For some, no love lost for Valentine's celebrations
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A holiday focused on love and relationships is sure to leave out the people who aren't in either. It's also bound to heap a lot of pressure on those who are.
So, as Valentine's Day cuts its annual swath today through the nation's love terrain, a growing rear guard action is out to prove another point: If you find the whole concept too cloying, annoying, depressing or commercial, you've got company.
A mounting backlash against the celebration of romance-on-demand is manifesting itself in pockets of resistance, from anti-Valentine's Day cards and Web sites to restaurant promotions and radio shows. Some display a calculated cynicism, while others seek to reshape the holiday into a more lighthearted, inclusive event.
One example of the latter is the anti-Valentine's Day party that Marcy Robb and two friends are organizing for their acquaintances on Saturday night in the Strip District.
"We're not opposed to Valentine's Day. We just think it's overdone and exclusionary," said Ms. Robb, of Mt. Lebanon.
"People who aren't in an exclusive relationship feel, 'Hey, what about me?' So this year, we decided to get all our friends together -- married, single, in a relationship or looking for one -- to have some fun and not make it into a nightmare of 'Oh my God, I've got nothing to do, I'm such a loser!' "
Ms. Robb said she and her co-hosts, Peter Taglianetti and Mary Vogel, are all divorced and in their 40s. They've invited 70 people, and the response so far has been enthusiastic. Attendees won't all know one another, so they'll be able to make new friends and also avoid the daunting expectations of the holiday.
"For women, Valentine's Day is usually a gigantic disappointment, and for men it's a big test of whether they measure up," Ms. Robb said. "Basically, it's horrible. This way, it should be fun."
At WYEP 91.3 FM, radio host Rosemary Welsch devoted yesterday's show to an anti-Valentine's Day theme as she has done each Feb. 13 for the past 15 years. On Feb. 14, she plays more traditional love songs (today's show will be from 2 to 6 p.m.).
"I started this because I got a lot of calls during my Valentine's Day show from people saying they're not in love, and I thought they deserved a show, too. Now I'd have to say that the anti-Valentine's Day program is more popular in terms of listener requests."
Those include the classics "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division and "Love Hurts" by Emmylou Harris and Graham Parsons.
Ms. Welsch said she tries to keep the anti-V-Day mix from becoming too bitter.
"There's no shortage of break-up songs out there but I try to make sure there's some humor, too. I want people to enjoy the show and have a good time."
Diane Kownacki, founder of Pittsburgh Girl's Night Out, is doing her part to open up the holiday to the non-goo-goo-eyed. She's organized a group outing for this evening at the Rusty Dory pub in Avalon and expects about 15 members to attend.
"It'll be mostly women, but men are welcome, too," said Ms. Kownacki.
"Many people are afraid of the holiday," she said. "When you have a group activity like this, they feel more comfortable going out and enjoying themselves."
Local restaurants have been advertising romantic Valentine's Day dinners for weeks. But the Quiet Storm, a vegetarian cafe in Garfield, is promoting an Un-Valentine's Day dinner tonight from 6 to 10 p.m.
"Singles or single-acting couples welcome for a special fixed-price menu," says the restaurant's Web site. Dinner includes choice of appetizer, entree and dessert for $12.
Owner Jill MacDowell said it's the first time she's tried this. The impetus, she said, came from realizing that "I'd rather cook for 40 than one on Valentine's Day."
An Internet search will reveal plenty of anti-Valentine's Day cards on the Web featuring varying degrees of humor and/or bitterness. But you know the trend is going mainstream when American Greetings launches its own line.
"We have 10 cards this year that we consider to be anti-Valentines," said company spokeswoman Megan Ferington. "That's a small part of our line, which has 2,500 Valentine's Day cards, but it's a big introduction for the industry."
One such card depicts two people kissing with the caption "They had shared a moment." Inside, it says, "A lifetime commitment was completely out of the question. Happy Anti-Valentine's Day for the woman who knows what she doesn't want."
As more women stay single longer, the whole meaning of the holiday is changing, Ms. Ferington said. The industry is responding with expanded lines of friendship cards designed to be sent between girlfriends. The offerings may lament relationships, poke fun at love or comment on the single life.
"Women's bonds with female friends are stronger than ever," she said.
"They are choosing to use Valentine's Day to show appreciation for their girlfriends, even if they're not celebrating the romantic side of the holiday."
Even the Pittsburgh Symphony was trying the anti-Valentine marketing approach, at least until the snowstorm intervened. Before tonight's Michael Feinstein concert of romantic music at Heinz Hall was canceled, anyone who called the box office and said "Valentine's, Schmalentine's" could get two tickets with a 10 percent discount on each.
First Published February 14, 2007 12:00 am