Monday, February 14, 2011

A Dishonest Valentine

Dear readers, I regret to inform you that today I was a charlatan. Allow me to explain.

I coordinate a campus speaker series, and whenever possible, I try to be aesthetically conscious and have fresh flowers on the table. Today, as you almost certainly know, is Valentine’s Day. Today, as you probably did not know, we had a campus speaker. Even though I avoided buying flowers this morning, the flowers still had to make it from my apartment to the school. This meant being a young, moderately attractive woman carrying fresh flowers on Valentine's Day. People smile at you when you're carrying flowers on Valentine's Day.

Not only was I carrying fresh flowers still wrapped in florist's paper, but I was carrying a Lindt Truffles bag. The bag contained my rather unromantic lunch: a frozen (soon to be soggy) turkey sandwich, a bruised apple, low-fat string cheese, a Ziploc of leftover almonds, and my Nalgene bottle. Not chocolate from a romantic young gent.

When people see you carrying flowers and a bag from a chocolatier, they smile. They smile because they think your nice boyfriend has bought you nice flowers and you are carrying them nicely through the street. When these people tell you that your flowers are pretty, what they mean is "I'm so glad there's enough decency in the world that boys still give girls flowers." If they ask you what the flowers are for, they don't want to hear "they're an interview prop." I feel terrible deceiving them, and even more terrible telling them the truth.

You see, I like Valentine's Day. I really do. I dress up for it (it's like the grown-up, white-collar version of high school spirit days). I try very hard to be a pleasant, non-bitter, single person. I just also try to not make potential beaux think I'm spoken for. It's probably not a huge deal, but considering my strong commitment to black-and-white reality, misrepresenting my relationship status makes me feel like the kid who tells everyone that Santa isn't real.

See, the free market and Adam Smith's concept of the invisible hand work best when people have accurate information about the market. If you know that apple prices fell today, consumers can buy more apples, and sellers may look to sell something more profitable. This shift helps the market readjust to equilibrium. If, however, your friend walks down the street with buckets full of apples and you assume that apple prices fell, when they didn't, you cannot act rationally in response to the market. This is, of course, painful.

When I was walking down the street today, I felt like that terribly dishonest friend who ruins your rational choice. See, for all those people thinking about complaining that Valentine's Day is a sham, invented by the candy and flower and card companies (ha!), they use me as evidence. For everyone losing faith in chivalry and romance, they look to me as a beacon of hope, unaware that I am just as single as they are. For everyone secretly pining away for my affection, they think I'm getting flowers and chocolate from someone else. Alas! All have been led astray. It's like giving the invisible hand carpal tunnel. Still technically functioning, but not nearly as effective.

Despite singlehandedly deceiving all of Sixth Avenue's morning commuters today, I had a lovely Valentine's Day. So, to all of you who saw me this morning, I'm very sorry for confusing you. But take heart! Even though our world is not one that delivers a fairy-tale romance to all morning commuters, our world is one with jobs that involve something as delightful as carrying flowers through Manhattan on a mild February day, and getting smiles from everyone you meet.

I hurt the invisible hand in:

Gray glen plaid dress slacks (you didn't know I owned dress pants, did you?), white cap-sleeved, empire-waisted button-up, pink heart earrings, pink silk ribbon headband, pink trench coat, and gray patent round-toe stilettos.*

*I'd also like to confess that I was wearing a really cute pink watch that said "I (heart) NY." The battery is dead. Thus, instead of wearing a timepiece, I was really wearing a bracelet that was unable to fulfill its chronometric teleology. My left wrist: the great deceiver.