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Finding Heart
By A. Kinsey (no relation)

An informal survey of local lovers discovers ambiguous feelings about Valentine’s Day, and yields a new research assistant

Somewhere out there, there’s a couple who are thrilled that Valentine’s Day is approaching. There must be. Somewhere. A couple who studiously note each other’s whims and fancies, recording each item that catches the eye of their partner during the year; a couple who know one another’s sizes, color preferences, allergies and medications by heart; a couple who compile lists of favorite restaurants, movies, snacks, vacation spots, pressure points and sexual positions all to be employed in one mid-February amorous blowout—the Super Bowl of relational attentiveness.

Somewhere there’s a romantic duo who gamely view the holiday as a focused—albeit arbitrary—way to express and honor the love they share on each of the other 364 days. “My baby,” they think, “brings me such happiness, and so consistently, that she/he has fully earned a day specifically dedicated to the celebration of her/his capacity for healthy, giving, open-hearted affection, support and care. My baby’s got mad love skills, and she/he is deserving of a parade.”

But we couldn’t find that couple.

They’ve got to be out there. We believe in them—we just can’t track them down. But there must be, for example, a couple responsive to the Outback Steakhouse jingle that promises—in a not-entirely convincing Aussie accent—that on Valentine’s Day the surf n’ turf is the surest way to honey’s heart, mate. There must be a prospective gift-giver interested in the information provided, in an urgent V-Day e-mail, by Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor ™ Survey that “over half of American women prefer to sleep in either pajamas or a nightgown. And of those women, about two-thirds say they prefer sleepwear made of cotton.” There’s a lover out there somewhere who read that and had a eureka moment: “Of course, a playful cotton camisole with a colorful print really will be a Valentine’s Day treat for my special someone, and it really will show off my fun side at the same time!”

Maybe they live in a red state. But, really, we’ve looked everywhere and the reactions to our Valentine’s Day questioning have been rather more dour than delighted.

“My cats said they don’t want anything this year,” said one gentleman, responding to what was clearly a too-vague enquiry.

Another man volunteered that he was interested, even motivated, to produce something for his girlfriend but admitted that he was unlikely to succeed to her full pleasure. “My girlfriend wants a new boyfriend,” he shrugged. “Or to have me upgraded.”

One long-married fellow, whom we assumed to be at least familiarized enough with the ritual to have a game plan, rattled off traditional options willingly—“Let’s see, flowers, chocolate or candy, jewelry.”—before a look of panic crept across his face: “Wait a minute. When is Valentine’s Day? Omigod, is it soon?”

In an attempt to calm the man, we shifted the emphasis of the questioning, and asked him what he was likely to receive. Interestingly, he had no ready list for this query. “Um, I don’t know. What do guys usually get?”

After pondering for a moment, he recollected an answer: “Oh, yeah, the credit-card statement.”

One young man, however, had a more defined plan and a more easily articulated wish list. “I’m taking the woman I’m seeing out to a nice dinner,” he said, “and I’m hoping to get sex.”

Heartened by his clarity, we pursued a line of questioning regarding other gift options, including playful cotton camisoles. His opinions regarding undergarments were enthusiastic and detailed.

But we cannot print them here.

And his creative and euphemistic responses to our questions about the appeal of the “Outback” and the “surf n’ turf” we’d just as soon have scrubbed from our brains altogether.

There was an apparent predisposition among the men we questioned to believe that it was their responsibility to gift; what reciprocation there might be was uncertain, but aspirations trended toward the naked. We sought to verify with likely giftees.

“Yeah,” responded one woman, who identified herself as a member of a committed relationship. “Sex on a holiday is pretty much a given. Arbor Day, Bastille Day . . . whatever.”

But, we wondered, is there some quality specific to this holiday (adding the gentle caution that we did not need carnal detail of the sort we got from the—shudder—Outback guy)?

“Well, I demand chocolate, but just because I like chocolate. I don’t really care if it’s in a heart-shaped box, but it’s a good day to exert the pressure for chocolate.”

Another woman, currently between relationships, voiced an opinion indicative that, to her, there was more—or, maybe, less—to this holiday than Whitman’s samplers.

“It’s the most sadistic day of the year,” she snapped. “There’s pressure to get the perfect gift, pressure to be in a relationship. Fuck Valentine’s Day; it’s over.”

That being said, she confirmed that the dinner-for-sex arrangement had a high incidence of success on Valentine’s Day, relationship or no. “Oh, yeah, it’ll probably work,” she said. “There’s a lot of pressure to be having sex on Valentine’s Day.”

Fascinated by this perspective, we continued the questioning of this subject: Due to unpleasant associations, we skipped the steakhouse topics but we were charmed by her frankness re: cotton sleepwear (the subject, whom for the sake of convenience we shall identify as Miss Kitty, pointed out that one could completely sidestep the undergarment “breathability” issues by sleeping only in thigh-high stockings and uncomfortable but calf-accentuating heels). So forthright a survey respondent did Miss Kitty prove to be, in fact, that we have elected to redefine and refocus the nature of our inquiry.

The pursuit of the elusive Valentineophile couple we leave, therefore, to some Kansan or Minnesotan sociologist; instead we will focus on the community at hand, whose charming insights on the holiday we will examine at length—over dinner.

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