Love in all its pink and red heart-shaped glory abounds today, which proves dismaying for those not in Cupid's crosshairs. But in this era of fake it 'til you make it, why not make it 'til you have it? Make it up, that is.
Certainly real love has its benefits -- namely a paramour with a pulse -- but just because a significant other is more fantasy than factual doesn't mean the relationship is without merit.
Prior generations staving off labels of romantic outcast claimed to have a boyfriend or girlfriend in Canada. Close enough to have met; far away enough to explain why nobody has seen this wondrous object of one's affection in the flesh. Long-distance soul mate, eh?
Fast forward past personal ads in the back of newspapers, church socials and cocktail networking mixers to today's tech solution of finding The One on the Internet. For romantics still thinking relationships require more than one's own imagination, the virtual world is awash in matchmaking sites broken down by age, religion, nationality or even occupation. Farmersonly.com is not a joke, people.
But as the documentary "Catfish" and the tragic romance of lei-wearing footballer Manti Te'o illustrate, not everybody on the other side of the cyber-love is exactly who they purport to be. All it takes is some poetic words, some hot photos of other people and an unsuspecting victim looking for love in all the wrong places.
Creating a character is no new idea. JT LeRoy was a celebrity darling whose initial reclusiveness made Thomas Pynchon look like a social butterfly until the alleged author was ultimately unveiled as a woman, Laura Albert, who took the idea of literary license to a whole new level. Journalist Janet Cooke won a Pulitzer Prize, later returned, for her coverage of an 8-year-old heroin addict that never existed. The public might think the impetus was awards and accolades. Real journalists know the reason is because subjects, much like lovers, don't always say what you want to hear. Much easier to put words in their mouths.
But love, as they say, is different than business. Love changes everything and on Valentine's Day, more than any other time of the year, reminds the single masses there will be no Hallmark card slipped under the windshield wiper, no obnoxiously giant bouquet sitting on the work desk or mysterious box containing the perfect outfit delivered with an equally mysterious note to meet at a fancy restaurant. For those individuals, today is nothing more than a pinching reminder their story glaringly lacks the fairy tale ending.
That said, take a page from said fairy tale and create one's own rather than moping around with a bucket of ice cream or crank calling an ex. Consider the benefits of not relying on reality. All the childhood hours spent making lists of the perfect man or wondering about the perfect girl can translate into just the right height and eye color, the dazzling occupation, the perfect sense of humor. Make sure they like long walks on the beach and puppies. Must love puppies.
Decide if you met cute or overcame a series of wrong turns. Make the call on whether the romance is more "When Harry met Sally" or "Romeo and Juliet." Maybe the fairy tale really is like Will and Kate or for those with leanings to the doomed, Sid and Nancy. Jerry Maguire might have his lady at hello but, thanks to the Internet, anybody can claim to have whoever they want at first click.
Women have been sending themselves roses for decades, complete with romantic cards meant to invoke jealousy from either a crush or a coworker. Men have been exaggerating just as long about the number of notches on their bedpost.
Consider a faux-romance a logical extension, providing all the trapping of a relationship without all those pesky irritants like bickering over the toothpaste cap or having to check in via text 12 times a day. Granted, kissing oneself is a bit challenging, short of practicing on the hand like a junior high girl at a sleepover but, when an alleged love connection is supposedly long distance, public displays of affection aren't really in the cards anyway.
In an ideal world, love makes a person the best they can be. In the real world, a few tall tales help a person make up the best image they -- or their better half -- can be.
And don't break up after today just because Valentine's Day has moved into Feb. 15. With a little ingenuity, a bit of computer magic and a dash of good old-fashioned salesmanship, every day can be filled with hearts and butterflies and the dream of true love.
Michelle Durand's column "Off the Beat" runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.