I Have Seen the Men and They Are Desperate

I mean it — desperate.

Hordes of men were at the Austin’s original Central Market last night a/k/a Valentine’s Eve. They were in the flower section, eyeballing roses and sunflowers and carnations. They were pawing the bright gold boxes of Godiva (and, if they were at all thoughtful, they were wondering whether their prospective valentines were on a diet, which would be totally sabotaged by a massive box of chocolates and result in a cataclysmic shame spiral that would not bode well for romance. But men in a panic may not be thoughtful until it’s too late).

They stood in line, clutching bouquets wrapped in green paper, looking equal parts sheepish and relieved. “Those poor guys,” my husband said sympathetically, shaking his head. Last year, our zillionth Valentine’s Day together, he somehow (how shall I put it most charitably?) dropped the goddamned ball. “I’m getting you roses this year, of course,” he announced loudly.

Of course, I said.

Looking around at all the male discomfort and borderline despair at an ordinary grocery store, I had to wonder what on earth was going on at lingerie stores around town, too. Surely, it was worse there. I’d seen men in those stores close to major holidays as they fumbled from counter to counter, eyes plastered wide like sacrificial animals at the altar.

“What size does your wife wear?” the saleswomen always asked the men, clearly striking even greater terror and indecision into their hearts.

“Oh, about your size,” most of the men would invariably say to the women behind the counter.

Would it be worse to get an inappropriate negligee that was way too big or way too small? Did my husband have any idea what size I wear in anything? No, he did not. However, he has been extensively prepped on my weight, since I have nightmares about being kidnapped and held hostage while he gave the police the wrong weight (too high, always too high).

We paid for our groceries and walked out into the night. I told myself I should feel bad about all the terror-struck men I’d seen, how I should regret taking part in this disgusting commercial display of hearts and flowers and avarice once every year.

Oh, but a year is a long time and this year, it’s even a day longer than usual. I can’t help myself: I think it’s good to occasionally put the fear of God into some of these guys now and then. They’ll be back to their usual behavior February 15. They’ll have plenty of time to forget once more whether we’re on a diet and whether we wear a size 2 or 22.

Life’s not an endless beer commercial, guys. Once a year, you can man up for a little romance.

(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Please see #13 on this list about a Valentine’s Day gone horribly wrong

22 comments… add one
  • jsh Link

    I got a dozen red roses delivered at the office and, tonight, dinner a deux. But on the less romantic side, I also got this request by email: “If you get off early enough, maybe you can drop by Albertson or Kroger and pick up some flowers for my mom.”

  • Ha! I was at the store this afternoon and I’ve never seen so many men there–with their kids, no wives, looking confused. And nearly all the flowers were already gone, and the chocolate was pretty picked over too. My husband has learned his lesson from past V-days–no flowers, just chocolate.

  • This made me snort. Thanks for the laugh.

  • I was at the grocery store today and the floral section was a mob scene of desperate men. We are skipping the day this year and celebrating this weekend instead with a getaway. I was once in a Hallmark store the night before Valentine’s and I have never seen so many men in a card store in my life.

  • It is amazing how all women can be “about the size” of any random woman in a shop.

  • msue Link

    I tried to set the tone by getting a card ahead of time. The plan was to leave it on his keyboard for him to find this morning. Imagine my horror at 6am when I tried to pen a sweet note, only to discover that I’d bought a card that said Happy Valentines Day MOTHER. In two places!

    I was thrilled to get flowers anyway.

  • The men are desperate because they fear being “found out” — discovered that notions of romance fly over their heads 364 days a year without serious repercussions. But only on one day out of the year they must somehow show that they “understand” the ways of having a truly romantic heart the other 364 days. Hence, grabbing up bouquets as if grasping at the last decaying twigs on a bush before hurling over the precipice and sliding down a shear 200-foot cliff into a steamy lake of rapidly vaporizing footballs. They know they really belong in that lake, it’s just that they dread having the essence of boiled pigskin clinging to their hair, shouting the Truth up all feminine nostrils. Thank God, I’m gay!

  • Steve Link

    As I checked out the HEB yesterday–sans flowers or chocolate–the cashier asked if I was doing anything for my spouse, such as chocolates.

    “I would be in trouble if I brought home chocolates,” I told her. “The steak is a much safer choice.”

    She did love the enormous prime New York strip that we shared off the grill last night, along with the steamed broccoli.

    In the romantic ways of another couple sharing our zillionth Valentines Day–our 44th to be more precise–we toasted each other with a good cabernet that mated well with the steak, we recounted how different last night was from our first Valentine’s Day (she said that I had my brother deliver the flowers that first time), and then we did the dishes.

  • Susan Thompson Link

    I saw them too, at Randall’s.

    Guys: here’s a tip: one rose will do.

  • They were out in Houston as well. One guy grabbed my husband in the parking lot of a grocery and sotto voced to him–“The roses are cheaper at Kroger.” Ah romance.

  • Sue Heard Bump Link

    Husband and I have stopped the actual gifting, instead making our own cards (basically printing out a poem on a piece of plain paper), and writing a description of what we are gifting. Christmas, just before we moved to our new/old 1850’s house in Taylor, husband wrote “new dining room set” in my Christmas. On my birthday in January, a week before our move, he wrote “your choice of fence for new front yard”. (He wanted wrought iron, I wanted white picket). Yesterday, he topped all previous gifts by giving me a trip to Vancouver! Of course, I’ll get to do all the work for the trip, like renewing both our passports, making reservations, flights, cars, etc., but still………I am 67 and he is 68. Love is still awesome, as our granddaughters say!

  • I think it’s about manning up more than once a year. In the good relationships, that’s what’s going on. Then there isn’t this fear of doing it wrong on V day.

  • You are too funny. Hee Hee! I must admit though, you are right as rain. Thanks for the giggle.

  • Let’s just say I’m glad I bought myself a bag of chocolate truffles the other day. I got a card, unsigned. That’s it.

  • Valentine’s Day, in general, has always made me nervous!

  • Nah, one day a year doesn’t work. If he’s not paying attention all year wrong, he doesn’t have the ghost of a chance of getting it right on Valentine’s Day. What we need is a Boot Camp for Boy Friends/Husbands where they spend an intensive week learning about their woman’s preferences in life.

  • Sheryl Link

    All I can say about Valentine’s Day is bah, humbug. I want my husband to treat me like a Queen EVERY day, not just Feb. 14th!

  • Thanks for the laugh. I saw these men yesterday, too. They behaved exactly the same way in Boston, so I guess it’s pretty universal. Note: Boston did have some women carrying bouquets, too.

  • The “what size does your wife wear?” is such a cruel question, isn’t it? Only a fool of a man would try to buy a gift that required precise knowledge of her butt or boob size. The risks are too high!

  • bonehead Link

    Skip the holidays on purpose, as a statement of your independence from sales and marketing having any connection to your personal relationship. Treat each other as nice as you can everyday and appreciate having someone close that gives a hoot about you. It’s like dollar cost averaging, you’ll come out ahead in the long run. Any man that would attempt to buy his wife clothing is an idiot. If he tries it and he’s not married, it makes it easy for the woman to decide to bail out before marrying the idiot. It’s easier to go with the truth and tell her she’s the cutest sweetheart in the world in those sweats.

  • The husband and I were lamenting that we hadn’t had time to make each other Valentine’s Day cards this year, but thankfully, every day truly is like Valentine’s Day around here. We just feel fortunate we’re both still alive! And can share our lives with each other.

  • Hear, hear!

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