Cathy Hamilton: A redeemable coupon

I hate to be a killjoy, especially where love is concerned. But with Valentine’s Day recently behind us, I feel compelled to speak for women everywhere (and probably a lot of men) when I say that those so-called love coupons people think are cute and sexy are a bunch of Hallmark-inspired bull nuggets.

Admittedly, I’ve got a love-hate relationship (oh, the irony) with the holiday of hearts and flowers. Part of me resents the forced nature of it all. We should be expressing our love for each other in meaningful ways every day of the year, spontaneously, not just on a random date sandwiched between Groundhog Day and Fat Tuesday.

It’s depressing seeing all those desperate men crowding the aisles in the greeting card store Feb. 14, combing through picked-over inventory, searching for just the right sentiment and price point. (“Great card, but it’s from the value rack. If I get this one, I’ll have to pick up an extra box of chocolates.”)

Valentine’s Day is just another overcommercialized holiday exploited by florists, chocolatiers, jewelers, restaurants and lingerie makers for the purpose of making moola, not whoopee.

On the other hand, I think, what’s so bad about taking a day to show the ones you hold dear how much you care? There are worse things in the world. Far worse.

What’s terrible about giving florists, chocolatiers, jewelers, restaurants and lingerie makers (not to mention liquor stores, because who’s going to model a sheer red nightie without a good belt or two?) a financial boost in the midst of a dismal first quarter, especially in this economy?

Speaking of chocolate, everyone knows V-Day comes with a free pass to eat and drink with abandon. Look at Cupid. Does he look like a Dr. Atkins disciple? The god of love isn’t concerned with restraint. This is a good thing, in my view.

Still, there’s so much pressure, it’s hard to enjoy yourself, even when leaping off the diet wagon for a day.

First, there’s the “gift or card” dilemma. My feeling is, if you’re in a long-term relationship, a card is sufficient, especially if dinner at a fine restaurant is included in the deal. I put the kibosh on flowers, jewelry and candy years ago, and never looked back.

Massage certificates? Now, that’s another story.

Then, there’s the “silly, sentimental or suggestive” card question. As a rule, I opt for silly. It’s not that I’m against the other types, but there’s a fine line between sentimental and sap, and I’ve learned from experience that “suggestive” can lead to missing one’s dinner reservation — and I’m not going to make that mistake again. (Do you know how hard it is to get a table on Valentine’s Day?)

Which leads me back to those ridiculous “love coupons.”

I’m sorry, friends, but if you and yours have reached the point where you need to redeem “use at a later date” vouchers for kisses, spooning and lustful late-night (or pre-dinner) activities, you are in need of a relationship intervention tout de suite!

That said, I am happy to exempt those irresistible, heartfelt and hand-drawn Valentine coupons created by well-meaning children for their parents. Especially the ones that promise good behavior like room cleaning, laundry washing and foot rubbing, along with hugs.

But, for the rest of you — no, no, no, no, no!

To be honest, I don’t know where this animosity is coming from.

I was a coupon person once. I scoured. I clipped. I saved. I even went so far as to buy one of those plastic index card files, with category tabs and everything, and organized it by dairy, frozen, canned, cereal and feminine hygiene products.

In the end, I tossed everything out because:

1) I could never seem to remember to take the coupons to the grocery store.

2) On the rare occasion when I would remember, I would buy products that I absolutely didn’t need and, in most cases, didn’t even like.

3) On the rarest occasion when I would remember the coupons and find a product I needed or liked, the coupon would be expired!

Maybe that’s why I’m so vehemently against the concept.

By the time I’d remember I had a coupon for “breakfast in bed” and fished it out of the junk drawer to redeem it, it would be no good! (My husband’s no fool; he’d use an expiration date.)

That said, there’s a big difference between coupons and gift certificates for, say, a one-hour massage. The salon is open today until 5, honey. I’m just saying.

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