When Valentine's Day goes bad 

V-Day disasters for the not so faint of heart

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Years ago I told my husband if he ever took me out for dinner on Valentine's Day and force-fed me oysters, steak, red wine and a heart-shaped chocolate mousse for dessert with an unripe strawberry sogging away in whipped cream, I'd divorce him.

After years of suffering Valentine's "dates" with earnest suitors with no imagination and less understanding of me, I'll never again be held hostage February 14 amongst swarms of stiff couples in restaurants too full — too full of red and white flowers shipped from Colombia that will never really bloom; too full of women in red sweaters; too full of an obligatory public acting-out that's as high with embarrassment and false expectations as it is with flushed cheeks.

Not to be a spoiler for all of you who still love, and I use the term loosely, going out for V-day, but for me, it's my idea of Valentine's hell. But I was sure way quirkier variations on the theme existed, so I put out a red-and-white alert to a handful of local characters for V-day disasters — real or imagined. They didn't disappoint.

To whit: "Love is awesome but Valentine's Day is kind of a crock of shit..." writes fellow Pique columnist Feet Banks, the man behind "Notes From the Back Row"and the Whistler Insider Blog.

"Valentine's Day is when societal guilt has you buying the people you're supposed to love crap you know they don't need. Don't even get me started on Valentine's Day cards. The flagrant waste of paper products aside, the writing on those things is just plain offensive. You want a card? Cut the letters from the newspaper and make one yourself, ransom-note style."

What a great idea! I've got the scissors and newspapers out now.

In the meantime, as I snip away, here's a further sampling, each sealed with a sticky red heart, that might take some pressure off your nerve-wracked plans for the 14th.

Happy Valentine's Day, however you spend it.

• • •

"... I was involved in two less-than- successful Valentine's Day attempts. The earliest marked the first time I ever proposed to a woman. When I pulled the ring out of my pocket I was horrified to see the "jewel" had someone come out of the setting. I ate the ring in utter embarrassment and horror. Luckily, it was made of candy, as was the jewel. The girl, perhaps five years old, quickly got over me. I must have gotten over her since I can't for the life of me remember her name.

Some years later, I took a girlfriend climbing in the mountains outside of town, Albuquerque. It was sort of a make-up gesture. I'd stood her up — inadvertently, of course... So a few weeks later, near but not on Valentine's Day, I took her hiking/climbing up an easy canyon in the Sandia Mountains. We hiked for about an hour and a half, did an easy climb up a spire and sat, admiring the view. OK, I was admiring the view; she was just exhausted and coming off her adrenaline rush since she was (a) not a climber and (b) scared of heights, something I didn't know until later.

"I pulled a split of cheap sparkling wine out of my knapsack, a box of California cardboard strawberries, and a knife. I cut the tops off two strawberries, filled them with bubbly, offered one to her and toasted her with mine. She ate it without gusto, looked at me and said, 'You probably think this is romantic, don't you?' Admittedly, I did.

"She didn't.

"Needless to say we didn't last long after that. But at least I was enough of a gentleman to help her down off the spire. Could'a left her up there."

— G.D. Maxwell

Whistler's favourite scribe and creator of Pique's Maxed Out

• • •

"Mine had to do with a date at the Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton. One of the best conversations and nicest dates I had, that is, when I wasn't in the bathroom throwing up. ... No wonder that relationship went nowhere..."

— Stella Harvey, author and creator of

Whistler Writers Festival and The Vicious Circle

• • •

"I was living in Japan at the time and had my eye on this guy who was living there as well, and thought I'd have him over for supper. I was living with this Japanese grandmother, and she had an ancient Japanese kitchen about the size of a closet, so everything was cramped. I've always been a fan of wild mushroom soup and thought I'd make him that as an entrée. This was a long time ago, and all I can figure out is that the mushrooms I got were not intended for cooking. I think they must have been mushrooms for tea, or ancient medicinal concoctions or something. Whatever they were, they weren't exactly Money's mushrooms. Because I chopped them up and cooked them with cream and garlic and onions and thought it would be delightful. I didn't even test it before I served it — Lesson No. 1. So I set the table and made it all nice, and laid out two bowls of mushroom soup. And we both took a bite at the same time looking into each other's eyes, like, isn't this nice? Slurp, slurp. Then, oh my God, we just about died! It was awful — it was like poison! We both lost our appetites, and I think he lost faith in my ability to actually provide nutrition for him. Our relationship kind of fizzled after that."

— Katherine Fawcett, author of

Whistler's Bear Story, and a children's book and a music teacher at Whistler Waldorf School

• • •

"I think the best Valentine's I ever had was just me and the supermodel girlfriend holed up on a 40-acre hay farm playing records as loud we wanted. We skipped the fancy meal and instead had a dessert-making competition. Dessert for dinner doesn't happen enough.

"The supermodel girlfriend threw down some kind of homemade raspberry ice cream cake that was incredibly kick-ass. I countered with my classic banana split — two scoops of vanilla, one chocolate, whipped cream, warm chocolate syrup, fresh blueberries, chocolate chips, a few candied cake sprinkles, crushed almonds and some diced fresh pineapple. It wasn't bad.

"After stuffing our faces I think we lay around and watched both Kill Bills, or something, then put on jackets, went out on the porch and shot fireworks out into the frozen, empty night.

"The best advice I can give for Valentine's Day, for every day, is The Beatles' closing lines at the end of Abbey Road — 'And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.'"

Pique columnist Feet Banks, the man behind "Notes From the Back Row" and the Whistler Insider Blog.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who is still making that ransom-note Valentine.

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