Just Another Valentine’s Day Massacre

I don’t get nearly beaten up often, but I do sometimes. I should note that I have never actually been beaten up, because I am both fast and — when not fast enough — pathetic. Getting nearly beaten up is an occupational hazard when you have written a weekly newspaper column for close to 15 years and run out of embarrassing moments in your own life and thus begun to chronicle the embarrassing moments of others.
Or, in one case, pretending to be a different person and asking someone who is not your girlfriend to marry you. I did not do that in this column. But I did do it in real life. It was on a Valentine’s Day many years ago, which is why I am telling you the story now. Consider this a public service. This Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, I would discourage all men from pretending to be (and here I am changing names so I don’t get nearly beaten up again) Jed Bailey and then asking Melissa Dayton to marry you.
My girlfriend and I were at a Valentine’s Day dance in college. There was a band with a lead singer who clearly enjoyed bantering with the audience more than he liked singing. This is probably because be couldn’t sing. Mostly he just shouted into the microphone at a decibel that ensured everyone in the ballroom was going to have a noise-induced hearing loss without the pleasure of hearing really good rock and roll.
The singer was not, however, the most annoying person at the dance that night. That distinction belonged to either Jed Bailey or Melissa Dayton, who had been dating and breaking up and dating and breaking up since the Mesozoic era. That evening they had just broken up (again), and cornering either my girlfriend or me to tell me how horrible their ex was.
But we also realized that Jed and Melissa were far less aggravating when they were in love than when they were (so to speak) in hate. And so my girlfriend and I decided that the only way we could salvage the evening was to have Jed ask Melissa to marry him … using the band’s lead singer as his Cyrano de Bergerac.
Our plan worked like a charm. I marched to the stage and told the singer I was Jed. I said that I wanted to make this Valentine’s Day even more romantic by asking Melissa to be my bride — and I wanted him to ask for me.
The singer did a fabulous job, announcing to the throng that Jed wanted desperately for Melissa to be his ladylove for life. If the singer didn’t go on to become a game show host, he missed his calling. Then, as part of our plan, my girlfriend raced on to the stage, told the singer she was Melissa, and that of course she would marry Jed. She may even have shrieked.
Just for the record, I married that woman.
In any case, the ballroom spontaneously burst into applause for the happy couple, and for a long moment my girlfriend and I reveled in our acting skills. But it was a short moment, because all of a sudden I was jacked up against a ballroom wall with my legs bicycling off the ground like a Looney Tunes character who has just run off a cliff.
Did I mention that Jed may have been six and a half feet tall? And strong? And in serious need of anger management counseling?
I think the only reason he didn’t kill me was that Melissa was assuring him that she would rather — and here I am paraphrasing — spend her life with a wheezing crack addict than one more hour with him.
But I did learn a valuable lesson and if you remember nothing else from this morning’s paper, remember this: If you are going to be a matchmaker, be sure not to fix up two people who want to see each other eaten by sharks.
Either that or wear running shoes.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press, February 12 2006.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “Just Another Valentine’s Day Massacre

  1. Dania says:

    What a great story! Your writing is spectacular. I’m glad I get to enjoy your columns online as we don’t get the Burlington Free Press down here in Va. Thanks to my boyfriend Jeff who worked with you up in January taping for the Hallmark Channel, he got me hooked on to your writing.
    I’m glad he did 🙂

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