B

y noon yesterday, the grocery store was a mad house.

“Uh-oh,” I said aloud to no one at all as I stood in the middle of the produce section. I nervously eyed the checkout lines.

I’d known it would be bad. The parking lot had told me as much. But there was something about being in the midst of that panicked herd that escalated my sense of anxiety. The card rack had been dragged from its dignified position near the beauty and hair care supplies, its selection now akin to that of the bread department in a store in a region expecting a hurricane. Next to the registers, two men were dipping strawberries the size of saucers into a vat of chocolate sauce. In a moment of weakness, even I nearly succumbed to the discounted, heart-shaped candle (’50 hours burning time!’) before I forced myself to turn away with my bag of spinach and jar of instant coffee (for Marcel’s birthday cake!)

All of those people, scurrying around at the eleventh hour, were hoping to lay hands on absolutely anything that might convey the depth of their feelings to their special someone on Valentine’s Day. It made me want to raise my arms in the middle of the bakery department and yell, ‘It’s over, people. If you’ve found yourself in the grocery store on Valentine’s Day trying to justify your love, just go home.’

“Are you guys doing anything for Valentine’s Day?” I asked a friend.

“Yeah,” he said while he worked. “We’re going out to dinner with all of the other couples and fight for a table so that everyone can know that we love each other. Nothing says ‘Valentine’s Day’ like surf and turf.”

You can probably hear the tone there but just in case you can’t: he was kidding. Hard.

My friend was right, of course. The prices for flowers and food are inflated for this lover’s holiday (but not that candle; I may have to go back and get one of those). People in between relationships feel iced out, but even those enjoying something steady get weird come February 14.

Flowers have to be sent to work so that others can see that you’re still—what? Getting flowers at work? Getting attention? Getting it on? What?!!?

I watched some fresh-faced college boy walk out of the grocery store holding an armful of white roses wrapped in brown paper and all I could think was, ‘I hope that gets it done, Fraternity Joe.’ Because that’s really what it comes down to: expectations—theirs and yours. You know what I mean.

Over the course of my professional career, a porn star once told me—this is serious stuff now, so forget I about the porn star part and pay attention—that any one of us can have whatever we want in this life as long as we can able to tell others, in no uncertain terms, what it is we need from them. I haven’t always followed her advice but I knew she was right and things generally go better for me when I do.

On the day after, here’s hoping your Valentine’s Day was packed full of whatever it is you asked for—you, too, Fraternity Joe.