February 13, 2010

St. Valentine's Day Mascara

I don’t particularly like it when the calendar tells me what to do. New Year, for example, demands that we have the time of our lives, yet all the social opportunities on offer contrive against that possibility. The build up ends inevitably in anticlimax. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Birthdays even, all seem somehow to be mere props for the greeting card industry. Valentine’s Day, loaded with all the expectations of romantic perfection, seems destined to end in tears before bedtime. May I offer a few thoughts on how to keep the makeup in place?

(Feel free to substitute ‘him’ for ‘her’)

Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to buy her a present. Think about her when it’s not Valentine’s Day, and she’ll think more of you.

Tell her you love her, and mean it, everyday. If you don’t mean it, what are doing?

Romantic gestures don’t have to be saved up for the contrivances of the calendar. Take her out for dinner on a random Tuesday. Florists are open all year round.

Be a generous and considerate lover all the time.

Don’t forget the small stuff. Helping her on with her coat; holding the door; telling her how she looks before she asks. All these things demonstrate that you don’t take her for granted. Being considerate only for a day just won’t cut it.

Do these things, and when Valentine’s Day comes around the pressure won’t seem so intense. Sure, go do something nice, but don’t invest your entire relationship in it: Valentine’s Day might just end with a climax.


  1. Doctor,

    I feel obliged to draw your attention to the following problems. They all revolve around looking at the thing in front of one's nose and, presumably, eyes, rather than wishing for a thing not of one's design.

    Calendars, as you note them, are there because of customs. You are either deploring the existence of human customs or the ones particular to our regimes. Either way, an abyss is opening up underneath your light-treading step. Consider how much of customs' meaning is derived from an apt distinction between one's rights and one's duties and, to say the same in a different way, between the private and the public...

    As to your suggestion about Valentine's: doctor, it does not seem to strike you that most people neither want nor are able to be considerate lovers. And generosity is in very bad repute: you cannot sue one for generosity and those things for which you cannot sue are not in favor among us. Love is not why people marry or are otherwise attached - further, one person's loving another guarantees no ways requital, which itself does not guarantee attachment, nor does the lack of the former preclude the latter. Most young adults are bogged down in what is called a relationship and have trouble with commitments. Why that is should concern a gentleman, surely, but he should apply himself to the matter with more perspicacity than discretion.

    Romantic gestures seem outlandish in daily life and most people have to live their daily lives: having moments when one is assailed no longer by daily drudgery is a relief and the expectation that such moments may be graced by others' ability to show their gentleness and affection is surely a good thing. Life cannot be a celebration of romanticism even if such a thing were possible, not to say desirable. In fact, romanticism derives its power from being polemic: it fights against serious life, derides it, shocks its conventions, and presumes to establish its superiority by being authentic, the real deal, genuine. (One of the most serious indictments of romanticism is also one of the deepest discussion on it: Jane Austen's
    'Sense and sensibility'.) Therefore, romantic needs suggest how imperfect our regime is: we are so unsatisfied with the way 'our non-material values' or 'spiritual needs' are thwarted - but incapable of finding more meaningful phrases than the above and their sorrowful kin, much less solutions to the problem.

    Doctor, gentle behavior is only proper for certain people and it comes naturally to few. It is rooted in a certain sensibility. The kind of people who like to watch football matches, and arena sports in general, are not gentle and, in our world, never shall be; (the one who differ, or would like to, distinguish themselves by absence, silence, or a box.) Gentlemen do not haggle endlessly, do not threaten other people, do not say and do most things coarse, and, above all, find money-making despicable, because it requires of a man to abase his pride. And we live in a money-making world, what the thinkers used to call a commercial republics.

    Grafting gentleness on artisans is impossible; peddling the thought and the practice is graft. Unless you are writing for such a slim audience as those who are sensitive or gentle already, you must take into account your audience, for you make recommendations to it, and therefore are morally responsible. (If you are writing for such an audience, surely you are underwhelming it.) Anyone can nowadays acquire such responsibility, but few can discharge it - and they make themselves conspicuous by understanding the way people work without declaring what that implies...

  2. Doctor,

    allow me also an afterthought. Do you really consider men and women inter-changeable in love? Or merely in advice about it?

  3. I will answer this, for I find I cannot reconcile myself to it. But it will have to be in a few days, since I am about to depart on something of a long voyage. Until then I leave it to my audience to mull (which I assure you is not merely the slim audience you mention).

  4. Helping her on with her coat might just end with helping her out of the rest of her clothes!

    (I'm not normally so crass, but it seemed like a bit of a witticism).


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