I have to admit that I'm not much of a romantic. I refuse to watch The Notebook and try my best to avoid any books, movies, and shows of that particular genre. I do not consider myself to be cold and unfeeling, but I simply do not believe it is healthy to indulge the notions proffered by these stories. In my experience, love is unpredictable, painful, and complicated, with romantic love being the most wild variety. AND if we choose to measure the "love" in our lives by romantic heteronormative relationships, we stand to miss out on a LOT in life—a lot of LOVE that is.
I am strongly opposed to the way we celebrate St. Valentine's Day. It irritates me to no end that couples fight over this arbitrary milestone. It troubles me that people are made to feel "less than" because they don't have a special someone. I have a hard time believing that the only people who deserve happiness and love are those "in a relationship" on social media. It seems like the unwavering mission of Valentine's Day is to remind those of us lacking romance that life just isn't as good. Like we are alone and broken.
The true origins of this holiday are widely debated, but without a doubt they have NOTHING to do with romance or love for that matter. Let's not forget that this "holiday" was rebranded in the early 20th century to do little more than stimulate the economy.
I wasn't always so bitter and jaded. There was a time when the fleeting nonsense of Valentine's Day didn't make me bristle up with tension.
Flashback to elementary school...as a young child, I LOVED Valentine's Day for two reasons: first, because my mom and I would make Valentine's for my class and there was always extra candy, and second because it was the only day where it was acceptable to wear pink and red together. Plus, even in the early 1990s, teachers mandated a progressive equivocal approach to this holiday. The rule for exchanging Valentine's in class was that you had to have one for everyone. You would come to school with treats to share and end up with just as many to take home. The world seemed fair and just, and quite delicious. These were simpler times.
Flash forward to my mid-late twenties...I finally had a steady Valentine, but some ideological differences kept us from celebrating this or any other holiday. His family wasn't into gift-giving or celebrations, so it was no surprise he too, saw them as a waste of time and money. Things I took for granted, like birthday parties and summer vacations; things I thought everyone just sort of did, were foreign to my partner. Like many things in our relationship, he and I just were not on the same page here. I tried a couple of times to make it special without spending money, but he would only get upset. Valentine's Day, and all the other holidays, became a dreadful reminder that a gifting is a two-way street. It isn't enough to give a gift, it has to be received, in order to be truly meaningful.
Ironically, our five-year relationship ended, due to irreconcilable differences, a few days before Valentine's Day in 2013. It was messy untangling our lives, and I moved in with my parents to get back on my feet. The morning of Valentine's day came and I was still a bit raw from the death of my relationship as I headed to work. I did not realize what day it was as I sat in the daily production meeting, absently staring out the window.
I noticed a car pull up in front of the building—well I heard it before I saw it. To my horrified astonishment, it was a car I recognized. My ex appeared and proceeded to decorate my tiny Fiat 500 with bows and hearts, flowers and candy, a stuffed animal. It was as if he purchased the entire Valentine's Day crap section at Walgreens. The commotion garnered the attention of others in the meeting, and we sat together and watched as this desperate man made a last ditch effort to save our relationship on Valentine's Day.
I was beyond mortified, but more than that, I was damn mad. In the years we were together, this dude could not even produce a Valentine's Day haiku. Now after a pretty volatile break-up, he thinks $40 worth of themed garbage is going to make everything right? No. Just, NO! How dare this guy come to my office and make a spectacle of me? I couldn't believe it.
After he drove away, I marched out there, collected all the stuff, and walked it right to the garbage. And of course, I had to entertain questions from my coworkers for the rest of the week about what happened and how I felt about it. To make matters worse, most of them thought I was frigid for rejecting what they perceived to be a sweet gesture. Appearances can be deceiving, am I right?
After hearing about my theatrical day at work, my wonderful parents did all they could to salvage things. Mom and Dad got me a sweet Valentine's Day card and ingredients to make home-made pizzas after work. We celebrated the "day of love" as a family and had such a super fun time that I forgot all about my embarrassing morning.
Every year since then and probably each year from now on, they are my sweet Valentines. It's accurate, I mean, they are the people I love the most, and in my eyes, the people most deserving of my appreciation and affection.
There are as many different types of love as there are reasons to celebrate it. We love our families and friends. We love our ZUMBA instructor and our favorite hoodie. We love the way that one guy at Chipotle is a little heavy handed with the guac. All of these instances foster good feelings within us. They make us feel a little special and help us treat others with more kindness.
Devoting an entire holiday to focus on one specific kind of love seems a bit exclusive. Truthfully, it wasn't until I didn't have a "valentine" anymore that I began to appreciate all the different ways I experience love in my life. Deepening the relationships I hold dear and learning to love MYSELF brings me more joy, warmth and fuzzy feelings than any date I could go on.
Valentine's Day should be about sharing love! Not just with a particular type of person, but with all the people. Just like elementary school, if you're not prepared to share with everyone, keep it to yourself.