Sunday, February 15, 2009

"How NOT to Take an L on Valentine's Day"

Whenever possible, I want to bellow a hearty laugh. And thanks to my school’s daily newspaper, I didn’t have to even watch reruns of The Office to get my daily cackle.

Last week, the Hilltop (Howard University’s daily newspaper) listed their top-ten songs for Valentine’s Day 2009. I scanned the page and saw that Beyonce’s hit song “Single Ladies” appeared at the top of the list. Of course, I laughed at the obvious contradiction present and continued on with my day.

What contradiction? You know...the fact that Beyonce – a woman married to a hip-hop legend – is singing about a concept that she has absolutely no connection with anymore. In other words, a married woman is singing about being single, which is an obvious oxymoron.

The chance of a guy hearing that song and saying to himself, “Wow, maybe I should call the girl that I’m feeling now and apologize” is downright laughable. Most guys will probably hear the song, chuckle, and thank Beyonce’s vocal skills for handing them another reason NOT to come through in the clutch on “Singles Awareness Day”.

That's why very few relationships begin during the period of February 1st to the 13th.

Only the most idiotic or desperate of our kind would begin courting a girl within that time frame. Please believe…we do our research. According to the U.S. Greeting Card Association, men will spend twice as much as women on Valentine’s Day, a fact that makes us cringe. The rest of us would rather wait until February 15th to begin the courting process. If a guy’s really smart, he’ll wait until at least the 20th just to erase suspicion. We’re not as stupid as we look.

Women, before you begin to ball your fists, turn “Single Ladies” up in your rooms, and blow up your prospective man’s phone, allow me to shed a little light on life as a man. For the most part, men are very simple human beings. Men are creatures of habit, and are most comfortable existing within a set structure. For example, you might think that your man is being lazy and unproductive when he’s sitting in a ratty T-shirt and boxers watching college football on an autumn afternoon. However, if he’s the kind of guy that you even want to marry, that man planned on being lazy that day. It’s pretty much a guarantee that he woke up and thought to himself, “Hmm, what am I going to do today?” In other words, that man planned to not have a plan that day.

Out of the many great concepts my dad taught me when I was a kid; one lesson always stands out above the rest. Make sure you have a plan. “If you get in trouble with the law, at least let the idea be YOUR bad idea”, he’d say. “Don’t follow someone else’s dumb idea.” You definitely want the man of your dreams to be ambitious, to have his own plan. It’s important to allow the man to be the man within reason. No questions asked.

When it comes to dating and courtship, men relish ambiguity. Within the realm of relationship ambiguity, we maintain control. Nothing’s expected from us unless we allow it; nothing’s required unless we initiate action. Plus, for some reason, this mysteriousness is attractive to women. Why would a girl date you if she already knows everything about you? Exactly. She wouldn’t.
Men will act on their love, but not until they believe the coast is clear. That’s why most men hate Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day elicits a male response. Valentine’s Day forces us to prove our love on a day that all of our other brethren are also proving their love. Forcing a guy to admit his inner feelings against his wishes is like waking up a hibernating bear before spring. You just don’t want to do it. Trust me, he’ll wake up when the time’s right.

Here’s the truth about Valentine’s Day. Guys aren’t just vying for the affection of their girls. In reality, guys are competing against other guys.

Allow me the opportunity to erase the puzzled looks from your faces.

Women of the world, we’ll never admit to knowing anything about your kind, but we can merely assume this generic fact. You’ve seen at least one romantic movie. You’ve been cognizant of your surroundings during at least 15-20 Heart’s Day's. You’ve listened to at least one Jodeci album. You have a working knowledge of how our society illustrates love.

However, society’s depiction of love is inherently flawed. Let’s be serious for a second. Just because a guy decided to buy you flowers does not mean that he’s ready to marry you. I know this normally sounds stupid and dumb to consider, but on Valentine’s Day…women want to believe that a guy really cares for them. As the Boss would say, "Everybody's got a hungry heart." Somehow, an obligatory gesture becomes synonymous with deeper feelings or true consideration. In reality, we’re just trying not to come up short on the world’s biggest holiday of love. Like Ricky Bobby always says, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” And for a guy, coming in last on Valentine’s Day guarantees death to any budding relationship.

