The Perfect Life #51 by Dr. Perfect
Why does everyone keep reciting “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” around St. Valentine’s Day? And why does everyone from my grandmother to the mailman keep gifting me peaches? Is everyone suffering through this wretched holiday via literary bullying like me, or am I the only one?
Potentially swelling a progress
Each year, St. Valentine’s Day delivers an assortment of time-honored traditions. We’ve all experienced the occasional flower shop stampede, last-minute dinner reservations, or solo night TV marathon of 1981’s “My Bloody Valentine” more than a few times.
There are also those bohemian couples who eschew such traditions. “I don’t need Hallmark to remind me how much I love my old lady, man,” they say between bong swats at an orgy. I ran into David Crosby at a party once (may he rest in peace), and those were his exact words. Or at least what I remembered in my fugue state.
Crosby had a point but try explaining that to your significant other after forgetting to include a box of jumbo chocolate-covered cherries with your festive flower bouquet. Some of us don’t have the luxury to make such mistakes. We purchase this overpriced crap to make good for the rest of the year.
I once gave a girl one of those animatronic singing fishes for Valentine’s Day. Big Mouth Billy Bass was all the rage. She tossed her wine in my face, storming out of the restaurant. We weren’t right for each other, and I got to eat two meals that night. The following year, I stuck strictly to gifting sex toys.
We can always expect a few rituals in the lead-up to Valentine’s. We’ll be inundated with cheesy love ballads at the local neighborhood grocer, retail store, or gun range. We’ll hear someone somewhere deliver another bumbling rendition of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Both are as synonymous to Valentine’s Day as Garfield is to lasagna.
Paul McCartney used to croon about “Silly Love Songs” in his Wings song of the same name. In response to providing more than his fair share, McCartney asks, “What’s wrong with that?” I can think of a few things, Sir Paul.
Firstly, this leaves little room to sing about real issues, like finding a bottle of fine vintage cabernet at three in the morning for a dinner party that went on too long. McCartney should come back down to the real world like the rest of us. Instead, he’s built an entire career turning society into one lovesick sideshow. “Can’t Buy Me Love” sings the multi-millionaire. As if! Maybe this whole love thing has gone too far.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tenderloin and lobster with a side of buttered garlic. I also love a quiet night in the tub—just me, a few candles, and Enya playing in the background.
I told each one of my wives that I loved them, and I can happily say that the sixth time’s a charm.
In high school, I’d write love letters to any girl who caught my fancy. One of my letters accidentally ended up in the hands of my sixth-grade English teacher, Ms. Crabtree. A bitter divorcee, she told me that love has no place in the classroom–or any room for that matter. I persisted.
I could pen the most majestic musings and awe-inspiring alliterations driven by the exhilarating pursuit of love. I was determined to never become a cynic like my teacher. I was going to be different, like Saint Valentine himself. But after a decade or so as an advice columnist, the inevitable cracks to my cheery facade have sometimes shown. Such is the pursuit of a perfect lifestyle.
I too have noticed a strange uptick in Prufrock’s popularity. Eliot’s modernist poem is every bit the slog it was in the 1720s (before Netflix and sassy AI voices). Back then, however, such lamentations of disillusionment were equivalent to putting on a Luther Vandross record–different times and all.
Nowadays, everyone recites Prufrock without the slightest hint of irony. Just another 18th-century modernist poetry revival fad, as far as I’m concerned. Just like this gifting peaches thing. People used to send me apricots all the time, and I don’t even like them! It could be a form of bullying.
This Valentine’s, I think I’ll do something fun. I’ll hitchhike across the Midwest, write my in-laws, or open a tanning salon.
The sky’s the limit. What a perfect sky it is.
Dr. Perfect has slung advice across the globe for the last two decades due to his dedication to the uplift of the human condition.