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issue: 02/15/2000

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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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Romance? No thanks, I'll pass....
by Elizabeth Weaver Engel

There's a new trend in Valentine's Day (well, at least in my office, but that won't stop me from making a sweeping generalization): couples not celebrating. I have no problem with singles not celebrating, or even being bitter and bitchy. Some of my best V-days have been spent with my girls, wearing black, buying ourselves candy (stuff we liked - like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers bars - instead of those unidentifiable bits of odd-colored, artificially flavored, low-grade-chocolate coated dreck), renting every "love stinks" movie we could think of (including the ever-popular Fatal Attraction), ripping exes to verbal shreds, and mercilessly mocking whatever the top bubblegum pop love song was. We were even known, in college, to pelt overly-mushy couples with Fruit Loops (dry, of course) in the caf. Immature? You bet. But good times, indeed.

Today at lunch the talk turned to holiday plans. Of the group present, three are married (including me), two are in live-in relationships, one is in a long-term relationship, and one is single. I was expecting some fancy home-cooked dinners, maybe somebody going out to a nice restaurant, some flowers delivered to the office, speculation about waiting boxes of chocolates, giggling about boxer shorts with big red hearts...something. I was about to jump in with our plans: after our respective work outs (yeah, I know, that's really anal, but I can't help it, I have races coming up), we'll put on La Traviata and make a fancy dinner together, while sipping large glasses of red wine. We said no big gifts this year (since we already spent a substantial sum on something V-dayish, and no, I won't say what, even if you ask nicely), which means that spouse will bring home Godivas and flowers, and I'm giving him something I made myself (I'm also not saying what). But I tend not to speak up first in the lunch room, which allows me to test the waters of the conversation of the day first. Am I glad I kept my mouth shut. "We don't celebrate V-day!" sniffed married-six-months coworker. "We agreed not to exchange gifts this year. I made him cookies, but no gifts," assured live-in coworker, "I hope he doesn't feel bad about not getting me anything." Assent was given all around that V-day is stupid, sappy, Hallmark manufactured, and puts too much pressure on everyone. All these coupled people were virtuously not participating,. not allowing crass commercialism to intrude on their pure love. Why do we need a pre-arranged day to celebrate love, anyway?

I'll tell you why: every day life can grind the romance right out of your romance. Between the job, the house, the running schedule, dancing, and trying to perform the basic functions of life (buying groceries, doing laundry, going to the bank and dry cleaner), you have to work a little to keep the spark alive. And we don't even have kids! I don't see that setting aside one day a year to concentrate on that is a bad thing. Sure, having a particular day with all sorts of expectations, many of them unspoken, attached to it creates a huge potential for disappointment and hurt feelings. But it can also provide just the kick in the patoot some of us need. The advertising juggernaut *does* make you think: "You know, it's been months since I've brought home flowers," or "We haven't been to our favorite restaurant since last summer," or "Well, I could buy yet another boring white cotton bra, but why don't I get this black lace one instead? It's winter - I'm wearing dark colors." I don't really see that refusing to be sucked into doing something sweet, naughty, sappy, and romantic is admirable, and I think it's sad that couples are making complete pragmatism a virtue in their relationships at such an early age. Sure, I know that a red satin push-up bra and hotpants do not qualify as practical undergarments, or practical winter time night wear in anything but tropical climates. But sometimes you just have to turn up the heat.

Elizabeth Weaver Engel welcomes your comments on this article.


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