Interesting day, the old Valentine’s Day. The concept has been on my radar since elementary school, I suppose, when we all made heart-shaped pocket things to attach to our desks for people to put their Valentine’s cards into. Because the feelings of children are so easily crushed (maybe this doesn’t go away – maybe adults just hide it better), the rule was that you made a card for everyone in your class.
For whatever reason, instead of buying the boxed cards that were all little rectangles of the same size, my parents would always buy the books of valentines that you cut out and that had all sorts of shapes and sizes and messages on them. I remember spending ages every year agonizing about which ones to give to whom: obviously, the bigger ones should go to people I liked more. Sometimes the smaller ones had more meaningful messages though.
Oh the dilemma! I certainly wouldn’t want to give the wrong idea to someone I didn‘t like, after all. At the same time, it seemed an excellent opportunity to let my crushes know I was interested in them in a kind of code that kept me from actually having to say or do anything that would give me away. Of course, that was me assuming that everyone did the same kind of in-depth valentine card analysis as I did. In retrospect, I have my doubts.
Once I got the valentines I’d received home, I’d start organizing them by a range of increasingly important criteria. First I’d alphabetize them by sender. (As you do.) Then I’d arrange them by attractiveness of card. Then I’d rearrange them by how much I liked the sender. Then, I’d start analyzing the messages on the cards and trying to figure out why that particular person chose to give me that particular card and what it meant about what they thought of me.
I think I might have been kind of an intense little kid.
As an adult, I have different but equally complex feelings about Valentine’s Day. On the one hand, my pretty strong cynical streak sees this day as an opportunity for the card-makers, florists, chocolatiers, jewelers, lingerie stores, and restaurateurs to boost revenues between Christmas and the wedding season. And I have a knee-jerk tendency to rebel against that kind of thing. Why should I be romantic just because some marketers say so? Screw that. February 14th, I’m picking a fight with my husband; that’ll show them.
On the other hand – Love, Hearts, Flowers, Cards, Jewelry, Chocolates, Lingerie, Dinners Out! I love all that stuff. And why the heck shouldn’t we have a day to celebrate love and romance and the people we care about? I mean, we celebrate the late Queen Victoria’s birthday, and how is that more worthy? (Not that I am knocking Victoria Day. I am happy to not go to work on any holiday you want to throw at me.)
Who is Valentine’s Day for, anyway? I know single people tend to hate it. I suppose the prospect of a secret admirer could be fun though. For new relationships, I can see there being a lot of stress attached to it, as there seems to be a pretty wide variety of expectations linked to this one, ranging from a nice card to an offering of Significant Jewelry. And if you think that relationship might be a keeper, there’s the knowledge that you are setting precedent that will need to be upheld in the future, if not exceeded.
I actually think Valentine’s Day has the most value for relationships that have been around for a while. Now, I guess I’m a bit of a romantic, as I truly I believe romance has a place in every day of the year. It’s not a perfect world though. Stress, tiredness, and bad moods can get in the way, among a thousand other things. And honestly, over time, it can be easy to forget to make an effort, to maybe take for granted the people who matter the most to you.
So if there’s a day out there that can provide a jolt out of that lull, well great. I’m all for any day that says, “Hey you. See that person next to you? You like this person. A lot. That’s why you’re with them. Maybe you should do something nice to show them that you think they’re swell.” Of course I’m for that – let’s have one every Thursday.
Hopefully all of you, my lovely readers, are lucky enough to be reminded regularly of what you mean to the people you love, and are sending those messages right back. If that’s the case, Valentine’s Day maybe just isn’t that big a deal for you. But in case you’ve forgotten to show the love lately, here’s your chance. It doesn’t need to involve jewelry or flowers or any of that; in fact, avoiding that stuff might make you feel a little less manipulated by the many people who want you to think your love can be measured in dollars. But make an effort of some kind. You know they’re worth it.
PS. Ladies, you are not off the hook here. Don’t make the guys do all the work. They like to be appreciated too.