The Completely Factual, Semi-Sarcastic Account of My Reconciliation with Valentine's Day: A Love Story
What is love? Baby don't hurt me...
Today, for the first time in my life, I willingly walked down the month-too-early Valentine's Day aisle in my local large chain grocery store. I was not repulsed by the red and pink, nay; I was drawn in by the faint scent of commercialism and chocolate-covered, peanut-encrusted, marshmallow-filled, heart-shaped promise.
In my humble 22 years on this round planet, I have never once enjoyed the Hallmark holiday. I've had strikingly dull Valentine's Days over the years; not even my shoebox wrapped with Wishbone wrapping paper (coolest time traveling dog ever!) could save me from the mundane activity of trading glitter-infested valentines with impersonal notes like "You're cool!" and "Keep it up!" When I became aware of the cosmic annoyance known as hormones, Valentine's Day was a source of anxiety. I often spent hours biting my nails to the quick hoping that So-and-So was gonna give me that one token valentine in the pack with the words "I like you" emblazoned across a holographic unicorn. I never got a unicorn.
Before you waste your energy feeling bad for my preteen self, please consider that puberty manifested in me like the first transformation of Teen Wolf. Even I wouldn't have dated me.
Thankfully, nobody forced me to stay in lower school, so on to High School I went, strengthened by the vision of a boyfriend who would enjoy Broadway Musicals and sit through 10 Things I Hate About You and recite Shakespeare to me on a tire swing. But again, I had little success in that department, dating the theatre. I don't mean to say that I was in any way the theatre bicycle, if you will, I mean that I lived and breathed theatre! I did 8 plays a year, non-stop! Who has time for giant stuffed teddy bears and giant painted banners and giant boxes of chocolate??? Not actors, I'll tell you. Not this one, anyway. My luck changed for the better, but my hatred of February 14th remained.
I won't claim some kind of higher understanding about the meaning of Valentine's Day; I still think it's a crock scheme to boost the economy once a year. According to the flawless and completely reliable source, Wikipedia, there is no confirmed record of a Saint Valentine and therefore no earthly reason why we should celebrate him. There are three martyrs named Valentine, none murdered for a particularly romantic reason, and none that can be pin-pointed to the holiday. Even though it was established as a holiday by a pope back before the earth's crust cooled, it was removed from the Roman calendar in 1969 because, quote: "Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14." This is a direct quote from page 117 of Calendarium Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Œcumenici Concilii Vaticani II Instauratum Auctoritate Pauli PP. VI Promulgatum (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, MCMLXIX). Yeah. YOU read it. It took HUNDREDS of years for the Catholic church to remove the day dedicated to veneration of a man with no identity. If he was the patron saint of love, I'd be all over the holiday like white on rice, but I have to put my foot down sometime. Right?
Oy. Well, SOMETHING made me walk through that aisle today.
In this brief interlude,
I'd like to discuss the asinine color combination of Red and Pink: Yes, they are in the same color family, but Red is the pure base for Pink. I could condone a Reddish-Pink/Light Pink match, but seriously, who is for this:
I'll say it. I am NOT for this.
Color theory aside, I found myself compelled to wander this very day into the stacks of candy and stuffed animals. What has changed since my scarred childhood?
Me. I've changed! Of course I have, I've grown up! I've dyed my hair probably 50 times, gone to college, changed my major twice... I am a different person than that little curly-sue who stuffed hand-made friendship tokens into elaborate pink and red valentine's day boxes many moons ago.
In spite of being with a rather wonderful person for V-Day this year, I'm just not attracted to the idea of giving material gifts on an obscure day. That's what anniversaries, birthdays, and the Christmas (Hanukkah/Solstice/Kwanzaa) season are for! I am thrilled not to sit in front of my tv alone, in my sock monkey-print pj's watching Pearl Harbor with a tub of Ben & Jerry's, and I'll celebrate that I was fortunate to find someone who likes science fiction as much as I do, but I just don't know if I can bring myself to buy a plush Snoopy: Cupid Edition and give it to him seriously.
As I wonder in amazement at the confectionary displays, my traitor hand pauses over a .99 cent red mug with pink hearts, but snaps back like a rubber band. My other hand reaches for a light-up heart wreath. My eyes survey the heart-shaped muffin tins. I am drawn to the tzotchke (I totally spelled that right without looking it up) like a moth to a flame! I held a greeting card in my hand for a full 3 minutes, adorned with the words 'I' and 'Love' and 'You' across a banner held by two sparrows.
My theory? Love made me immune to the spoils of Hallmark; It was the antidote for V-Day's alter-ego: Single's Awareness Day. I can walk into the V-Day aisle with my head held high, not tempted to buy a family-sized bag of Kit-Kats and eat the whole thing by myself in the bathtub.
What's my real problem with Valentine's Day?
The trivialization of Love. We say it to our friends, our dogs, our breakfast, a much-needed glass of wine, a stranger who holds open the door, someone who does us a favor... So what IS this 'love' thing that we're supposed to be celebrating?
Well, to be uppity and cosmic about it, I think that it's simply existing on the same plane as a person worthwhile. Someone who knows you better than you know yourself, who likes you even when there's mucus dripping out of your nose or mascara running down your face, who you'd feel lost without. In some ways, I want there to be a word invented that means more than Love because it has almost lost it's gravity.
When I say 'I love you' to a stranger, it means 'thanks for holding that door, my arms are full.'
When I say 'I love you' to a friend, it means 'you're nice and I'd like to keep you around but only see you sometimes, when we're both in a good mood.'
When I say 'I love you' to the person I really meant it for, it means 'thank you for putting up with my entire personality and laughing at my terrible jokes, for letting me cry all over your shoulder in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (seriously, thank you), for sharing food with me, for letting me freak out at you, and for freaking out at me when I am not being true to myself.' How in the world do you put all that into one word? But maybe that isn't what this holiday is about! Maybe V-Day isn't for you as the couple, but for everyone else to share in this person that you've found.
As I left the Red and Pink row, I spotted beautiful tulips in the arm of a rather anxious-looking man. He asked me if I liked tulips and I said that I did (because I do, definitely my favorite flower). He smiled and held them out in front of him in affirmation. I told him that she'd love them, and he corrected me: "I think he'll love them." We both smiled and I felt a lump in my throat. This man is celebrating this person that he loves. I realized at that moment: THIS is the real meaning of Valentine's Day. Not impressing everyone else by your romantic prowess or smothering your partner with a giant purple bear, but being able to express that love. We are in a love revolution, if I may be so bold, especially with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; this holiday is for the expression of your right to love whoever you love. So wear those giant heart-shaped glasses, buy that chocolate, give that giant stuffed animal and celebrate your right to love.
I'm not much for the stuffed animals, but I'd take a Valentine's Day puppy. Or some tulips even.