by Jessica DiMaio <>

If I had to name even one thing wrong with David, I would honestly draw a complete blank. He's a sweet guy, good-looking with sandy brown hair and a goatee, interested in books and art and movies, with passionate opinions about all of them. So I couldn't understand why I kept checking my watch during the two dates I had with him. Despite the stimulating topics of conversation, I felt I had to desperately keep filling the air between us with words because if we stopped talking for even a second, we would be drowned in awkward silence. When he dropped me off after the second date, I knew it would never work with him and I steeled myself to give a vague excuse the next time he called.

Unfortunately, the next time he called he asked me out for Valentine's Day. I melted. A date on Valentine's Day? How long has it been since I had one of those? I could wear that cute little black dress I just bought and he would buy me a bouquet of roses and a box of Fannie May chocolates (my mouth began to water as I thought of trinidads all for myself) and he would take me out to dinner at a dimly lit restaurant with white linen tablecloths and more spoons and forks than you would ever need, and an Italian guy with a thin mustache would play the violin. My mind suddenly skipped ahead to after the date in my bedroom, but not even the prospect of Valentine's sex could get me very psyched, so I abbreviated it to a sweet little kiss goodbye at the door. What could I do? I had to say yes.

So Valentine's Day came and I looked great in my little dress, and I got my flowers and my candy and my dinner. The restaurant was more crowded and noisy than I'd anticipated, which was a blessing because when we ran out of books and movies to talk about, we started talking about how crowded and noisy the restaurant was. He kept looking at me over the dinner table with his warm brown eyes and big smile, and I wanted to throw a lobster claw at him and yell, "Can't you see that we have absolutely nothing to say to each other?"

Who ever would have thought a romantic Valentine's dinner could take so damn long? After what felt like eons, David paid the bill and we walked out to his car and climbed in. As he pulled out onto the street we began chatting about the wonderful meal we'd just had. Food, I thought. We're talking about food.

Almost in slow motion, David's right hand reached across the car and took hold of mine. Usually when I like a guy, I feel almost giddy when he holds my hand. When David did it, for some reason I felt mildly depressed.

"So, Stella, what would you be doing if you weren't here tonight?" he asked.

A slow smile crept across my face. "Actually," I said with a soft laugh, "my girlfriends and I have this tradition. Every Valentine's Day, one of us throws a party for everyone without a date. We call it a Screw Cupid party."

David's eyes shifted briefly from the road to me. He gave a surprised laugh. "Wow. That's not bitter," he said, sarcastically.

For a moment I hesitated telling David exactly what went on at a Screw Cupid party. Then I remembered there was no way in hell I would ever go out with him again, so I relaxed and talked with complete abandon.

"Well, it started out bitter, but it turned out to be really liberating. It's just a bunch of us girls and sometimes a few gay boys, and we listen to really angry female rock, not that Lilith Fair crap, but stuff like Patti Smith and Blondie and Tori Amos. We hang decorations of Cupid getting impaled by arrows. But the best part," I ran my free hand through my hair nervously, but continued, "is that we all dress up in the freakiest lingerie. Anything goes and it's total Fredericks of Hollywood. Lace thigh highs and vinyl boots and feather boas."

"Whoa!" David's hand increased pressure. "You really have all that stuff?"

I stopped playing with my hair and turned to stick my tongue at him, knowing he'd see me from the corner of his eye. "Just for the party. We'd never wear that stuff around guys. They would just want to take it off so why even bother? We just hang out in sleazy underwear, drinking wine, eating chocolate and bashing relationships."

"Stop it," he said, lowering his voice to sound sexy, I suppose. "I'm imagining you dressed like that and it's really turning me on."

My stomach turned over. David had been paying me compliments all night and I sincerely wished he would stop. Usually when a guy pays me a compliment, it'll stick to me for weeks. David's compliments just slid right off, leaving no imprint whatsoever. Maybe it was his voice that was the real turn-off for me. For me, a guy's voice is just as important as his face. David's voice wasn't nasal, but it was one level below nasal. It irritated me, but he was such a nice guy that I was irritated by my irritation. Damn Valentine's Day! Never again would I stoop to being with a guy I didn't like just to be with someone. I felt angry with myself for acting like the kind of pathetic girlie-girl that I've always looked down on.

David pulled the car up to my apartment, letting go of my hand as he shifted to park. "Well," he said, turning to me with that smile that was starting to bother me just as much as his voice, "this was a really nice night."

"Yeah," I forced a smile of my own. "Thanks for everything."

He was waiting to see if I would invite him inside. Well, he could just keep waiting.

