When it comes to Valentine's Day, there is no way a man, or a woman, can succeed in meeting any of the bizarre expectations--of romance, or of sex--set by Western culture. So the day boils down to a test of how well, how graciously and how creatively we handle failure.
My husband's approach is proactive: He sends an expensive, traditional dozen roses from an old-fashioned florist in his old neighborhood. The creative part is that he beats the crowd and sends them the day before, thereby giving me an extra day to be appreciative and sparing him a humiliating last-minute day-of dash to the supermarket for a bouquet of anything. I take the humorous approach, giving him what I hope is an amusing card and a fancy red tin filled not with chocolates but with his favorite low-cal bubblegum.
My friend Chris, recently separated from a longtime girlfriend, is dating a woman who has really put her stake in the ground about Valentine's Day. She won't have any of it. They went out the night before, and she refused to see him until 12:01 a.m. the day following. This works when you're dating, but as a longterm strategy?
As a source of stress for the single (the married get their stress from wedding anniversaries) Valentine's Day provides some of my favorite stories. I particularly liked one from an adventurous, recently divorced friend who picked up a package of lacy stockings at Nordstrom as part of her plan to entertain a new boyfriend on Valentine's Day. He was indeed entertained, but apparently more so than my friend. She went into shock a week later when she got her Nordies bill and realized that the stockings--now hors de combat--had cost her a cool $48.