I Choo-Choo-Choose You

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The “I Love Lisa” episode of the fourth season of The Simpsons

How is everyone’s Valentine’s Day? Or I guess I should also ask how Single’s Awareness Day is going for everyone else. Remember, overdosing on chocolate is an equal opportunity for all of us.

Personally, I eschew Valentine’s Day. I mean, I have trouble “getting” it. I know there was a Saint Valentine in there and then somehow some winged cupids manhandling bows and arrows got mixed in there too. But along with such icons as leprechauns and witches, I am not a fan of Hallmark Holidays. After passing through primary school and collecting cut-out Valentines from my classmates — did anyone else experience one their first socially insecure moments like I did back then? — I stopped paying attention to this date. Even as a person happily coupled in a relationship, I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I apologize if this sounds like vitriol I am spewing, as I recognize that I may sound like the Valentine Grinch. I think that one of the reasons why I felt ambivalent about Valentine’s Day was that I always worked on this date. While I was doing my undergraduate studies, I waited tables part-time and of course Valentine’s Day is a huge day in the restaurant business. The restaurant layout would need to be revised so that all tables can seat two, and then romantic props like flower petals, pink ribbons and mandatory candles would be arranged in the space. I was always a very polite and competent server so there was never too much of a difference in the way I dealt with customers, though it was an odd feeling being entrapped in a room surrounded by lovey dovey couples.

PDA, as long as it is not explicit (!), is not something that I frown upon at all. That is, until I moved to Montréal. I know they say that Paris is for lovers, but Montréal? Well, let us say it is also for touchy feely types.

In one of my first memories of when I initially moved to the city, I was sitting at a diner with a friend for a lazy weekend breakfast in the francophone dominated neighbourhood of the Plateau. There was a couple sitting in a booth across from us, with their hands intertwined on the table between each other, their bedroom eyes locked together. Each of them would take turns and stand up and reach across the table to lay very passionate kisses. Eventually, they moved to sit on the same side of the booth and continued a full-on makeout session while my friend I am uncomfortably tried to eat our toast and eggs.

It was during the summer that I moved to Montréal, and as I love exploring a new area by walking all over the city, I of course made regular visits to the mountain, Mont Royal, and the encompassing park. Montréal is a hilly island, and Montréalers like to sit on grassy hills to picnic, play games, or just relax. But, as I said, the city is for touchy feely types and when you look at the people sitting on the grassy hills on a beautiful day in summer, I would say about a quarter of those people in the park are sucking face. I swear, I am not kidding; try visiting la belle province, especially during the warmer months.

Montréalers just love to engage in PDA all around the city. On the mountain, by the canal, on a sidewalk bench spotlighted by a street lamp. My first visit to La Petite Italie (Little Italy) involved my friends and I dropping in to a popular pizzeria late at night while a sixty-something couple were mindlessly engaged in a hot and heavy embrace outside the restaurant. This never happens in Toronto.

All this PDA did strike me as quite odd at first as I have no problems with couples openly embracing each other, but I really was not prepared for the intensity and ubiquity of the PDA. I mean, romance is dead, dead, in Toronto and anglophone Canada. But then I started dating a Montréaler and, as they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

So as I was walking around downtown today, I noticed many people, mainly men, carrying bouquets or single roses, cake boxes, and large gifts decorated with red ribbons. And all throughout today I heard friends and coworkers greeting each other with “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and people offering me chocolate from their desks. And I thought, Well, Valentine’s Day is actually quite sweet and not too saccharine. Perhaps I am starting to become a Montréaler.

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