A Japanese friend of mine texted me this on Valentine’s Day. This is how it is pronounced in English: “happī barentaindē!”
Not much lost in translation.
As a custom, it’s the women in Japan who observe this day, offering gifts to the men in their lives- usually chocolates. “Obligatory chocolates” are given to those you wouldn’t approach with a ten-foot chopstick romantically- speaking, while “chocolates of love” are meant to signify or express a more substantial yearning. If he is truly the one-and-only (and not a mere friend-with-benefits), the chocolates would, of course, be homemade. The men have their own day, called White Day, in which they return the favour plus some. The term sanbai gaeshi (“triple the return”) which is used to describe the etiquette of this day says everything. So, for the fiscally-challenged man or the dude who is couch-surfing in his parents’ house, he might be hoping not to receive any chocolates on VDay.
I went on a date to a sushi restaurant on Valentine’s Day here in Toronto. Nothing fancy. No reservations; no candles; no maitre’ d. Just one of those astonishingly average and ubiquitous sushi bars on Bloor Street that I have been to a few times. It was meant to be a casual date, since we had only met the previous week, but the moment we walked into the restaurant we realized we were in for something else entirely. Love (and lots of red streamers) was in the air. Whitney Houston was a poor choice to play in the background since her death was still so raw and deflected away from the light chatter I was hoping for. The lights were unusually dim- the fish took on the color of turnips just pulled from the soil- and even the usually morose sushi chefs seemed to have a lightness about them, occasionally smiling mischievously in my direction. Of course, the female servers had an exaggerated bounce to their step and the Milky Way in their eyes. I could read what was running through their minds: “Oh, that’s so sweet. How romantic.” “Look at them, so cute together.” The whole charade had a cloying, saccharine, and claustrophobic feel to it like we were all trapped in an elevator with a woman wearing cheap perfume. I don’t know if my date felt it, but I certainly did, and it made things a bit emotionally confusing for me. And it may have have also contributed to the over-playing of my aloofness- “compensation”, according to the great sex doctor, Siggy Freud.
Clearly, we had picked an inappropriate night to have a simple dinner. Valentine’s Day is, of course, a day when couples go out to celebrate their love for each other and, if permitted, to parade their affections publicly- why else would they be in a public space on presumably the most private of the big calendar days? Flaunt it to the fullest, thinks the cynic, even if you intend on breaking up the morning after. The food was mediocre as expected, the service was exaggerated in ‘niceness’, and we went separate ways that night. I went home and cozied up to a great book about solitude. Then I fell asleep and dreamed about a box of chocolates.
Moral of the story #1: Forget the DAY. The only longing I feel on Valentine’s Day is the one that draws me to a good book or better friend, and lots of wine.
Moral of the story #2: Come out to my singles sushi class, EATMYSUSHI. It’s a ton of fun, no pressure, lots of laughs, lifelong connections, and the odd (I have received two already) wedding invitation. Did I mention that is also VERY popular? Which is why I am doing a Twitter contest (it’s cute) for the limited number of seats (12 women/12men). Go to the CLASSES page to find out more info and email me if you have any questions. Lots of prizes to give away! At this single’s event, everybody walks away with something of value.