was because it was February 13, 2012, when he told me he could never see us getting together. Ever.

Guest post: John P. Gavin – The Real Trouble with Valentine’s Day

(This was the first column in a long time I didn’t send to Loretta to proofread before sending it to my editor, and that felt weird. I didn’t send it because she broke up with me the day before, albeit with good reason.
But I didn’t want to see that yet.
So I was annoyed – and a little shook up – and very cranky.
Let’s see if any of that comes across in the column).

When I was little, my family moved from Georgia to California.

On the day the movers came, Mom, being the wise woman she is, arranged for Dad to take me and my brother Brian to the zoo. The three people she didn’t need underfoot would now be gone for the day.

At that age, I didn’t understand I was being misdirected away from the action. All I knew was I’d get to see snakes and cheetahs and ostriches and the zoo’s star attraction, a big silverback gorilla.

I remember asking Dad at every cage we stopped by on our way to the monkey house “When do we see the gorilla”? He must have gotten tired of the badgering, because at one point, after being asked my auto-repeat question, he answered, “Now! We’re going to go see the gorilla now”!

When we entered the monkey house, Brian and I made a beeline straight for the gorilla cage; though it wasn’t a cage as much as a big playpen walled off with very thick glass. There was no sort of safety area around the enclosure. We could go right up and lean on the glass barrier and press our faces against it.

Which, of course, we did.

Once at our desired location, we proceeded to make as much of a spectacle as we could to get the gorilla’s attention, but he was having none of it. Try as we might, we just couldn’t get him to look in our direction; so, we turned up the heat. Brian and I started banging on the glass and yelling and making faces to get the big ape to make eye contact with us.

That turned out to be a lousy idea.

After ignoring us for as long as he could, he finally could no longer suffer the spectacle we were making of ourselves. In retrospect, I think what happened is he took our direct gaze as aggressive behavior and decided in his simian brain that he would no longer tolerate our insolence.

What occurred then is so indelibly burned into my memory I will forget how to breathe before I forget what he did. The 800-pound gorilla launched himself from the center of the cage, about 30 feet from where we were taunting him, directly toward us.

He covered that distance in the blink of an eye. He came charging, arms waving, fangs bared, right at us. Brian and I, with all the life-preserving instinct we possessed, began backpedaling in fear for our young lives. As pedaling gave way to a full backward sprint, we watched in terror as the charging gorilla threw the full force of his weight and power into the glass wall.

Ladies, I hate to say it; but in the world of dating, Valentine’s Day is the 800-pound gorilla.

It’s that powerful tradition that tells us to put up or shut up. It makes us buy flowers that have been marked up three times above their every-other-day-of-the-year price. It makes us wait in long lines for restaurants that are near empty most nights. It has us buy chocolates that you don’t really want because we’re supposed to buy chocolates.

On Valentine’s Day we guys are told to express our love for you in a pre-scripted manner by society or culture or whatever other terms you want to use for the 800-pound gorilla. There’s nothing organic about it. We’re told what to do and when to do it, whether we’re feeling all romancey or not.

This is the exact opposite of how a man’s nature tells him to show his affection for you. When I was married, there were years in which I didn’t even mark the occasion of Valentine’s Day. My reasoning was I wanted to show love for my wife because I felt it, not because of an edict from the flower/restaurant/chocolate syndicate. I may not have bought her flowers on that day, but I don’t know another guy who brought his wife flowers as often as I did.

You’ve heard of shotgun weddings? Valentine’s Day is shotgun relationshipping.

And that gun is to our heads to make us prove our feelings for you. For guys, the real trouble with Valentine’s Day is it embodies what’s wrong with modern romance. It may have started out as a well-intentioned day for couples, but it has come to represent the opposite of how guys go about dating.

Another thing you should know is that, to us, Valentine’s Day is only a few steps removed from walking you down the aisle; and honestly that scares the stuffing out of us. You’ve heard the stories of a ring being presented over Valentine’s dinner. Those are not coincidences. The two arrangements are tied closely together. When we hear Valentine’s Day, we go visual with the image of ourselves in a rented tux at the town chapel headed for a situation with a 50-percent failure rate.

Here is probably the most important point I can share about how guys view Valentine’s Day: If we have to change how we show our affection for you on one day, who is to say we will not be asked to change further? Before you protest that you don’t want us to change, understand that it happens all the time.

We don’t want you to change us. We are who we are. Furthermore, a lot of men understand, and have learned the hard way, that though a woman falls in love with us for who we are, she can start trying to steer us into who she wants us to be.

If we love you, and you keep after us to make changes, we will try to for you; but then by definition, after changing for you, we are no longer the guy you fell in love with.

I never saw that 800-pound gorilla again. Truth is, I didn’t stop running from him until I was well clear of the monkey house. You could argue I’ve been running from him ever since, but you know what occurs to me? Gorillas don’t even grow to 800-pounds. They get nowhere near that size. The “800-pound gorilla” is just one of those things you hear said that has become customary.

And sometimes you have to leave behind what is considered customary.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Reader Comments

  1. Christine

    Well I’m confused why you said no. BUT I hate Valentine’s Day for the same reason John does! LOL. My boyfriend and I celebrate our day of love on Feb 28th our anniversary. I’m loving this story though!!

  2. Shelly Diane Drymon

    “My reasoning was I wanted to show love for my wife because I felt it, not because of an edict from the flower/restaurant/chocolate syndicate. I may not have bought her flowers on that day, but I don’t know another guy who brought his wife flowers as often as I did.”

    Amen to this!!!!

Your thoughts? I would love to hear from you...

Please subscribe to my blog

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: