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Valentine's Day Trap - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Feb. 16th, 2003

01:46 pm - Valentine's Day Trap

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http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/techwrapper.jsp?PID=1051-250&CID=1051-021403B

Valentine's Day Trap
By James D. Miller 02/14/2003

We are all in a horrible Valentine's Day trap with no solution but for men to waste large sums of money on expensive, soon-to-die, thorn-studded vegetation.

Why do men give flowers to their girlfriends on Valentine's Day and why do women who don't receive flowers on Valentine's Day get depressed? Valentine's Day flowers signal love, and many of us are worse off for it.



Women are often uncertain whether any of the men in their lives are romantically interested in them. Since it's customary for men to give women whom they desire flowers on Valentine's Day, women who don't receive flowers learn something. They learn that it is not likely that any of their male acquaintances are romantically pursuing them. Valentine's Day is a day of judgment for many women and so those who don't receive flowers sometimes feel damned.

Men are almost forced to give flowers to their girlfriends on Valentine's Day. Flowers, particularly roses, are expensive (especially on Valentine's Day). Men who don't really care about their girlfriends consequently won't spend the money to get them flowers. Could a man who did care about his girlfriend convince her that he didn't need to buy her Valentine's Day flowers?

Men who (a) don't care about their girlfriends and (b) don't buy their girlfriends flowers have an incentive to lie and pretend that they still do care about their girlfriends. Consequently, it's difficult for men who care but don't buy flowers to convince their girlfriends of their devotion.

Furthermore, the more upset girlfriends are known to become if forsaken on Valentine's Day the more it signals when their boyfriends don't give them flowers. If a woman knows that her boyfriend knows that she would be upset if she didn't get flowers, then the woman is automatically justified in getting upset if she doesn't get them, for now her boyfriend has knowingly hurt her. Even a woman who hates flowers would be rational in getting mad at her boyfriend for not buying her flowers on Valentine's Day, because by not wasting resources on her the boyfriend has signaled his disinterest.

Valentine's Day flowers are like celebrity endorsements. Why do consumers care if celebrities endorse a product? Perhaps it causes us to associate the celebrity's coolness and fame with the good. A more rational answer, however, is that we know that celebrities are expensive to hire. Consequently, when a firm hires a celebrity, we know their making a large financial commitment to their product, so perhaps we should trust their company. Wasting money on a celebrity is similar to wasting it on flowers: it signals devotion and long-term commitment.

James D. Miller is an assistant professor of economics at Smith College. This article is based upon a passage from his book Game Theory At Work, which will be published this March by McGraw-Hill.

Comments:

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From:afb
Date:February 16th, 2003 10:57 am (UTC)
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We are all in a horrible Valentine's Day trap with no solution but for men to waste large sums of money on expensive, soon-to-die, thorn-studded vegetation.

Auuughhhnnnn.

My theory is that women should just outright tell their partners what they want for Valentine's Day. If the guy still doesn't do anything about it, that's a problem, but men should not be forced to read minds. (The same applies if it's the guy who's a hopeless romantic and the girl who doesn't usually remember holidays, or for whatever gender/pairing/number needed to suit the relationship/s in question.)

I've been working with this theory since 1999, and it has served me VERY well. Bonus question: why don't more women want to tell men, outright, what they want?
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From:jozafiend
Date:February 16th, 2003 12:06 pm (UTC)
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I think women in general are learning to be more expressive in relationships, and this is definitely changing the way people celebrate holidays like Vday.

I myself prefer a nice meal out, though on Vday itself, this can be an ordeal and costly. When I did get red roses delivered on Friday (for the first time ever on Vday in my 6+ year marriage) I first thought, awww, how sweet. But then I though, I hope he didn't waste too much money on these things. :-)
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From:meredith
Date:February 16th, 2003 11:03 am (UTC)
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Nah, we aren't all in that trap.
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From:mermeridith555
Date:February 16th, 2003 11:55 am (UTC)
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I'm making this comment because I agree (I forgot it was valentine's day on friday until lunchtime)...

plus I like your name ;)
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From:valkyrie66
Date:February 16th, 2003 02:47 pm (UTC)
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why do women who don't receive flowers on Valentine's Day get depressed

Actually, I get vaguely depressed when I do receive flowers. Or, more accurately, when the received flowers start to die, which they inevitably do. Of course, I always try to salvage the sentiment by drying the flowers out, but I never understood why it became custom to give something so fleeting as a symbol of love.

I'm not really down with the idea that February 14th is the one day a year for expressions of love, either. This Valentine's, my boyfriend woke me up to tell me he loved me. That was it - no flowers, no candy, no diamonds, just a long, intimate conversation with the man I love - but that made for the happiest Valentine's Day I've ever had. But then, I have a lot of happy days because he does this quite often anyway, not only when Hallmark tells him he should.
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From:withbutterflies
Date:February 16th, 2003 06:28 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, I have a totally different way of thinking. These men who have these cranky girlfriends who are using emotional warfare to demand presents need to dump their selfish asses.

Since when did it become okay to expect presents but not return presents? I work with wayyyy too many women who said "I better get _____ or he's in trouble" yet when I ask what did they give their man, they look at me like I'm crazy.

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From:squirrellady
Date:February 16th, 2003 08:37 pm (UTC)
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I told my husband a long time ago that I'd rather he not waste money on getting me flowers.
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