(And a prize if you recognize the musical reference in the title.)
So, kids... Valentine's Day is right around the corner again.
First things first. I'm not exactly a big fan of Valentine's Day. I know, I know. I'm a broken record. I kvetch about this every year. But the truth is, it wasn't just as a loveless grownup that this "holiday" got under my skin. I hated Valentine's Day back in grade school, when your popularity was defined by the number of pointless glossy throw-aways you received in your handmade classroom box. There's something utterly pathetic about having your value as a loveable human measured in the number of CHiPs and Sigmund the Sea Monster valentines you have clutched in your hands at the end of the day. Seriously.
Painstakingly, I would craft a red and pink "mailbox" to tape to my desk and await a wee handful of cards - one here, one there, almost all from the kids whose parents wisely and generously operated under the "bring something for everyone" rule. But mostly, my mailbox was a waste of space. I think I would have gotten more out of eating the paste I used to put that sucker together.
I'd watch as some kids, popular and cute, smiled away smarmily as their little boxes and envelopes fattened with each passing child. And, me, the overweight kid in the homemade patchwork smock top and the bad haircut? I felt my self-esteem plummet with each classmate who walked past without making a delivery. I remember one really foul third grade teacher (who was pretty young at the time) who made her students all count their cards and announce the total to the whole class. She told a friend of mine, another kid with a low count, "Well, looks like someone has to try harder to make some friends, huh?" A-hole. Stuff like that sticks with you.
It was a lame exercise then, and it still is now. Only when you're older, along with getting your heart slammed around, you get your pockets picked, too. Feh!
I can be a very romantic soul when I want to, but having greeting card and candy companies tell me when I am to be loved or not loved? That's a load of crapola, kids. Who needs that kind of pressure, especially when you are alone?
Well, hell, for that matter, who needs that kind of pressure when you're not alone, either?!?
Breaking the bank to prove to someone you love them (when, in theory, they should already know that) with an overpriced meal and fancy gift is pretty pointless. Of course, I think that gauging your love for someone in how much diamond you can buy with three months salary is fairly horrible, so you see where I part ways with how Our Material Culture defines romance.
Oh - if you are looking for a diamond and have a recently deceased loved one? The Sasquatch reminded me tonight of the ultimate gift o' love: the dead person gemstone. For only about $8K, you can wear that loved one all the time. I think I'll pass on this opportunity, myself. But hey, when I win the lottery, who knows? I'll be doing that right about the same time I settle in for a tasty Soylent Green Hungry Man dinner. Which would pretty much be never, thanks all the same.
Keeping on a somewhat macabre theme of romance... if you know you must succumb to the pressure of getting a heart of chocolate for your amorata, why not go with the anatomically correct chocolate heart?
Nothing says, "I love you, Morticia!" like a 1 lb. milk chocolate heart. So authentic, you'd think Mel Gibson had ripped it, still beating, from the heart of an Apocalypto extra. This tasty treat is only $15.95 and comes from a website called "Pushin Daisies" - a mortuary novelty shop.
Yeah, I didn't know there was such a thing, either. Not until tonight.
You can also get a chocolate brain. Or a "Do It Yourself Embalming Kit." I'm not sure what holiday those are appropriate for, but I'll leave that decision to you.
But seriously, kids, no one should need a contrived holiday like Valentine's Day to remember to tell folks they are loved. The cool gifts are those that are unexpected and just from the (non-chocolate) heart. (The coolest ones are simply the words "I love you.") But if you're going with the material stuff, don't kill yourself to impress someone who shouldn't need impressing.
I'm lower-than-dirt, broke-ass broke these days. And I have no one from whom I would have any expectations of receiving gifts, a dinner invitation, or flowers. (It's not as if I'd turn any of that down, of course! And, if you want to send me flowers, you can do so care of the National Geographic Society. Just kidding!!) And the truth of the matter is, if you want things, you should just buckle down, decide what you can afford, and get the stuff for your own damn self.
For those of us in the DC area who are broke or alone or both, may I offer a few cheapskate recommendations?
First: buy your own roses. There. I said it. You love flowers? You want flowers? Go get them yourself. Don't wait for someone else to be inspired or guilted into getting you nice stems! (That suggestion isn't limited to the DC area, of course. That's for all y'all out there.) Here in MoCo, there are budget options. When I've got a spare eight bucks, I buy a dozen roses at my local Shoppers Food Warehouse. Lovely blooms. Dirt cheap. Keep 'em trimmed, watered, fed, and you're golden. I've brought flowers in to my office sometimes. Makes you feel like a million bucks, even on days when work is kicking your ass.
