I made plans for Valentine's Day with a guy I've been dating for more than two months. I agreed to drive up to see him since we live an hour and a half apart and he can't take off work to visit me because of his new job. Yesterday he tells me that he's decided to take his mother and little brother out for Valentine's Day instead. I said, "So, no Valentine's Day, then? Um … OK." We agreed to see each other the weekend after instead. Still, my feelings are hurt that I'll have to spend the day alone. Am I making too big a deal out of this? —L.D.C.
Your feelings are understandably hurt, and no, you're not making too big a deal out of his change of plans. His decision to do something different after he previously agreed to another idea would never really go over well, but to do so on Valentine's Day raises the stakes a bit.
Valentine's Day is more than just another day, especially to women. Right or wrong, it's symbolic of how your perceived significant other feels about you. For a guy to opt out of spending time on Valentine's Day with the woman he's dating says a lot more than you imagine.
In thinking about spending the day alone, you are overlooking the bedazzled pink elephant standing in the clichéd room. Best-case scenario: He's passive-aggressively showing you that while he perceives you as good enough to date, he has no plans of entering a relationship with you. Y'all are kicking like Nina and Darius in Love Jones, but don't expect their happy-ish ending.
Worst-case scenario: He's not spending Valentine's Day with you likely because he's spending it with another woman — and just so we're clear: not his mama. She's just an ironclad excuse, one to which it is hard for you to object without making yourself look crazy. I mean, really, what non-wife woman objects to her man spending time with his beloved mama?
Despite some men's tendency to act aloof about the esteem in which most women hold Valentine's Day, it's impossible to grow up in America and not "get it." He knows well what spending Valentine's Day together implies: His feelings for you are deeper than surface, and there's a strong likelihood that you will enter a relationship. He's avoiding spending the day with you because he doesn't want to give you that impression, and again, likely because he's focused on giving it to someone else with whom he may even be in a relationship already.
It's impossible for me to know into which category your guy falls (maybe both?), but neither scenario bodes well for you. If you were seeking a relationship with this man, it's time to cut ties and seek elsewhere.
Going forward in your dating journeys, you may find other great excuses that people use to get out of spending time together on Valentine's Day (and other holidays). Don't fall for them. Beware of the partner who rants and raves about the day being a "Hallmark holiday" created by "corporate America" to suck his pockets dry.
That's not exactly untrue. But men know they are expected to show and prove their love on Feb. 14 as a cost associated with having a significant other. You are not asking too much to expect at the very least attention, romance and/or time spent together on this day, not the day or weekend after. And you should keep a skeptical eye on the man who wants to avoid that for any reason.
Of course, there are men who will have very valid excuses for not doing so. Some will genuinely have to work late or be unable to avoid a regular night shift. (Go with your gut on whether you should believe that or not.) And since we're in a recession, not everyone will be able to splurge on a bouquet of roses or an expensive dinner or gift. In your pursuit of having a romantic day, try to be reasonable in your expectations and thankful for his efforts to make you happy, even if it's not perfect.
Lastly, in all this discussion about men who don't do right on Valentine's Day, let me offer a final warning about men who do right only on this day. Valentine's Day is not a magical elixir that erases or excuses mediocre treatment most other days of the year. If your significant other pays you attention on only one day of the year, you may want to contemplate why you've remained in the relationship all the other days.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.