"Happy Valentine's Day," he said. Then he reached his arm over my shoulders and leaned in to kiss me. I closed my eyes. As far as kissing went, he was not bad. I parted my lips and let him slip his tongue inside. No, not at all bad. But it was just lips--no chemistry or electric tingles or ringing bells that usually run through me during a first kiss. Finally I pulled away.

"I better get inside," I said, smiling at him.

"Okay," he leaned back. His lips were rosy from my lipstick. "I'll call you tomorrow."

"Yeah, okay. Bye!" I opened the door and swung myself out of the car. I half-ran to the door, waving over my shoulder, then disappearing into the lobby.

The first thing I did when I got into my apartment was check the time. It was only ten o' clock . . . I could still make it to the party! I ran into my bedroom and stripped off the cute black dress that would now forever be tainted by the memory of the most boring date in history. I ran to my closet and took out a black plastic bag. In moments I had slipped into my purple fishnets, vinyl skirt, black bustier with tiny little hooks that ran down the front, and my personal favorite, my silver stilettos. I cranked up a Pat Benetar CD and danced around my room as I applied smoky black eye shadow and ruby-red lipstick. My hair was dark and bobbed short. Combined with the clothes and makeup, it made me look like a hardcore dominatrix. I covered myself up with my thrift store leopard-print coat and put on sneakers (hell, you didn't think I'd drive in stilettos, did you?) and ran out to my car. Have you ever driven around wearing barely anything under a coat on a Valentine's night? I highly recommend it. I also recommend making lewd gestures with your tongue at happy couples in passing cars.

We all take turns throwing the Screw Cupid party, and this year was my friend Alexandra's turn. Of all my friends, Xandra is the wildest, and her parties are always legendary. How could I have thought a stupid date and a bunch of flowers would be worth missing this? Now a box of candy was a more compelling argument, but still. . .

I rang Xandra's doorbell, shivering under my coat. She opened the door. Xandra had long red hair and had recently cut short bangs like Bettie Page, the 1950's dominatrix, so she was doing a full on Bettie Page look with a whip in one hand and a pair of handcuffs in the other.

"Oh, I don't know if I should let you in," she teased. "Shouldn't you still be on your romantic date?"

"It ended early on account of extreme boredom," I said through chattering teeth. "I'm here and I'm ready to screw Cupid!"

"That's my girl!" Xandra threw her arms around me and pulled me inside. "Welcome back!"

I looked around and was glad I'd decided to come. Along with the usual decorations of impaled cupids, Xandra had hung a disco ball that dangled from a string and sent sparkles all over the room, and she had replaced all her regular light bulbs with red ones. There were giant glass tumblers on every table filled with chocolates, and everyone was drinking wine from elegant long-stemmed glasses. There were about five gay boys wearing hot pants and feather boas, dancing to the song "I Will Survive." My friends were scattered everywhere, drinking wine and singing and giggling. Even the ones who were embarrassed about their bodies and wouldn't be caught dead in a bathing suit were decked out in vinyl catsuits and whorehouse-madam slips. It was gorgeous to see them pushing up their D-cup breasts instead of hiding them under baggy sweaters.

"Hey everyone," Xandra yelled, "Stella's here!"

"Hey, Stella," Lindsey said, adjusting her short blue wig. "How was your Valentine's Day?"

I groaned and poured myself a glass of wine from the table and grabbed a handful of bon-bons. "Date from hell," I flopped onto the floor as the couch was already crowded, those greedy whores. Everyone leaned in closer as I told them about the date in detail, leaving out not one awkward pause or lame conversation topic.

"I was so desperate for something to say that I started talking about my cat!" I moaned. The party laughed, flesh rippling under fishnet. "I was like, 'Oh, my cat always jumps on my head first thing in the morning so I'll feed her,' and he was like, 'You know, I had a cat once, and she used to do the same thing.' I wanted to die."

"Did you at least order the lobster?" asked Christy, blinking her false silver eyelashes.

"Yes, I did, and you know what? Lobster takes a long fucking time to eat when you're in a hurry to leave. God, never again! I'm spending every Valentine's Day with you guys from now on. Hell, I'm coming here even if I'm married!"

Johnny, a tall black gay boy who was dressed like RuPaul, piped up with his slinky syllables, "Everyone! Let's make a toast!" We all held up our glasses and Johnny said, "To great friends, sleazy clothes, and not giving a fuck what anyone thinks for just one night a year! Screw Cupid!"

"Screw Cupid!" we echoed, clinking our elegant glasses and downing the merlot like shots of vodka.

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