It is now exactly *checks notes* nine years since I took someone’s daughter for a date at Java. I was fresh off the high school boat, a greenhorn in matters red. I had been saving up for several terms, three to be exact, because Sauti Sol had cooed that taking a girl to Java was Jesus on the Garden of Gethsemane.

This is a very embarrassing story so I will tell it only once. No questions please. Besides what is a man, other than his mistakes?

I was in my early-twenties, and what do we do when we’re in our early-twenties? We use all the very little money to lure your seductive enchantress. Like many men before me, I arrived at the nexus of love and wealth and fame looking for a piece of the glistering and transmutable dream itself. In short, I was in love. She was like eating dessert after every meal, an elaborate fantasy love story, á la Gatsby.  The kind of love that is 100% Instragammable.

Suffice to say, I took out the girl, who, let’s call her Sharon because that is her real name, ate my money and went to coy up with her real, richer boyfriend later, on the same day! The day? February 14th. (It’s a pity I never really wrote this in composition as the ‘day I will never forget’) I was crushed. That was my first deep dive in matters love. Okay, transactional love.

If you are feeling something poking you in the back, well that’s just the tusks of the elephant in the room. Valentine’s Day.

My generation’s love language is transactional. The saga of millennial culture cannot be told without it.   It’s about what you bring to the table. Scratch that, it’s about having a table. But if everyone has a table, who gets to serve the other? Most want to know what you have before they can give. Money doesn’t buy happiness but it can provide a more comfortable despair.

Like any act of perceived selflessness or parade of love, this day, arrives with its own unique set of angst, and this naked commercialisation of the traditional day for lovers can feel like a trap. It’s all keeping up with the Jaydens’ claptrap, so too are we tempted to go all-out to declare our love the greatest one of all. We’re men, right? Competing is what we do—it’s in our DNA. 

Straight off the bat, I’m tired of Valentine Day’s love. Its performative virtue. Showiness. I wouldn’t mind if the day was also appointed as the day of the African Elephant (just checked, that’s 12 August. Although it says ‘World Elephant Day’, but zebra, zee-bra) so that Gentiles like me could have a reason to join the revelry.

And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am parsimonious or anything, but if the table is what we are all thinking about, when can we will ever be authentic with each other? For the right amount of money, you can buy love. In fact, a man is only as faithful as his options. Or in cheaper terms, your man’s loyalty is sponsored by his brokenness. When he gets better, when he gets more money, he will naturally gravitate towards his type. His new economic status needs someone who fits the bill, problematic metaphor aside.

For the #TimesUp woman and for the heterosexual man in her life walking on eggshells, money is the oxygen on which the fire of Valentine’s Day burns.  Talk is cheap in this century. Deep pockets, deep love. Few get to date that one person they deify, the greatest, the one. There’s the notion that being in love makes you a better person; then there’s “I want you to be a better person, and then I’ll love you”; or, worse, the “I need to be a better person so then you’ll love me.” I think that’s hogwash. Nobody has time for that.

Welcome to love in the time of no time. Money is used as an expression of love, but it can also be used as a sword. And Valentine’s Day is the arrow that keeps shooting through the love business.

There’s a fine line between revoltingly tacky and hilariously kitsch—but which side do you err toward? Should you snub Valentine’s Day altogether? I’m as good as the next guy at mustering the countenance of elation. On my date with Sharon, I was purchasing my way into love. Red roses for Gregory. Haven’t you ever wondered why roses are red? And why it is called a red flag? Coincidence? I think not.

Even the most hardened of romance refuseniks are known to give themselves a day off when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Every man turns up their nose and sneers, I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Then why are you in red, Samson? In fact, I posit it to you that because of the tug of war of Valentine’s Day, we will never achieve world peace. That is my Loony Toons theory.

Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed. We have coalesced into one with our sense of self-worth, that there’s this magical person, this unicorn who will love us for who we are, deliver us for eternity, reinforcing our very worthiness (or lack of) in receiving love. For us, love is something to be given—when earned—and taken, rather than experienced. But love is unconditional, that is its true antithesis, it’s highest, purest nature. Jesus on the Garden of Gethsemane.

Actually, when it becomes conditional, it is longer love. It evolves to power…or leverage. A commodity. Darn you capitalists!

Pray tell, can’t you see the wood for the trees? How many devotees of Valentine’s Day will ever touch the hem of the paganistic love charade they’ve idealized? A day that is oiled in consumerism, amplified by romance and likes, the lingua franca of our age.

The skyrocketing cost of love is leaving many men struggling to pay for basic affection. It’s a mad hatter time. The chosen woman, the lass with an ass, has to be spoiled, because if you don’t someone else will.

It’s all too much. We need to stop. We must unlearn the idea that romance is currency.

And so, to all the women who are diligently reading this and have to keep refreshing their smile drawer to the highest bidder, consider this my flower. Happy Valentine’s Day.

For the men, see you on February 15th. If you make it.

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