February is such an unsexy month. School is beginning to get in the “swing of things” if you’re the cheery type. More realistically, it’s slapping you in the face with exams and deadlines, and making you cry softly into your Ben & Jerry’s. On top of this, the weather — I’ll spare you more whining — can be described in three words: nasty black slush. It gets in your way, on your pants and into your not-so-waterproof boots, making it impossible to wear anything remotely attractive (unless you’re secretly Blair Waldorf and have four layers of cashmere under your trench coat — in which case: way to shove it in February’s ugly face).

If you’re me, it’s a slow trek to the gym in the mornings, sweatpants stuffed into salt-stained boots and running shoes held aloft for balance. I make it my mission to hop on a treadmill closest to any TV showing Bravo, the lone drama network among a dozen ESPN screens. Without sound or even subtitles, it’s a stretch to call it watching TV — really I’m just making up the story while glammed-up housewives and sweaty chefs whirl about the set. My favorites are the shows where body language is crucial and words aren’t necessary to know what’s happening — specifically, dating shows. Or perhaps better known as the greatest romantic feat of the 21st century: a play-by-play of “real” people falling in “real” love, for the entertainment (and even inspiration) of viewers everywhere.

Our culture is obsessed with the idea of love — falling in it, hating it, making it and falling in it all over again. With every sarcastic column on how to plan the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day “fuck love” party, there’s an equally popular Tumblr feed called “Relationship Goals,” displaying the kind of gooey couple pictures that would make Nicholas Sparks melt in his seat. Films like “The Notebook” teach us that our soulmates are out there somewhere, pining away and building the future of our dreams. “Hitch” dials back the romantic factor a bit, admitting that maybe our soulmates aren’t already in love with us — but if we play the game right, we can win them over in just three dates.

Then there’s the world of TV, where drama and reality clash, and the line between true romance and acting the part becomes a hot, complicated mess. On Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker,” now in its eighth season, Patti Stanger is the real-life version of Will Smith’s character in “Hitch” — as CEO of the Los Angeles-based Millionaire’s Club, she offers her professional matchmaking services to the rich and single. Technically, Stanger doesn’t require her clients to be millionaires, but she charges $10,000 for an in-person lunch date. For the more money-conscious, a one-hour Skype chat is just $3,000.)

Once a client comes to the Millionaire’s Club, he or she is matched with various singles in the area that meet specified criteria (yes, “young and hot” are favorites among these love hounds), then the couples arrange to meet for several elaborate dates, testing the waters before one — hopefully — clicks. Stanger says, “We have an extremely high success rate; nearly four out of five clients get into a relationship with our service.”

So really, everyone is happy — the lonely, too-busy-to-date millionaires land relationships, Stanger and her Club rake in clients and cash and viewers nationwide get to watch the whole process of love unfold before them. My question to the audience, then, is if they really believe it. Do people watch shows like “Matchmaker” and ABC’s “The Bachelor” earnestly, living vicariously through fairytale-esque dates, because they trust the pair’s onscreen confessions of love? Or are they the more cynical “anti-Valentine’s Day” types who watch for the trainwreck encounters, like sports fans who secretly cheer for NASCAR collisions?

I’d like to think it’s some of both. Maybe our feelings about love are like our feelings about February snow — beautiful and pure at times, then dirty and inconvenient at others. And like it or not, we all have to live with it.

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