Column: Love is admitting you can’t pick a good Valentine’s Day movie

John Kass, Chicago Tribune
·5 min read

We’ve been married for almost 35 years. She’s the love of my life, the mother of our sons, and my best friend, despite my two bad habits:

On rare occasions, I might leave my socks on the bathroom floor. And I just can’t seem to find a good Valentine’s Day movie. In fact, I’m the king of picking the worst Valentine’s Day movies of all time.

The only one I picked that she really liked was “Random Harvest” about amnesia and love, and then more amnesia and more love, with English accents, fly-fishing and tweeds. I highly recommend it. But you’ll need two boxes of tissue.

“‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ is not a Valentine’s Day movie,” Betty informed me just a few minutes ago. “Anything with Genghis Khan is not a Valentine’s Day movie. Movies with killer knights during the Black Plague, serial killers, drug cartels, and spies are not Valentine’s Day movies. You remember the movie you picked that ruined Valentine’s Day?”

Yes, I said in a tiny voice.

“No further comment,” she said.

While searching for the perfect Valentine’s Day movie, I multitasked and became involved in a Zoom meeting with great fly fishermen. One fellow told a Valentine’s Day story about the old fisherman and the frog:

The old fisherman in the story walked down to the bank on creaky old knees. As he cast his fly, he heard a tiny voice, a little frog at his feet. The old fisherman picked up the frog. It asked him for a favor.

“Please kiss me on the lips,” said the frog. “If you do, I’ll become the most beautiful woman in the world, the woman of all your fantasies and will cherish and love you. Just kiss me on the lips and you won’t regret it.”

The old fisherman pondered the offer. Then he unzipped his jacket, put the frog in his pocket and resumed fishing for trout. “Hey!” shouted the frog in a pocket-muffled voice. “Hey! What are you doing? What’s wrong? Why won’t you kiss me on the lips?”

The old fisherman unzipped his jacket, held the frog and looked it in the eye.

“Thank you for your kind offer,” said the old fisherman. “But I’ve always wanted to have a talking frog.”

He put it back in his pocket and kept fishing.

“Oh great,” Betty said when I told her. “Instead of a movie, we’re going ice fishing for Valentine’s Day? Or to the pet store?”

She casually, almost too casually, mentioned “Doctor Zhivago.” I countered with an Omar Sharif double feature. My choice involves a young nomad who unites the tribes and hangs out with James Mason playing a Chinese ambassador.

“Genghis Khan again?” she said. “I’m taking Zeus for a walk. Bye.”


Columns are opinion content that reflect the views of the writers.


She does love “This Is Us.” She might accept a “This Is Us” DVR marathon, but then I’d probably have to blow my head off. It’s the ugly cry thing that gets me. The show is all about ugly cries.

One character, Randall, is played by the fine actor Sterling K. Brown. Randall is always crying ugly. And when he ugly cries, every bone in his face dissolves and his head becomes a mixture of meat putty and salty tears. All the characters have that boneless feature when they cry.

The last time I saw Randall, he was standing in a Louisiana lagoon after midnight, naked, and ugly crying about something. I made the big mistake of saying I hoped a gator would grab him.

“Leave the room,” she said. “Leave now.”

So, I asked readers on Facebook to help.

“Do the ugly cry,” said Karen Ussher Dante, “if that’s what Betty wants. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Buck up and pay your dues,” said Una Copley Goldie. “Fake cry and she won’t ask again.”

If I fake it, Karen, she’ll know. We’re married.

“There is a great romantic movie that I know Betty would love,” said Marilou Wilschke. “It’s called ‘Manchester by the Sea.’”

Been there. Done that. And you know it, Marilou. Stop.

“Man up and sit by her side,” said John Cap Jr. “I have often sat with my wife while she watched a movie or TV show that made my skin crawl. I just lean back and fall asleep.”

Dan Nicholson tried to explain it via the old Celtic sin eaters.

“It’s called Hate-Watching,” he said. “It is penance in the internal vernacular. Just be quiet, tears rolling, and ‘eat it’ Without her, you aren’t you. Just don’t post ugly cry-face pix.”

One reader suggested I write Betty a Valentine’s Day essay.

“You make a list of special places you’ve visited in the city over the years,” said Vic Geneva. “Write down why it’s special. Then take a drive and tell her at each spot, your special memory of that spot and what it meant to you. You can live off those points for a few years.”

You mean I take her to Jim’s Original for a Polish at 4 a.m., then drive to Grant Park where we broke up, then to the sushi place on Clark where she ate the entire lump of wasabi by mistake and pretended it didn’t bother her, then to the church where we were married?

But Vic, I already write four columns a week. That would really make me ugly cry.

Betty loves “Doctor Zhivago.” So it’s “Doctor Zhivago” she’ll get. You might want to watch it too.

What America needs especially now is to rewatch a Valentine’s Day love story about what happens to a liberal poet when the Marxists really take over.

Just don’t forget the Champagne. And the tissue.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — at

Twitter @John_Kass