I love java, nice and hot. You love java, too? You've heard this from me before, but if you live in Silver Spring or the Shady Grove area, you should get yo' lovebunny self a Mayorga Coffee gift/customer loyalty card and load it up with $25 worth of caffeinated affection. Mayorga has a very friendly customer loyalty program, and a card loaded with $25 or more of credit gets an automatic boost of points towards free coffee/tea/chai. Each purchase you then make off that $25 keeps your points building up quite fast for big freebie drinks. And, damn, it's good coffee - and Mayorga's locations feature free wi-fi, comfy chairs, and a nice atmosphere for chillin', surfin' and getting wired on your favorite bev-or-age. I like being able to sink into a comfy leather chair, nurse a freebie drink, and enjoy the Internet gratis. Very nice.
"I don't know if it's me or that last mocha latte talking, Gertrude...
But, damn, baby - you look hot tonight!"
But, damn, baby - you look hot tonight!"
If you're a "dinner and movie" person, consider the great combo that Regal Cinemas in Rockville has with Potbelly Sandwich Works and California Tortilla. Sunday through Monday, grab dinner at one of these cafes next door to the Regal, and ask for the dinner/movie combo. You'll pay $10.99 for dinner and movie admission. A short walk from the Rockville Metro, and with a spacious $1 parking lot, too. I've taken advantage of this offer many times. During the week, the theaters are relatively quiet - few talkers and cellphone dorks -and having a weekday evening escape is a wonderful thing.
Regal offers this same deal with CalTort and Potbelly down in Chinatown, Sunday through Monday. Ask for the same deal as Rockville (I think it may be $1 more downtown) and eat at one of these spots, right across the street from the Regal in the Gallery Place complex. The Metro station is right there, or, if you drive, free three hours of parking in the big, clean, safe Gallery Place garage (with validation at the theater.) Can't beat that with a stick, huh?
Speaking of great Chinatown deals... Want a spa day, but your wallet is too thin? Consider letting the students at the Aveda Institute on 7th Street do the work for you! Supervised by professional educators/estheticians, the students at Aveda can give you wonderful aromatherapy spa treatments - from facials and waxing to manicures and pedicures - and hair cuts and color, all at a fraction of the regular spa/salon price. The Institute has the same calming feel as an Aveda salon/spa elsewhere. But your students are being graded and observed, and services will take a bit longer. Eh, who cares? An Aveda aromatherapy facial for only $40? C'mon!
Plus, while you're there, you can join the Aveda Pure Privilege rewards program for $10. It's so worth it. Your $10 fee nets you a canvas travel bag with TSA-sized Aveda shampoo, conditioner, hand relief lotion, and (my much adored) foot relief lotion. (Jesus, that stuff is like crack for my tired tootsies!) The value of the set is $30+, and, at least twice a year, you'll end up getting certificates in the mail for freebie, custom-blended body sprays (a $20 value) and coupons, to boot. A fine deal by any measure.
And afterwards, you can catch a quick bite at one of Chinatown's many cafes. Oh hell, walk the three blocks over to Five Guys and get the world's best hamburger for a song. Seriously, Five Guys rocks, it's cheap, delicious and probably horrible for you. But, hell, kids, you aren't going to hamburger joint for ambiance and health food! Eat some free peanuts and chill while you wait for your glorious meat. Ah, the joy of an unrefined, penniless palate!
Then again, as I've mentioned before, I'm a cheap date. I don't need fancy restaurants - I don't even own the right clothes for a fancy restaurant. My idea of absolute fine dining is splurging on the shrimp to go with my steak at Outback. (Damn, that sounds really good right now. I may have to sell something on eBay and take myself out for some red meat at some point.) And sure, if I had the cash, I'd prefer to go to my wonderful little Elaj Aveda spa for foot massages and facials rather than go to the Institute. (Elaj really kicks ass - if you go there, tell them I sent you!) But when your well is dry, and you can have fun and a little toned down luxury on the cheap, why weep for the stuff you can't have - and that no one else is going to hand to you?
Maybe I was raised to have fairly simple expectations. Heck, I'm the kind of girl who wouldn't be offended by a loved one saying, "I got you a spa day at the school!" Or, "We're going out for a burrito and a movie!" To me, that sounds awesome. That would be my kind of Valentine's treat - and I would be so tickled to get such an invite. I could wear jeans and not worry about my hair or a dry cleaning bill or what the snooty folks around me were thinking. I know there are a lot of upwardly mobile folks in the DC area who would find a cheap date night insulting or demeaning for Valentine's Day. I think I'm very glad I'm not one of those folks - nor will I ever be, thank heavens. What's wrong in appreciating what you can afford rather than what is expected?
And, for that matter, why wait for someone else to get it for you?
Buy your own roses. Be your own Valentine. Show yourself a little love. Screw those memories of empty construction paper mailboxes and bad dates and lonely February 14ths!
And if you are fortunate enough to have a loved one around who can only afford to buy you a burrito and a movie ticket? Enjoy it. Have a helluva good time. Revel in the fact that you have someone who loves you and just wants to be with you. And hey, with a bargain night like that, you'll be able to stop at Ben & Jerry's afterwards.
That sounds worth some good lovin' right there.