My friends, I chaired my first neighborhood council meeting today, attended by about 25 people in the neighborhood, and I think I might have offended an elected official by telling him, in so many words, that his time was up and I needed to get back to my agenda. If I’m giving up American Idol to do my civic duties, then I’ll be darned if a politician is going to hijack my meeting.

Anyway, Valentine’s Day is coming up, a holiday that is about as much fun to endure as juggling baby porcupines for twelve hours. Single people feel like lepers, and coupled people don’t fare any better, buckling under ridiculous pressures to demonstrate their affections. It’s a stressful, horrible holiday. Damn you, Hallmark!

What I hate most about Valentine’s Day is the fact that the true message of love gets lost in pink hearts, chocolate, cut roses, “love coupons” and other superficial symbols of this day. That is why today we are going to dispense with all that stuff to answer the timeless question of the great philosopher Haddaway, who once asked “What is Love?” And of course, we’ll dissect his classic corollary, “Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.”

To prepare to present a coherent argument on the meaning of love, I spent hours researching on Google. It was pointless. There is no clear agreement. Love is kind. Love is patient. Love conquers all. Love is unconditional. Or love is simply an emotional manifestation of our drive to procreate. None of these things are useful, though. After much thinking, I am proud to present my definition of love: Love is the willingness to do stuff that makes someone happy, and to refrain from doing stuff that makes that person unhappy.

Remember when we were in school, and our writing teachers told us, “Don’t tell; show”? It is also a good lesson for life. It is easy to tell someone you love them, than to actually show them this love. Based on my definition, love is not a feeling, but rather the willingness, the volition, to decrease your happiness in order to increase another’s. That does not mean, however, that there is always a decrease in happiness on our part. But it is this willingness to self-sacrifice should the need arise that epitomizes Love. Love is not about symbols and expensive gifts. Anyone with enough time and money can buy roses and jewelry. Love is washing the dishes. It is talking about emotions and crap after a fight. It is removing the slimy hair from the disgusting bathtub drain. It is being empathetic while the other person complains about their day and not giving advice. It is about making the other person happy. Love is helping pick out a wedding dress with your fiancée. My God, do you know how painful that is? It’s like flossing with barbed wire. Did I enjoy being the only guy in the store surrounded by screaming women? No; that was awkward. Did I want to make Jameelah happy? Yes. That’s Love.

I miss the V-Days of our childhood, when we had to give a Valentine to every other kid in the class, even the lanky greasy kid with acne. As adults, things get more complicated, with society brainwashing us to think of love as an emotion, usually an earth-shattering, mountain-moving feeling of intoxication reserved for one person at a time. Valentine’s Day reinforces this ridiculous notion of objects and rituals as manifestations of true love. They’re not. Those of you who are planning candlelit dinners, poetry, champagne, etc., think, Is this really what makes your significant other happy? Or would cleaning the fridge, learning to use a Sonicare toothbrush so that the mirror is not sprayed with foam, and vacuuming that pile of toenail clippings you have in the corner of the carpet that you thought your lover didn’t see?

So, I hope that answers Haddaway’s burning question “What is Love?” He was right by saying “Don’t hurt me, no more.” Love should not hurt. It is, however, often annoying and inconvenient, as it requires us to endure discomforts in order to increase the other person’s happiness. But if we are not willing to do so, can we honestly say that we have love for that person? See you next time. I have to go do some vacuuming.

What do you think? Do you agree? Or do you think I’m off my rockers? Vote now. Here, play Haddaway while you decide:

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