As Valentine's Day draws near, I feel compelled - against my better judgment - to offer a few thoughts on romance. This is aimed primarily at men, but wives should feel free to read it out loud to their husbands.
(Feel free also, after you've finished reading, to roll up the newspaper and swat your husband on the forehead. That should wake him up.)
Not long ago, I heard an ad on the radio for one of those dating services that are popping up like Starbucks. In this one, a professional-sounding woman introduced herself as the company's "Vice President of Romance."
Huh? What the heck is the Vice President of Romance? Is that anything like the King of Rock 'n' Roll? The Godfather of Soul? The Gangster of Love?
Somehow, nothing in my 44 years has led me to conclude that love is anywhere near that organized.
And why is she just the vice president, anyway? If she really knew her business, wouldn't she be the President of Romance? No, excuse me. That was Bill Clinton.
You see, the problem with romance is that men and women view it so differently. For women, romance is (ideally, at least) a lifelong pursuit. For men, it's merely pursuit.
A romantic evening, for a woman, consists of a candlelight dinner, soft music, maybe a little dancing. For a man, it's a 24-ounce sirloin at the Trough-n-Snout followed by an Adam Sandler movie.
A woman's idea of the perfect Valentine's Day gift is one that makes her feel special. A man's idea of the perfect gift is one that was ON special.
For women, romance means long walks in the park. For men, it means parking.
For women, giving flowers for no apparent reason is romantic. For men, it's an apology.
Women also think cuddling is romantic. Men think it's a pretty good start.
In short, women see romance as an end unto itself, something to be cultivated and enjoyed throughout life. Men see it strictly as a means to an end, a part of the elaborate human mating ritual. And once the mate has been thoroughly procured - see "Till Death Do Us Part" - why continue to engage in the process?
It's not that men are being intentionally dishonest by impersonating Don Juan during the courtship stage, then turning out in the long run to be about as romantic as hemorrhoid cream. It's just our nature.
I know, I know. I'm not making excuses, just hoping to be understood. The fact is, those of us who truly love our wives must acknowledge their need to feel valued, to take long walks in the park, to get the occasional unexpected flowers, to (sigh) cuddle.
Otherwise, we might find ourselves at some point having to make that call to Madam Vice President - and hoping she doesn't look anything like Dick Cheney.
E-mail Rob Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.