Even if you don’t buy Valentine’s Day, you buy for it
Cambridge Day is part of a project called Voices of MainStreet — a weekly, nationwide Q&A in which editors at the money and lifestyle site MainStreet.com ask questions and bloggers answer them. For this entry, I was asked about Valentine’s Day.
Every holiday is the same: A time to focus on the things you should be focusing on throughout the year. Your dad, mom, secretary, significant other, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington.
Valentine’s Day, though, is at the forefront of a subset that brings bad feeling to whoever lacks whatever’s being celebrated, like Christmas when you’re a Jehovah’s Witness or Father’s Day when your mom raised you alone. We share Christopher Columbus, but when it comes to Valentine’s Day, we can’t share partners. Can we? We’d better not.
But America is an aspirational country, where an army of increasingly poor people race to defend the right of America’s plutocrats to bequeath multibillion-dollar estates to their children more or less tax free. We embrace Valentine’s Day the same way: Because by Feb. 14 we might have a date — in fact, I had a Valentine’s Day date at the Legal Sea Foods in Kendall Square once that I suspect took place solely because the girl wanted to have a date that night, even if it meant nothing to her — or, if we’re in a relationship, a perfect night.
Also, we usually get chocolate out of it, even if we have to wait until the holiday is over. Anyone looking for absurdly inexpensive candy might want to haunt their local CVS in the weeks after Valentine’s Day (and again after Easter). Last year the Porter Square branch had a ragged display of sweets at liquidation rates, having likely failed to sell from consumer exhaustion at the ubiquitous, unending candy sales everywhere from grocers to gourmet shops such as Harvard Square’s Cardullo’s. (The two-day chocolate festival in Harvard Square may also be ill-placed at the end of January.)
It’s possible there’s also more leftover candy in Cambridge because it’s a city of geeks and wonks smart enough to disdain cheap, Hallmark-generated sentiment and so nerdy and busy they don’t have a partner anyway.
That crowd can celebrate the “UnValentine’s Day” event at the Lizard Lounge bar, billed as “songs and stories of love lost, heartbreak, breakups and the wreck love can leave you in” told via surf, go-go and “anti-folk” music, poetry and story-telling.
“Don’t have a date this Valentine’s Day? Sickened by the corporatization of this ill-fated emotion? Break two hearts with one poison-tipped arrow and celebrate an UnValentine’s Day this year,” organizers say in an invitation e-mail. “Bring your broken heart. Bring a broken-hearted friend.”
There are clearly plenty of residents whose hearts aren’t broken; Cambridge is also a city of great restaurants, and they’re being used to the utmost for the days around Valentine’s Day. Two weeks ago, for instance, you could still get a table at Central Square’s Craigie on Main for the weekend, but you found a reservation only by picking through an odd lot of times and spots: a high table at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the dining room, a booth in the bar at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, a regular table on the sidewalk at 7 p.m. Saturday. Dress warm! Just kidding.
Harvard Square has an entire Valentine’s weekend planned, and there are events branded for the holiday at the Regattabar jazz club and at the A.R.T. — a benefit for the theater at which celebrities are to perform a a loved-themed poem, song or scene of their choice.
But this is all about putting a Valentine’s Day brand on things that exist anyway, adding a focus to a jazz club, theater, candy or restaurant that are always there, just without so much pink and red. In a way, so is the “UnValentine’s Day” event, since there are always people with broken hearts. They’re just forced to focus more on it because of the holiday.
I don’t think Cantabrigians love or even like Valentine’s Day the way they do Halloween or even Christmas. But as a city, there’s no way we’re going to be caught without a date.