By contributing writer DX Traeger

Today starts the two week countdown until February 14th. Valentine's Day. This day is so wretched, it deserves a second title: “Valentine's Day, Or the Modern Masochist” (shout-out to Mary Shelley).

A lot of people blame Hallmark for the ridiculous attention paid to this “holiday” (who the hell deemed this a HOLIDAY?!), but no, this puppy has its roots in Catholic history. It began when this guy, a Saint (how can you be deemed a “Saint” if you bring about hell on Earth?), defied Claudius' absolutely brilliant attempt to ban marriage back in third century Rome. See, Claudius had a problem with nobody wanting to join his military. “So,” Claudius obviously thought, “if I simply take away the ceremony, nobody can love one another, and people will join my service.” Well well well, Homey didn't play that, and thus Valentine continued to secretly marry couples.

Not too secretly, apparently, since paperwork and blood tests had to be filed and all that. Anyway, Claudius (clever fellow that he was) caught onto Valentine's devilish scheme and put him to death. Supposedly, Valentine's letter to his daughter read “From your Valentine” and started the insanity that continues to drive men nuts to this day.

God Brian, it's like you're not even trying!

Let me put it this way: Valentine's Day is grossly unfair towards men. Male actions (or—gasp!—inactions!) on this day are scrutinized and analyzed like an OCD CSI: Miami team run by Monk. On this day, past sins can be forgiven. Deep, grievous personal wounds can be healed…

…or you could unleash the unbridled fury of a scorned woman armed with 8 snapping snakes for dreadlocks!!!!

I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Let me break Valentine's Day down by the sexes. Namely, how males and females view February 14th, and what their respective expectations are of the holiday.

An unbelievable opportunity for a guy to truly let a girl know how much she means to him, or to express himself openly, to any degree. The bolder and more creative the gesture, the more style points he earns. The more earnest the attempt, the more past wrongs are forgiven. Should he succeed in diving into the planning and consideration of guaranteeing a woman the honor and distinction of calling her girlfriends up sans date at 2 AM to say “OH MY GOD,” sex will most definitely be bestowed upon him.

“Yes, it's a day for expressing ourselves. But, moreover, it's an opportunity to give you women something to brag about.”

Falling entirely too close to Christmas, Valentine's Day is merely a dualistic exercise of maintaining a strict monetary budget and having the gerbils of creativity work overtime in the brain. Valentine's Day is not an “opportunity” to woo or express emotions; no, Valentine's Day is contained within the fine print of any relationship. This fine print MANDATES, at the penalty of death (or loss of sex privileges: same thing), a John Hughes-like evening of dinner, roses, romance, chocolates (lest the girl be on Atkins, in which chocolates earn an automatic F), and of course, a meaningful card with a moving message contained therein.

Summary: Failure is not an option.

Now, some may argue that the female promise (see: option) of permitting sex should be more than enough incentive for the male to work his ass off to make her morning/noon/night. But I can say with certain conviction that NO sex is THAT fucking amazing, and if given the option between one night on the couch and the PRESSURE of HAVING to come through on Valentine's Day, give me a throw blanket, used body bag, or whatever else is handy, and I'll cover my eyes, say the Rosary until exhaustion kicks in, and see you on the 15th.

Let me take Valentine's Day a step further.

Yes, a guy can wine and dine his fair maiden with fancy words and maybe a swing or two on the dance floor. This, by itself, would be fine. However, each male finds himself squaring off against every other male for a title of “best boyfriend” on this date. Oh, sure, we may have impromptu pow-wows amongst our masculine selves where we flat-out admit to each other, “Guys, fucking help, I have NO clue what to do here.” BUT! we see these broad proclamations as signs of weakness. At this time, Guy Code requires us to slap the poor fellow on the back, say, “Dude, I don't know what I’m doing myself,” and walk away snickering, knowing that when YOUR lady turns to her friends in the days following February 14th, you will see your avatar higher than at least one poor soul.

Because, truly, isn't that what Valentine's Day REALLY comes down to? You work your ass off to better the guy next to you, not to impress or please your woman. You're fighting for her honor in a Courtly Love sense (quite literally), trying to give her the right to brag the most to her friends the next day.

As I quote Peter Cetera, ala “Glory of Love”:

Sometimes I just forget
to say, “Hey babe, I love that dress”
It breaks my heart when we have to dine-in.
I will always love you
don't let me sleep on the couch alone…

I am a man who will fight for your honor
I'll be your Big… or your Aidan or your, uh, Steve?
You'll brag of this for-ever…
And say things like, “clever” and
“He did it all for the glory of love.”

Yeah, Valentine's Day is a lot of pressure for us guys.
Yes, it's a day for expressing ourselves. But, moreover, it's an opportunity to give you women something to brag about, to make your day in an indirect sort of way.

Of course, there are corollaries to this. For instance, men, be wary of the females who magically become drawn to you within the next three weeks. Nothing is worse than meeting a wonderful, wonderful girl… doing wonderful wonderful things for her…

…and then dropping the ball come Valentine's Day.

