- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

In fewer than 48 hours, it will be Valentine’s Day, when all good Americans must get in touch with their inner Cupid. Maybe they should get in touch with their inner King Kong, too. The chances are good they soon will have hand-to-hand combat at CVS with several other cupids over the very last heart-shaped box of chocolate bonbons this side of the Rockies.

According to the National Confectioners Association, about 36 million of those flirty red satin containers will be ready for the big day.

Hmm. Gee. Well, let’s do the math. The population of the United States is a little more than 298 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about half of whom are male. Probably 100 million of them are in dire need of that heart-shaped box, lest they be forced to sleep on the sofa until, say, 2009.

Uh-oh. Our simple calculations reveal that American males will be approximately 74 million heart-shaped boxes short.

(Practical Hint No. 1 from the Emergency Desk of the International House of Romance: Go to the drugstore right now and beat the Cupid/Kong wrestling rush, which our analysts predict will start at precisely 3:32 p.m. Tuesday, based on computer-generated models and other relevant data.)

There is a backup plan, though. Necco reports that 8 billion little bitty candy conversation hearts are available for the romantically challenged this week. The candy company also has added 10 new words and phrases for its 2006 hearts, including “ILU,” “Home Soon,” “Sweet Home,” plus “And” and “To,” just in case anyone would like to attempt to make complete sentences at this challenging time.

Oh, the pressures of Valentine’s Day. Oh, the pressures of love, romance, woo, amour, affection, adoration, admiration, tepid fondness and bonbons, not to mention bonbon wrestling. It’s hard to cram all our sentimental inclinations into one day, particularly one that sets men and womenfolk apart.

“Gender differences” are afoot on Feb. 14, at least according to analysts who really should be home with their sweetheart/baby cakes/snookums rather than dillydallying with the politically correct but romantically clueless term “gender” on or near Valentine’s Day.

These analysts have declared that love and romance are subject to interpretation among the gen …, uh, among the males and females.

Consider that 75 percent of the men in a survey conducted by the aforementioned National Confectioners Association have not procrastinated. That’s right: They already have bought their candy, flowers and the inevitable Valentine’s Day card depicting (A) a basset hound wearing a red beret or (B) a chimpanzee wearing a red beret.

“Contrary to popular belief that Valentine’s Day is a holiday men love to hate, 50 percent of men admit that Valentine’s Day is about being romantic,” the group advises.

King Kong — not to mention his lady friend, Ann Darrow — is forever grateful.

Meanwhile, 50,000 of us will propose to sweetheart/baby cakes/snookums on Feb. 14, — this according to a survey by Blue Nile Diamonds, which also found that just 40 percent of the men and 32 percent of the women believe men should go down on one knee when they pop the question.

But wait. According to a survey of 1,000 incurable romantics by Pitney Bowes — which manufactures mail-managing devices — 73 percent of women sign their Valentine’s Day cards thus: Love, (Sweetheart/Baby Cakes/ Snookums).

Just 58 percent of men surveyed admitted to signing with the word “Love,” followed by 17 percent who use their names only, while 10 percent use “X” and “O” kissy-huggy marks, 3 percent use the word “Sincerely” and 1 percent sign “Your Friend.”

Uh-huh. And that 1 percent will have to sleep on the sofa until 2009, maybe even 2010.

Moving right along, Harlequin Romances — which publishes a whopping 115 romance novels a month — has found in a survey of 2,000 adults that 78 percent of the ladies feel their friends are the best source to help find a significant other. Just 63 percent of the men agree, however.

Then there are those who ignore gender altogether.

Date My Pet — an online matchmaking group for, uh, people and their pets — has announced its first marriage between a couple who agreed to meet in a dog park with their dogs, “and the rest is history,” according to the bride.

Not to be outdone, Snobby Paws — an Ohio-based pet party service — is offering Valentine’s Day goodies for the four-footed. The selections include Dog Perignon (don’t ask); a Hairy Winston diamond ring plush toy; the Breakfast at Sniffany kit, featuring an edible valentine card; and, finally, Catablanca, which features a crystal collar, freeze-dried mahi-mahi and an organic catnip toy.

(Practical Hint No. 2: Get thee to CVS. Now. Don’t forget the candy, don’t forget the card — and don’t forget the kiss, either.)

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and monkey romance for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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