God does /But I don't / God will / But I won't /And that's the difference /Between God and me.
-Lyle Lovett

Valentine's Day... and the air is filled with recrimination and regret... It's not my favorite holiday, though the "manufactured" nature of it doesn't bother me any more than that of say, Christmas... Presents are gooooood.

So that part's fine by me.

And since I like giving presents far more than I like getting them, I think Valentine's is a pretty equal opportunity holiday. I enjoy whipping up seven-course meals. And when I think of St. Valentine, Naked Lunch Hour also comes to mind. And hey, after a long hard day at work, don't most girls serve dessert off their breasts? This year, I'm even throwing in a concert (tickets that is; I'm not performing).

So I really don't see why guys have so much to complain about.

But obviously, there's the dark side.

"February 15 is one of the busiest days in a divorce lawyer's calendar," says Diana Shepherd, Editorial Director of Divorce Magazine. (My experience suggests it's the women who are filing.)

That's according to this ListServe I'm on-presumably because I bought divorce books for Christmas gifts at (The recipients were already getting divorced - I was buying these for support, not as hints or anything.)

And here's what amazon popped up under "Rhonda's prospective gift list:" Best of Real Sex; Best of Sex Bytes; Taxicab Confessions: Best of Vegas; High Art; Creative Conversation Starters for Couples; Taking Charge of Your Fertility; and 365 Manners Kids Should Know.

I assume that List was based on a video I ordered for a guy I knew last spring-someone who's long since moved on to greener (or at least younger) pastures. (I guess it's true what they say: maybe there are girls for whom size really does not matter. I am not one of those girls.)

I'm just amused by the fact that amazon knows enough to take me from sex, to relationship, to infertility issues, to kids, all on one page.

It seems appropriate that Valentine's Day usually falls somewhere around Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the penitent season for many of us.

Because I take all transgressions and oversights from the men in my life (platonic and otherwise) very, very, very hard.

I have two primary wingmen: good and evil.

The good one takes me to theology seminars, co-hosts parties with me, and screws in all my ceiling lightbulbs.

The evil one wakes me up at 4 in the morning so I can take him bowling and discuss his girlfriend problems before the alcohol wears off. He's the one who addresses every guy I date (to his face) as Johnny New Guy (and then tells me later, "hey I LIKED that one; why'd you dump him?")

The good one got me the best of the Onion for my birthday, and skipped a mandatory work meeting to get to the celebratory dinner and concert organized by my baby-Diva... the evil one was a no-show. Whereupon I stopped speaking to him. For two months.

Because his absence really hurt my feelings. I hate birthdays anyway, and I survive them by surrounding myself with as many distractions as possible. His no-show just took me right back to fourth grade. Whereupon I was suddenly transformed into... Tullio.

Tullio was the kid that the nuns forced everybody to invite to their parties. I'm sure they meant to be kind, but they weren't doing him any favors.

He'd show up, and the other kids would (best case scenario): ignore him - or (worst case scenario): beat him up and call him "Fruity-O." I never called him that, and I definitely never beat him up.

And I never forgot him either. Every time somebody leaves me out of the fun (intentionally or otherwise), I AM Tullio.

So when my evil wingman didn't show up for the big night, I was hurt. And once he figured this out, his apology was profuse, and accompanied by a sincere commitment to make it up to me. (As I told him, "Sell 'sorry' somewhere else, Pal. I gotta see Penance. Remorse.")

We agreed on what have become known as the ceremonial Pancakes of Atonement, and we're good. Now.

It's the rare scenario that turns out that well.

I had a similar blowup with someone who didn't invite me to his office Christmas party (despite having been included in at least 37 social occasions that I either hosted or attended over the fall), and then couldn't figure out why I was upset, much less bring himself to apologize.

I can think of LOTS of reasons I wasn't invited: because he had another better date (fine); because he thought he could pick up a better date on-site (likely); and/or because he was embarrassed to be with me (devastating). Here again, I'd become Tullio.

So while I'm sure if I was Sister Catherine Regina, I could've yanked his ear and forced him into taking me along, I didn't really want to go to a party where I'd be beaten up or called Fruity-O.

I was crushed. And within 24 hours, I'd canceled all remaining holiday plans I'd invited him to (reciprocity being Miss Manners' inviolable law). Yet,"I'm not a mind-reader" was, I think, the closest I got to something that resembled an apology.

Heck, I don't think anybody's ever accused me of subtlety. The cause-and-effect there was far from mysterious (though in fairness, not that many people know about my Tullio issues). When people don't say they're sorry, it's usually because they're not.

Still, a social transgression is not a tragedy. I'm preparedfor 'em. There's safety in numbers and I rarely move through life without a few spares. Volume heals. Many are called. Few are chosen. And only the penitent man shall pass.

Far more disillusioning are the people who were in my life last year (and for many years before) - but won't ever be again, because "forgiveness," is not a synonym for "bend over" in my world. Those are the people I was just wrong about. Who aren't who I thought they were.


And that's why I'll be a little sad this holiday... But at least I'll be sad in luxurious black underwear, during an incredible seven-course meal, followed by a smashing concert... Because we all grieve in our own way.