If you're just starting out a relationship, and Valentine's Day falls within the first month… Buddy, forget about it—this is a pass/fail type test, and if you can't hack it on the V-Day, your ass… is grass.

Instead, if you meet a fantastic and charming girl on February 7th, and she asks what you're doing on Wednesday, February 14th… you take her by the hand, look deep into her beautiful hazel/blue/green/gray/RED! eyes and say:

“Darling, the Penguins play the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30. I can't. How does Thursday sound?”

Then, merely sit back and watch as she blinks twice and says, ” Who are you? Where am I? I'm so sorry” and runs away.

Similarly, beware your close-but-not-too-close female friends who, right around now, start re-entering your life, asking to go see a movie here, maybe watch a college basketball game there. Girls who play the sports angle are particularly dangerous, and particularly difficult to resist. However, if they try the old casual, “Hey, you just want to hang out for Valentine's Day?” line on you… BE STRONG. You have to be able to put your foot down and say, “Look sexy mama, I ain't gonna be no short man for you on that day so you can turn to your girlfriends and say, ‘Mmmmm-hmmm, me and MIKE went out for Valentine's Day, nothing big,' and expect to get off easy from your female comrades.”

Of course, if this girl offers sex to go along with dinner, feel free to disregard any and all ulterior motives towards using you for the night.

Speaking of “the night,” while I will always maintain that dinner and operas and shows are merely precursors to the true essence of most dates—making out and so on—this opportunity does not exist for all people. For these people (mostly females), Valentine's Day is a sad occasion, and having nothing to do, and nobody to hook up with, is a giant Billboard that screams LOSER.

As men, it is our opportunity—nay, our DUTY—to provide these women with an alternative. Yes, as they gather up in numbers (“for strength,” they'll say), we too can gather up en masse to hit the bar scene with the not-so-noble intent of, um… salvaging, another girl's night by smiling and wining and dining her and hooking up with her so that she too can call someone the next day and join in the banter.

The problem is, of course, how do you disguise your intentions as male pack hunters in a bar, on Valentine's Day, on a friggin’ Monday Night?

Simple. You get together that day, around 5pm, and research whatever NBA or college teams will invariably be playing on ESPN in the bars that night. That way, when a girl asks (and correctly, I might add), “Why the hell are you out here tonight?” you can say, “Oh, I love me some Golden State Warriors! Hooyah!”

Otherwise, a group of guys, out together, on Valentine's Day? Very gay.

Which brings us to today's final question. If you're gay (male or female), who feels the Valentine's Day pressure? Anybody? Both of you? If you're bisexual, which role do you have to fulfill, and is that determined strictly by your sex?

Are there alpha male/females in gay relationships? Is the pratfall of being this that YOU must come through with the bacon on Valentine's Day? These are important questions. Not for me, and probably not for most of the people who will actually read this, but important questions nevertheless…

Questions that need answered.

So, what can be done to salvage Valentine's Day for a couple? Men, fortunately, you do have options. You can always pull off the very sly and coy, “Baby, I was thinkin' about us just staying in tonight. I'll make dinner, a bottle of wine… you know, avoid the crowds.” Women, by their own rules, must concede to this recommendation. “Staying in and making dinner” is socially acceptable and allows a woman to keep her face in subsequent bragging stories, but in truth, “staying in” can be best defined as the following:

“Look, babe, I'm so po’ we can't go out. Heck, I's so po’ I can't afford the ‘r.’ And I's KNOW if I boil you some sketti noodles and use some Prego and pop in some breadsticks to go along with the heavy alcohol wine I picked out, we'll remain in close enough proximity to the bedroom that I won't have to work too hard or say too much. And if shit ain't goin' so great? I rented us a copy of Pretty in Pink to seal the deal!”

Girls, you don't have to like it. All I know is that right about now, guys are reading this and laughing themselves silly, for I speak the TRUTH. So, pass this along to your coworkers. Your friends. Your enemies. Yes, I've admitted that we guys strive to do JUST enough on Valentine's Day to keep you from killing us…

…For we know if we done fuck up Valentine's Day, we're in trouble. Nah, you ain't never gonna bring up VALENTINE'S DAY… but you'll definitely find some other shit that we do wrong that you've been cool about until now to make our lives hell about. And you can nod your head to that, 'cause I know that's true too.

P.S. NO girl wants a star named after her. “What, you sayin' that I'm a big ol’ ball of gas?”

P.P.S. Attempting to use the “All the restaurants are booked” excuse will NOT fly with the woman, especially if her friends' boys secure a table. Listen to Yoda, and do. There is no try.

P.P.P.S. Valentine's Day is typically not a good day to break up with a girlfriend. Also, Valentine's Day is not a good day to inform a boyfriend that you're pregnant.

P.P.P.P.S. Ladies, if you break up with your boyfriend in the days following Valentine's Day, I will be your man's material witness at your murder trial.