In honor of Valentine’s Day (i.e., today), New York‘s Intel recently asked readers to “write down all the sex you’ve had and we’ll share it with the world.” Classy! And pretty far away from the spirit of Valentine’s Day. And banal. In 1983 or thereabouts I started counting everyone I’d “been” with and came up with a tally of around 175. I meant it deep down each and every time, but that was the ’70s for you — the greatest era for nookie since the days of the Roman empire. And so what?

Here’s a much better question: “Write a very short story about The Big Love Affair That Got Away.”

The late Sydney Pollack said over and over that happy-ending love stories aren’t that satisfying. What moves people are ones about love affairs that never quite work out. The former lover you can never quite get out of your head or heart, etc. I could tell a story-and-a-half in that regard (an affair with a married journalist that lasted 2 and 1/2 years), but some other time. Or maybe never.

But everyone has a sad story like this. Or two. Valentine’s Day is about the heart, and that usually means The Hurt. And “happily ever after,” by the way, is probably the most dishonest, disconnected-from-reality phrase ever dreamt of in the history of literature. “Moderately semi-contented ever after” is more like it in the case of longterm “happy” relationships. I’d rather reminisce about the Really Great Relationship that never quite came together.

Cue all the HE readers who are extremely happy in their marriages and who pity me for having been unlucky in love and so on. Let me just say in advance that I’m not saying it’s not good to be happy or content, but that it’s more moving to think about the really exceptional man/woman whom you thought was Really The One but then something went wrong.