The February kiss-off 

Once upon a time there were three little girls. One of them hated Valentine's Day so much she was checking into vacation flights out of the country on Feb. 14 to a place where the air wouldn't stink with pudgy cherubs and red-foil hearts that reminded her that she was, if temporarily, single.

Another of the girls saw it as a day on which people got twisted up over things that she considered meaningless, so it was just like every other day.

The third girl -- let's just call her me -- was flexible. Some years, Valentine's Day was an excuse for gross romanticism; other years, it was a spring gushing poison. Sometimes it was just a cipher. Like any moody girl, I can go from zero to 60 and back in a second, about anything, at any time, for no reason. Life is exciting when your own head is always full of surprises.

So, while I love gushy love like so many do, I'm a swing vote on Valentine's Day. But since tradition, obligation and the money-grubbing card-candy-diamond industries will invariably push you toward this contrived holiday, we've found a couple of things to relieve your feelings of lonesome isolation if you hate it like the plague and would prefer to run away from it. Not everyone is in love with love, and here are a few little things to prove to you that -- even though you might be single this year -- you are definitely not alone.

Sour mix

The big red heart-shaped box of chocolate is as symptomatic of VDay as a burning sensation is of VD. Then, for the cheaper romantics, there are those little hearts with the sayings on them, which you can either eat or use to draw a hopscotch court on the sidewalk. These are the Marshmallow Peeps of Valentine's candy -- not good, but purchased out of duty and tradition, though Peeps are considered high kitsch, which the hearts are not (and, as I just learned, if you put Peeps in the microwave, they grow to be the size of a ripe mango).

The brilliant minds at Despair Inc. have found a not-so-sweet antidote to those little hearts. They're called "Bitter Sweets ... Valentine Candy for the Rest of Us." ( They're the same as the regular candy hearts, but instead of "Be Mine," or "Kiss," they sport 15 messages including "We Need to Talk," "See Other People" and "Love 2 Stalk U." A four-ounce tin goes for $6.95 and "tastes like five different types of chalk," according to the website, which is filled with enough vitriol about the holiday to make those in misery feel like they have company.

I'll call ya

Nothing undercuts the noxious taste of oversweetness like a nice big shot of vinegar, and there's a service in New York that will happily remind you that -- despite what FTD and Russell Stover might want you to believe -- some overtures of love are not accepted. Some are rejected.

If you want to ditch somebody but don't have the guts to do it yourself, the New York Rejection line could do it for you ( "We do the rejecting," the website says. "You spend time doing things you enjoy, like ... dating attractive people." When the undesirable party asks for your number, you give them 212-479-7990. A recorded message, which you can hear on the website, says: "Unfortunately, the person who gave you this number does not want to talk to you or speak to you again." It then offers options such as, "If you want to hear a sad poem written by a kindred spirit, press 2."

Sadly, we haven't found any local rejection service. But just assume that if a non-New Yorker gives you a 212 number, you don't need to make the call. Unless you want to hear a sad poem by a kindred spirit.

On guard

If your dance card isn't full these days, "The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex" (Chronicle Books) will make you feel better about not being attached and hence not courting a potential freak, heartbreaker or heart breakee. Chapters include tips on how to tell if your date is a con artist or ax murderer, how to escape from a bad date via a bathroom window and how to treat a black eye. There are also excuses for all occasions: "I'm not drunk enough," "My turtle died," "They're supposed to test them at the factory."

Whatever your relationship to relationships, this book is an absorbing, funny and useful read (clever illustrations help a lot, too). Whether or not you ever need to know how to spot phony breasts or fake an orgasm, you definitely need more wit in your day, so check this one out.

So maybe Valentine's Day isn't your favorite, but you can still enjoy it. If all else fails, at least go out with your other single friends. Or, reserve all the tables-for-two in posh restaurants you can under different names so that when all the sickly sweet couples call, every place will be booked. Just because you're not coupled doesn't mean VD can't be fun.

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