Men, Will You PassThe Valentine’s Day Test?

Hey guys, remember back in school when the hairs on the back of your neck stood straight up as your teacher strolled down the aisle passing out graded final exams?

Well Valentine’s Day is approaching, the day you receive your relationship “grade.” So how will you do? Face it, not to sound too cynical or unromantic, but what this holiday really represents is pressure.

Pressure to give your “Valentine” just the right present, one that communicates whatever the message is that you figure is the correct one.

And what is the source of that pressure? The first source is the avalanche of radio and television ads that seem to have started about three seconds after Ryan Seacrest completed his New Year’s Eve countdown live from Times Square.

We can easily recite a few…. “Every kiss begins with Kay,” “Vermont Teddy Bears” (how many of you received the “Love Bandit”?), “Elizabeth Grady facials.” And my favorite, the “pajamagram.” Not to mention all the flower ads.

Of course the other source of pressure is that special woman in your life who squeezed out a furtive smile and glance in your direction every time a Valentine’s Day reminder popped up on radio or television the past few weeks. (I estimate that probably only happened about 147 times a day!) Oh, did I say “woman” in your life?

Not to sound too sexist, but most men care about receiving a meaningful Valentine’s Day present about as much as they wanted to switch the channel to view Masterpiece Theatre on PBS during the recent Super Bowl.

And it doesn’t matter if you have only been dating four weeks or been married 44 years! The same pressure exists, perhaps even more so for the people in brand-new relationships.

Because, for most couples, Valentine’s Day serves as a relationship barometer. And a “new” couple is still in the midst of playing one of those cute relationship games, such as “I’ll tell you how I feel about you, if you’ll tell me first how you feel about me.” (Another such game is “Sleep me with first, then I’ll tell you whether I am serious about our relationship.”)

At the dating service I ran for more than two decades, February was always an interesting month. During the two weeks before Valentine’s Day, business was always slow. Very slow. After all, nobody wanted to admit just before the 14th that the only person they had to buy flowers for was dear old Mom. And nobody wanted to go on a first date with someone on Valentine’s Day.

But the week after Valentine’s Day always kicked off one of the busiest times of the year, as many people decided this would be the last Valentine’s Day they would spend alone with their cocker spaniel. Then there were all those relationships that failed the Valentine’s Day test. For example, if you expected an expensive piece of jewelry or even an engagement ring (after all you have been dating three years), and all you got was a bunch of Hershey kisses wrapped in a red tin heart (not every kiss begins with Kay), maybe you finally realized your relationship was not headed in the right direction.

And so every year at my dating service the floodgates would swing open on Feb. 15, as many single men and women figured that it was time to “start from scratch” in their relationship search.

It’s too bad that we all can’t just turn back the clock and celebrate Valentine’s Day the way we did in first grade. Just go to CVS and buy a box of Care Bears cards and give one to every boy and girl in the class!

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