I keep having apocalyptic dreams; it must be Valentine's Day.

We all know the damn holiday is supposed to be a charming, romantic commercial celebration named after a saint or some other bastard who went around promoting love or something, but it always feels like the end of the world to me. I dreamt last night that the Nazis were all the rage again and that bombs were dropping outside my house, and, I swear, I know it's because I saw that damn Hallmark commercial about how you'll get a cheap teddy bear with a zippered pocket on it if you buy enough "I Wuv You" cards. I have just the right blend of paranoia and pathetic self-involvement to believe that the day was created as an annual way to emotionally scar me, as an opportunity for the people in that little room who control the rest of the world to get a yearly dig in at me: Don't get cocky, dipshit—where's your zippered teddy bear?

It's how I feel about late-late-night programming, which is inarguably malicious. I get hit with all those infomercials about how easy it is to make a lot of money and put on a Hawaiian shirt and tell everyone about it. Then there are the weird "hip" churches asking me if I feel I am without friends, and if I know that Jesus is cooler than cool. And, of course, I get has-beens like Melissa Gilbert saying she understands my acne. Even those midafternoon advertisements, the ones you get to see if you're staying home from work because you're trying to protect your mental sanity, come after me. I'm lying there, comatose with a bowl of cereal and an Us magazine, comfortably ensconced in All My Children, when an ad comes on casually asking me to consider antidepressants. Some middle-aged woman is rubbing her brow next to a rain-splattered window, then she gets some Paxil and suddenly she's the freakin' hit of the office and can't believe how much fun she's having with her kids. I know they're talking to me—it's so clear: Are you feeling like life doesn't mean anything, Steve? Do you spend too much time sleeping, Steve, or avoiding large groups of people because you're too afraid, Steve?

Valentine's Day is far worse than all that. For weeks leading up to it, the entire culture is besotted with joy over the prospect of love and reminding me that I don't have it. It's much lousier, even, than Christmas, when at least I know I'll probably get some free fudge. I can't outrun the event; it's everywhere. The day holds such a fraudulent yet convincing sense of import that I've broken up with guys just because I've realized I don't like them enough to give them a chocolate penis. Magazines start pumping out supposedly salacious advice about how steamy your sex life will be when you put Hot Tamales in your lover's navel. Even the most random orchestras are busy promoting a Valentine's-themed program, as though hearing the xylophone were some rapturous nirvana. Christ, if you stumble upon Becker some woebegone night of television viewing, you can bet Ted Danson will be all moony and smitten over a piece of sitcom tail who knows damn well we'd all rather be watching Cheers.

What do I hate the most? Being self-aware enough to admit that I'd probably love it if someone who could even remotely pass for Brad Pitt's ugly half-brother would put a Milk Dud in my armpit and ask me if I wouldn't mind attending Renton Civic Orchestra's triangle concert. And I'd take the zippered bear, too, dammit.


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