Romantically Challenged


Because, Valentine’s Day.     

By Max Rykov // Illustration by Hannah Adamson

Ah, Valentine’s Day! The most obligatorily romantic day of the year! Depending on when you’re reading this monthly magazine, you’re either: trying to figure out some way to not screw it up this year, trying to avoid it, protesting it, or desperately trying to find a date for it. In any case, the presence of Valentine’s Day is difficult to ignore, and the whole of February is structured around it.

We’re an educated bunch, so let’s learn a bit about the history of this miserable holiday before going any further:

In the third century, a Roman priest by the name of Valentinus had the unfashionable hobby of marrying Christian couples. At the time, the Roman Empire had a strict ban on hospitality toward those pesky monotheists. But plead as he may that binding couples to a life of boring, oppressive, and sexually uninspiring monogamy was done with nothing but the most malicious of intentions, Valentinus’ head was nevertheless removed from the rest of his body. Such a fate left the holiday’s namesake embarrassingly anonymous for an embarrassingly long time. It wasn’t until the 14th century, when the twisted mind of Geoffrey Chaucer produced the poem “Parliament of Foules,” celebrating the engagement of two 15-year-old royals, did “Valentine” become associated with romantic love.

Initially celebrated as a sort of homage to the mating of birds, ushering in the life-producing nectar of spring, Valentine’s Day has gradually deteriorated into a vulgar display of mass-produced greeting cards and Sarah Gettingers who rejected my teddy bears in the 3rd grade.

How do we, in modern day Birmingham, correct the course of this epicenter of romance, and honor its tender beginnings?

For the past five years on or around Valentine’s Day, I’ve hosted a game show called “Romantically Challenged.” The show has two halves: one for couples (based on the classic TV show “The Newlywed Game”), and the other for singles (until now, based on the classic TV show “The Dating Game”).

This year, the singles portion of the event is modeled after the 1990s MTV show “Singled Out,” on which a rabid throng of college students vied to go on a date with a spectacularly attractive bachelor or bachelorette. The throng was narrowed down to a more manageable number through a series of categories. For each category, potential lovers who didn’t fit the criteria had to exit the stage. The top three stayed and performed a series of challenges that would prove their worth as a mate.

I only have five years of dating experience in Birmingham, but I can say without a doubt that the most effective way of finding love (or at least having a memorable Valentine’s Day) is competing on a game show in front of your friends and probably several of your exes.

If you’re not one of the fortunate souls to be selected to compete on the show, you can watch from a comfortable distance in the audience as vulnerable local singles put themselves in hilarious situations. If you’re not able to go and gain valuable wisdom into the art of finding a lover, here are a few categories on the show that can help you find out a lot about someone, and determine whether a second date is warranted:

90.3 or 95.7

If you’re going to be driving together, this one’s important. Does your date lean more toward the sweet sounds of contemporary hip hop and R&B, or the mellifluous perspective of Terry Gross? Ideally, you can find someone well-rounded enough to enjoy both stations.

Baby Fever or Cabin Fever?

You definitely need to be on the same page on this one if a relationship is going to have any long-term potential. Is your date ready to settle down and help solve the world’s population crisis, or does the idea of staying in and not being a regular at every bar in town drive them bonkers?

Whole Foods or Piggly Wiggly

Now that Western is closing (RIP), I put grocery shoppers into two categories. Cooking together is an essential part of any relationship, and you need to know whether your lover will insist on the exorbitant grandeur of organic produce, or demand the charm and reasonable prices of The Pig.

Of course, we’ll leave the more risque questions for the show itself.

Bring your girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, mistresses, and dates to “Romantically Challenged” at Saturn at 8 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2019.

Tickets are $10, and you’ll be guaranteed to witness the purest expressions of romance in Birmingham’s history. 

Leave a Reply