February 13, 2009, - 5:07 pm
On Valentine’s Day a/k/a “Doghouse Risk Avoidance Day”: Big Day for Catchin’ Cheaters; White Castle Candlelight Dinners
By Debbie Schlussel
Sadly, I can’t do what I really wish I could tomorrow, on Valentine’s Day.
You see, I know–as hopefully you do–that it’s a forced day. By forced, I mean that most men aren’t buying women chocolates or flowers for their wives or girlfriends or taking them out to dinner because they want to. It’s because they have to. It’s an obligation, period. Not an expression of love. Don’t fool yourself into naive notions otherwise.
So what did I want to do? Well, last year, Valentine’s Day a/k/a “Doghouse Risk Avoidance Day” fell on a weekday, on a workday. I happened to be at a CVS near my home between 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. I laughed as I watched the steady march of a crowd of men on their way home from work, trudging through CVS–without happy looks on their faces–looking for cards and chocolate or other candy. None of ’em looked like they wanted to do it. But if they didn’t, they’d be in the doghouse with their women. This was their last chance, the last outpost before a trip to man’s best friend’s humble, dark, cold abode.
Is that really what women want? A forced expression of obligation? Well, if you like Valentine’s Day, that’s basically what you’re getting. There’s nothing wrong with romance. But, for the most part, for men, Valentine’s Day is an obligation, not romance.
And aside from that, love is not about buying chocolates and a card because Hallmark and Hershey told you, too. What these guys were doing all day long before they got to CVS–struggling to make a living, put food on the table, and, likely, to support a family–is the real love they show every day of the year. Any woman who puts any one of them in the doghouse despite all of that–because he didn’t buy chocolate or a card on top of it–well, she’s missing what’s really happening. (And if the wife is the one earning the living, well, that’s a whole different column on another serious problem–Mr. Moms; sorry, Todd Palin.)
I wanted to videotape the “Last March of the Doghouse Avoiders.” At the time, I asked some of these men if they were doing this because they wanted to. “Are you kiddin’ me?!” was the basic response. I laughed and told some of them: “Well, you just avoided the doghouse.” They agreed. And they weren’t laughing with me.
But this year, there’s no steady, simultaneous rush of men after work buying candy at CVS as a last chance at ransom for a night of peace at home. Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday, there won’t be one crush of ransom marches. And since it’s the Jewish Sabbath, I can’t videotape it anyway.
Ah, well. . . there’s always next year.
I’m not saying that there are no men who are buying the cards and the chocolates and/or springing for dinner out because they want to and because they love their wives, girlfriends, and/or mistresses. I’m just saying most are doing this out of obligation only. The ones who would do this of their own volition, well, they don’t need a special day and greeting card companies and pop culture hype to dictate to them to do it on this particular day.
And they aren’t suddenly rushing the local CVS in unison on only one day a year.
Not that I’m opposed to Valentine’s Day. It’s great for the economy. This feeling of obligation spurs a spike in spending just a month and a half after the Christmas buying season, which is much needed especially now when consumer spending is significantly down and leading to an endless cycle of job-cuts, store-closings, and even less spending. Though, this year, Valentine’s Day-related spending will be down, by $20 on average, according to some estimates. (And much of the candy bought for this manufactured “holiday” is now produced in jobs that U.S. candy makers took away from Americans and shipped to Mexico.)
But, let’s be clear–the spending on Valentine’s Day is done mostly by men. Every year, they do studies, and every year, men outspend women on Valentine’s day by an average of something like $20.00.
Spending is down, too, on what has also become the biggest cheating and catch-a-cheater days of the year:
Flowers and chocolate aren’t the only big sellers for Valentine’s Day. There’s also spyware.
The use of tracking devices and hiring of private investigators surge around this holiday – an opportune time to catch a cheating spouse.
“If there’s anything going on, a spouse will more than likely make contact with a lover on Valentine’s Day, the day before or the day after,” says Ruth Houston, author of the book, Is He Cheating on You? 829 Telltale Signs.
Private investigators agree. “Valentine’s Day is a day of lovers, and sometimes the lover is not a spouse,” says Jimmie Mesis, editor of PI magazine. That’s why, he says, investigators are often busy this time of year.
Mesis says suspicious spouses are also turning to spyware, which costs less than a detective.
“They do their own CSI work,” he says.
His website’s sales of GPS trackers are more than 20% higher in the three weeks before Valentine’s Day than at other times of the year.
Sales of spyware to track spouses – his customer service representatives talk with buyers about how they’ll use the items – were 141% higher in the past four weeks than the monthly average for the preceding six months, says Todd Morris, CEO of BrickHouse Security.
Such devices, retailing for $50 to $400, include cameras hidden in alarm clocks, light scanners to detect evidence of sexual activity and devices to monitor e-mail.
Morris says he expected more people to stay home with their spouses in a weak economy, but sales suggest otherwise. “Apparently,” he says, “money troubles don’t stop the philandering.”
The dismal economy is making it more difficult, though, for people to afford a private investigator.
David Hill, an investigator in Tuscaloosa, Ala., says he has had lots of inquiries in recent weeks, but often callers cannot afford his $1,500 retainer.
This Valentine’s Day is one of the few in the past two decades that has not triggered a surge in clients, says Kelly Riddle, owner of Kelmar & Associates in San Antonio, a firm of 39 private investigators.
And then, there’s my favorite completely cheesy Valentine’s day promotion. Since I keep kosher, I’ve never eaten one of these burgers/sliders, and if I didn’t (keep kosher), I don’t think I would (eat one). Still, I give this company credit for chutzpah and kitsch in marketing. It’s got a certain kind of low-budget charm and humor to it.
White Castle restaurants will offer reserved candlelight dining on Saturday, February 14 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. If you crave the steam grilled goodness of White Castle then you’ve found the perfect dinner destination to share with your favorite Valentine.
Not only can cravers dine with candlelight, the tables will be adorned with flowers and decorations. Customers will be presented with a special menu and will receive table side service.
“This is the fourth year we have offered reserved seating for Valentine’s Day dinners. It was a huge hit last year and the year before – it always puts a smile on everyone’s face. We’re really looking forward to hearing more White Castle stories from our customers that evening. It seems that so many of our loyal customers either met in a White Castle or have a fond childhood memory that continues to bring them back into the restaurants time and time again,” said Bob Harrison, Regional Director of Restaurant Operations in Detroit.
Reservations are filling up quickly and can still be made by calling [your local White Castle].
In the past, White Castle has also offered promotional photos to couples who took part in this Valetine’s Day offering (though not this year).
Check here to find out if your White Caste is a “Love Castle.”
Just hope that Harold and Kumar aren’t within driving distance. Nor a doghouse.