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Monday, February 9, 2004



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Who needs cupid?

Valentine’s Day offers single men
and women the opportunity
to take stock of their social lives


Men complain about overpriced roses and the pressure of finding the appropriate gift. Women loathe the commercialization of the holiday, wishing romance was a year-round given.

But there's one thing the sexes agree on: They hate being alone -- rather, dateless -- on Valentine's Day.

Whole Lotta Love

Celebrate Valentine's week with us:

Tomorrow:
Pick a gift for your beloved

Wednesday:
Foods that say "I love you"

Thursday:
How do you measure up on our love scale? Plus, the winners of our "Magic Moments" Valentine contest.

Friday:
Turn your home into a love nest

This is the irony of the most depressing holiday for singles.

"Valentine's Day is the only holiday singly focused on romance and love," said Linda Markt, Honolulu franchise owner of It's Just Lunch, a one-on-one dating service geared toward busy working professionals. "It's a huge pressure holiday for people."

According to the company's Web site, about 60 percent of Hawaii singles didn't have plans for Valentine's Day as of last week, resorting to spending it at home. Alone.

And hating it.

"Valentine's Day sucks," declared Kristine Castro, a 29-year-old bank teller from Makiki who plans on either staying home that night or going out with her single girlfriends.

Her friend, Kim Yamashiro, a 32-year-old schoolteacher from Kaneohe, is a bit more optimistic. She's actually looking forward to a Saturday night out with friends -- even if this is her first Valentine's Day alone in 12 years.

"I love being single," said Yamashiro, who recently broke up with her longtime boyfriend. "I feel free. I'm really enjoying being single right now."

She plans on hitting a bar with girlfriends -- single ones, of course.

"It's really not a holiday for single people," she said, cradling a cocktail. "Not unless you have lots of single friends."

Valentine's Day takes on a whole new meaning for singles who can't help but feel as though their love lives are suddenly under the microscope.

"This is the time people take stock of their social lives," said Robin Gorman Newman -- a love coach in New York (www.lovecoach.com) and author of "How to Meet a Mensch in NY" -- "and sometimes that's a good thing."

Maybe you're stuck in a dating rut. Maybe you're not meeting different people. Maybe you really do like the lifeguard you're dating and want to drop the others.

"It's not a juggling day," said Corey Kincaid, a single-and-dating 28-year-old from Kailua.

"That's right," chimed in his friend Mohamed Ericson, a 27-year-old salesman from Seattle. "It's a definitive day."

You either know which one you really like -- or you can't decide. And at that point, experts say, don't force the choice.

"You have to think about the message you're sending," Markt said. "People tend to be more cautious around Valentine's Day."

So much so, in fact, that nearly a third of single people avoid meeting someone new between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, just to avoid the potential dilemma around the holiday.

That has become fairly common practice among today's dating singles, who would rather party with good friends than share a romantic dinner with someone they're just getting to know.

"If you've been dating someone less than six months, and you're barely involved, I wouldn't stress it," said Newman, whose business picks up around this time of year. "Just go out with your friends and have a good time."

Valentine's tips

Dating is hard enough. Add Valentine's Day, and you've got a disaster waiting to happen. Here's some expert advice for singles:

Be focused: You may be dating two women right now. But asking them both to dinner -- and trying to split your time between the two -- is not the way to go. "I would never, ever advise that," said Linda Markt, owner of Honolulu's It's Just Lunch. You could take one to lunch, another to dinner -- or scratch the date and go out with your friends. It's safer.

Be proactive: Instead of whining about being dateless on Valentine's Day, do something about it. Join a singles group, sign up for a dating service or try something new.

Be gift-savvy: Finding the appropriate gift for your date is daunting, experts agree. "You have to think about those hidden messages," Markt said. Unless you've been dating for a while, experts advise getting small but meaningful tokens. Fragrances, lotions and candles are always safe for women. Save the jewelry and lingerie for later.

Be simple: If you're spending the day with someone you've been dating for less than three months, keep it simple. "You don't have to get decked out and go to some swanky restaurant," said Robin Gorman Newman, a dating coach in New York. "It's about who you chose to be with."

Be happy: Spend Valentine's Day with close friends, see an uplifting movie, get a massage. "Do something nice for yourself," Newman said. "You should really view this as a self-love day."

WOMEN, WHO ARE typically the primary recipients of Valentine spoils, prefer being around their girlfriends during the made-for-couples holiday when they're single, experts say. And that may have something to do with shifting stereotypes and expectations about dating and marriage that women have.

"I've definitely noticed more of that," said Newman, 43, who has been married for 11 years. "Women are more independent, they're taking charge of their lives, they don't need a man to take care of them. Women are settling down later, dating younger men. There's much more freedom now."

But for men, Valentine's Day is still all about expectations. Expensive ones.

"It's a commercialized holiday," Ericson said. "It's nothing but a Hallmark holiday to make money. ... Guys spend all that money on flowers and candy and cards. It's absolutely ridiculous."

Men can easily spend $80 to $200 on Valentine's Day. And that's just on flowers and dinner. That's why Kincaid tries to keep Valentine's Day as mellow as possible.

"Expectations are high," he said. "Valentine's Day is overhyped."

Despite the generally accepted claim that Valentine's Day has become shamelessly exploited for profit, many single folks still expect a wrapped surprise.

According to a survey done by It's Just Lunch, 75 percent of respondents said they expect a gift even if they've been dating less than a month. And 60 percent assumed an automatic date for Valentine's Day with someone they've been seeing for one to two months.

"I guess more expect a gift than a date early in the relationship," Markt said.

Laurna Carter doesn't expect anything this Valentine's Day. The 27-year-old teacher from Honolulu has no plans for Saturday night -- and doesn't seem too fazed by it. In fact, she doesn't buy into the whole roses-and-cards holiday.

"It's much more romantic when the guy does all those things when it's not Valentine's Day," she said. "It just means more."



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