At work today I heard how our mailroom guy, Maurice (aka The Gangster of Love) surprised his wife by drawing her a hot bath, strewing rose petals on the floor and in the water, and setting out a glass of wine. When she was done, the elaborate candlelight dinner he'd made her was waiting. (He did this after refereeing seven high-school basketball games.)
Jenn, our adorable receptionist, is hugely infatuated with her new boy, a filmmaker, and they have romantic Valentine's dinner plans followed by meeting friends at a popular nightspot. She was blushing as she told me about how well things were going.
Around me, people discussed their Wednesday plans with spouses and various SOs. I sat in my cubicle and imagined the ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the flowers people would receive, and the Thursday conversations about dinners and romance and....AAAAAGH!
Ok, I told myself. You like Maurice and Jenn. You actually adore them, you love that Maurice and his wife are still so close, and you love that Jenn seems to have found someone worthy of her. You are, at heart, a romantic, and you will be HAPPY for others. Hey, your mother always sends you something nice; this year it's tasty Valentine's chocolate popcorn! You will NOT be one of those bitter, cynical people.
Who was I kidding? I am an Alanis Morrisette/Elvis Costello layer cake with Leonard Cohen frosting.
The thing is, I’m not as averse to being bitter as I am to being tedious and wallow-y about it. So I went online and discovered an Anti-Valentine's Day performance at the Apollo Theater on Lincoln, steps from my previous stint as a street-fair money collector. Sponsored by the Chicago Poetry Society and featuring such performers as Ira Glass, it looked like a really good time.
I called; they did indeed have some tickets left.
"How many?" the man asked.
"Well, since it's an anti-Valentine’s Day event, I guess that would make it ONE," I replied.
He laughed and took my order.
It was fabulous. Many couples and singles of all stripes were there (I thought I was being given the eye by an odd-looking young man with sparse facial hair, and was surprised to see him in the Women's room. Until I realized "he" was a girl. Maybe. I'm really bad at figuring out which side of the T people's M's and F's fall.) There were also lots of people there with friends. The atmosphere was fun, and the performers were tremendous. Neofuturists, poetry slammers (including a gay man who imagined an affair with Ann Coulter, and a guy who read sections from Missed Connections against a background of techno/house music), spoken word, a piano accompanist, and a guy who used a PowerPoint presentation as a quiz on the circumstances under which girlfriends had spoken certain lines to him ("I'm not into White boys anymore." "You're such an asshole." "You look like a girl.")
Ira Glass did some wonderful pieces using interviews and a story from This American Life. I laughed really hard, and it felt good. After a segment on how people in couples who have lived together for years still often hear completely different things when talking to one another, the last line of the show was spoken by a laughing Ira:
"What hope is there for us?!"