Roses are red, violets are purple, Carrabba's has a two-hour wait.
"Babe," we say, "it's no big deal. I don't need a bad, cliche date."
We could say instead, "Listen, Holmes, I don't care what it takes.
I'm dipping that bread in that g--d--- oil or I'm slashing out your brakes."
But it's February! Valentine's Day! The time when we all pretend
To exist above the conventions of love, of Hallmark and red table blends.
"Honey," we say, "just skip the bouquet, the roses will die in a week.
They're overpriced and overplayed. I'm cool, I'm chill, I'm unique.
Put that cash in your 401(k), invest in some mutual funds,
Sock it away, when we're old and gray, we'll teach the world real love."
At work we're feeling smug and smart, and Doris is there in her pink.
Cupid is mounted on her brooch as she washes her mug in the sink.
"Happy Valentine's Day!" she chirps, and we snort: "Whatever, I don't celebrate."
And Doris stares with her pitying eyes, "Oh, you don't have a date."
We launch into a trenchant review of feminist theory and rants,
Just as the mailman bursts through the door in his cute little brown shortie pants
And hands Doris a fistful of peonies as big as the Ice Planet Hoth,
And Doris proclaims, "He shouldn't have! I said to invest in his Roth!"
We sigh and replace the huge water jug, hoisting it onto our back,
Because we are woman, hear us roar, and this day will not make us crack.
We don't need men to treat us soft, we don't need . . . wait, what gives?
It's McKayla Jo, or McKenzie Rose, or maybe McKenna Liz.
Whatever her name, she's holding the biggest Whitman's Sampler we've ever seen,
And she's eating them all with her fists in a ball, and we feel just a tiny bit green.
"You want one?" says McKinley Sue, and we shuffle in close to the box.
She's beaming like a shiny sunrise, beguiled by her ex-high school jock.
It's a show, we know, as we take a bite of the one with the sweet toffee chip,
It's a farce and a joke and a lucrative stroke for the business of sentiment.
It's a day when women all over the world out-impress each other with junk,
When wallets are brandished and bears are abused in a ritual fete of pure bunk.
But we see Doris with her nose in a rose and McTanya Kim with her sweets,
And we have to admit just a little bit that we'd like to be showered with treats.
"No shame in my game," says McMickey Lynn, "and I don't care who sees."
No passive aggression, no misleading quotes: Embracing her schmaltz, she is free.
So we call up our dude and we lay it all out: We want that bread on a plate.
We want pasta and sauce and a salad that's tossed in romantic real estate.
"Sure," he says. "Whatever, my dear. You just have to say what you please."
And we forgive ourselves now for enjoying, just once, a holiday crusted in cheese.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3394. Follow @stephhayes on Twitter.