A cynic’s guide to Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day brings out the cynic in me. Having never been in a relationship (or even on a date for that matter) and having spent my entire life around divorced people, when Feb. 14 rolls around each year I tend to feel indifferent. Perhaps even a little sad.

But my circumstances do offer some advantages. Being single every Valentine’s Day has allowed me to develop effective strategies to prevent myself from getting too caught up in my emotions.

One strategy I use is to think about all the people in the world who have been led astray by love. The person who comes to my mind is Amanda Knox.

If you are unfamiliar, Amanda Knox was an American university student who spent a semester abroad in Italy. While overseas, she fell in love with a very handsome Italian man, and one night, after a romantic encounter, was charged with the brutal murder of another student. Knox was eventually acquitted of any wrongdoing, but the whole incident dragged on for several years and did not seem very ‘Orange is the New Black.’ However, Amanda did get to live in Italy for a few years without paying rent, which I find inspiring.

However, this year I chose to forego thinking about Amanda Knox on Valentine’s Day and decided to try out the dating app circuit. If all went well, I would find my perfect match online, go on a date and have a special someone just in time for Valentine’s Day. It really did not seem like a huge challenge.

But all did not go well. In summary, my attempt to find a romantic partner was a bust. As a gay man, I had the option of using Grindr or Tinder and chose Tinder as it seemed geared more towards dating, as opposed to hook-ups. But even Tinder was frustrating. For some reason, many of the matches I made were with guys in New Brunswick and it was incredibly difficult to maintain a solid conversation with anybody I matched with.

In light of this, I decided that I would go out to a few places around Halifax with a friend – completely platonic – and judge for myself if they would be good places for a date.

The Oval

This might be cliché, but ice-skating seems like a romantic way to spend an afternoon. Although the skating itself was fun, the ambience at The Oval was not ideal for a date. I was there on a Sunday, along with large amounts of screaming children who did not help create a romantic atmosphere. It was difficult to have a conversation due to the high noise levels and it can be hard to talk to someone while in constant motion. I also went on a warmer day and the ice was slowly turning into a puddle. Ultimately, The Oval was not a success.  

The Toothy Moose

The first time I came to Halifax six years ago, there was a stabbing outside The Toothy Moose. But while watching the news report, I laid my eyes on a head of a stoned-looking buck-toothed moose hanging outside a downtown bar and have been fixated on it ever since. Unfortunately, I am underage and could not go inside the bar, but I spoke with someone who had gone and they described it as “low-frills fun.” If both you and your significant other are casual, drinking party-goers, I imagine this would be a decent place to go on a date. Introverts, I would suggest you stay home.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Not being an art aficionado, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this art gallery. There is plenty to see, enough to spend a couple of hours and it only costs seven dollars for students. Clearly, this is a good place for people who appreciate art. And if you are on a first date, the setting of a gallery allows for meaningful conversation, while the quiet atmosphere eases the pressure of having to make too much conversation. Interesting and inexpensive, this is a great date idea.

Seven Bays Bouldering

I had never been to Seven Bays Bouldering before, but the combination of rock-climbing and food seemed intriguing. In reality, it’s a mixed bag. The café section of Seven Bays was a bit crowded and, from my perspective, is a place for people who want to relax after work rather than for those looking to spend quality time with a significant other. Despite the busy space, the rock climbing was genuinely fun and would be a good activity for athletic couples. However, if I were on a first date, there is no way in hell I would want someone to stare at me while I try to climb a wall.

In conclusion, my attempt to put myself out there and actually go on a date did not go as planned. Online dating apps, as it turns out, require a bit more time and effort than it would initially seem. And in hindsight, the places that I went during my mock-dates were not all that creative or exciting. I’m sure a native Haligonian could offer up much better suggestions.

For now, I imagine I will spend Valentine’s Day just like any other day: in lecture and then in my room, watching Judge Judy and Jerry Springer. But I know many people will have a fun and romantic Valentine’s Day — and that is perfectly fine. But as someone who is single and a bit cynical, I would rather not hear about it.