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Valentine's Day is here, and once again it is time for husbands and boyfriends to provide yet another thoughtful display of undying love for those we cherish most in life.

As I see it, there are two main reasons why men are motivated to observe Valentine's Day. One, we do it for sex. And two, we feel the need to alleviate the stress brought on by an overpowering sense of guilt that has been steadily cultivated over the years by the insidious, money-driven scheming of advertising executives on behalf of greeting card companies and flower shops.

Please don't take my lack of enthusiasm the wrong way, because we guys think you gals are the greatest. It's just that with an ever-growing list of "special" days we're expected to observe - your birthday, our anniversary, Christmas Day, Mother's Day, Bad Hair Day - many of us guys start to run out of gift ideas (not to mention money) come Valentine's Day.

I'd also like to point out that for the last 30 years or so, we men have taken a veritable public relations beating when it comes to our thoughtful and sensitive predispositions. We are already under enormous pressure to betray our natural male instincts and talk about our feelings or watch movies with Meryl Streep in them. Really, what more do you want from us? Isn't it enough that we pretend?

It's a known fact that in this increasingly testosterone-hostile world, just the mere thought of selecting a gift for a woman is very stressful. It leaves many of us with some hopelessly unanswerable questions: Will she actually like the gift? Will she excitedly hug and kiss me when she receives it? Will she love me more because of it? And perhaps most important of all, if she throws it at me, will it hurt much?

Sometimes the pressure of Valentine's Day is so intense, many of us men will actually break down and weep openly in the comfort of our locker rooms. OK, I made that last part up, but the point I'm driving at is that we men are terribly misunderstood and you women are extremely confusing - especially when it comes to romance. My wife likes to remind me of how romantic it was back in our dating years. The flowers, candy, poetry, gourmet dinners, dancing cheek to cheek and moonlit walks along the beach. And then she dropped that guy for me. Go figure.

Really, what good did all that romantic stuff do for that poor guy? Granted, at least he didn't die like so many "romantic" types do.

True. Historically speaking, romance is deadly. When I look back on the world's most famous romantics and see what romance did for them, it's terrifying. Remember Romeo? Tragically deceased, right? And whatever became of Samson? That poor lovesick, muscle-bound guy ended up bald and dead.

Personally, I blame all this Valentine commotion on that romantic rabble-rouser, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her, "How do I love thee, let me count the ways" shtick. Well Liz, let me count my money and I'll get back to you on that.

Anyway, for all you guys out there, good luck. Here's the usual Valentine gift list. Pick any two (and one of them damned well better be flowers): chocolates, candy, flowers, lingerie, tickets to a play or concert, jewelry, a love letter, dinner at a nice restaurant, or better still, make her a dinner at home - and not a Kraft dinner, either.

TIM CERANTOLA lives in Niagara Falls, Ont.

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