Think about it. How can you stand out and prove your love to your woman if millions of other guys are attempting to do so on the same day? You can’t. No matter how inventive or creative you think you are, there’s another guy in your sphere of influence that will top your gift. Trust me, I’m a creative writer and I’ve tried. No dice.

However, after much deliberation over breakfast with the Table of Scholars (actually, it was just me and my two friends), a theory was hatched. Our goal? Not to take an L on Valentine’s Day. The goal of every guy is to finish every Valentine’s Day personally neutral, to emerge unscathed after a long day of anticipation and obligation.

When we began our discussion, we agreed that it’s absolutely impossible for a guy to pull off a complete W on Valentine’s Day. Actually, the only way for a guy to commence taking a slight win on Valentine’s Day is to be married for 3+ years. Hopefully, the prospective guy would already be constantly showering love onto his woman, and she understands the fact that Valentine’s Day is just a relationship obligation. Also, she would have already experienced at least 3-5 heart’s days during their relationship, which further exist in her memory as proof that her man loves her. However, the guy must forever bring flowers and candy in hand when entering the house on said date. You can’t take any chances.

Without further ado, the golden rules on how NOT to take an L on Valentine’s Day:

RULE #1: Grow a spine. Make a decision and stick to it.
Before you even begin to consider denouncing your V-Day obligations, make sure that you’re seriously ready to stay committed to the task at hand. If you envision a scenario where you’ll feel terrible about not dating the girl you like on Valentine’s Day, stop, pick up the phone, and call said girl to see if she’s made plans. Nothing’s worse than hanging with a dude that keeps bringing up the “what could have been” Valentine’s Day strategy while you’re trying to enjoy life without restrictions.

RULE #2: Call your Mom.
Every guy should call their Mom on Valentine’s Day. She brought you into the world. Enough said. If you haven’t done it yet, just stop now and dial her number.

RULE #3: Keep a low profile.
One of the worst things that can happen to a guy on Valentine’s Day is to get caught doing…nothing. Why do you think I spent most of my day eating breakfast and typing this love guide? On a campus as plenteous as Howard’s with women, chances are high that you’ll run into a girl absent of plans. If you previously planned on not having plans on Valentine’s Day, you’re pretty much screwed at this point. Because men are most comfortable in structure, conversation will inevitably steer towards your plans for the night. If you have no plans and still decide not to take the prospective girl out, you’ve officially become Public Enemy #1.

RULE #4: Promise your girl an equally great future date. Or, better yet, come through beforehand.
I got this one from my boy Jordan, who I caught walking to his girlfriend’s job to give her flowers and candy before Valentine Day’s. What a great idea. Of course, I dapped him up and yelled “CLUTCH!” over and over without regard for my reputation. The "future date" or "beforehand setup" allows your well-executed plan to succeed without fear of another guy topping your idea, and you come off looking way more inventive and cool. (The TV analogy for this phenomenon would be Jeremy Piven. Jeremy Piven is a solid Hollywood actor. However, because Piven is acting with terrible guys on HBO's "Entourage", he comes off looking way better than he really is.) You’ll probably still need to come through with a card on Valentine’s Day, but at least you’ll be able to watch the NBA Slam Dunk Contest without guilt.

RULE #5: Make sure you’re not alone.
This one applies to men and women on Valentine’s Day. Girls, don’t wallow in sadness and wonder about your man’s plans during the night! Call your single friends up and head out to a restaurant, bowling alley, or some other non-romantic spot for the night. Guys, if you end up sad and alone on Valentine’s Day…you probably didn’t listen to RULE #1. Don’t allow doubt to infiltrate your mind like Chris Paul getting steals on the Russian Olympic team. Meet up with some guys and watch NBA All-Star Weekend festivities. If you’re feeling bold, go ahead and invite female friends to check the game out too. That’s what the NBA All-Star Weekend’s for…bringing date-free people together in a non-awkward environment.

So ladies and gentleman, go out and enjoy President’s Day weekend.

We are liv-ing sin-gle…in a 90’s kind of world.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Michael A. Benjamin, II

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