February 14, 2008
Happy Valentines Day?
Valentine's Day is a terrible holiday and I am totally against it.
For one thing, you don't get the day off work, which makes it a crappy excuse for a holiday. But the worst thing is the forced, commercialized nature of it. It pretends to be a celebration, but just seems to put all kinds of weird pressure on the coupled and the uncoupled alike.
Singles often say they feel extra lonely and marginalized, even those who are generally quite happy and content with their unencumbered state.
And even many happily married couples seem to be gritting their teeth a bit. The gals often end up feeling under-appreciated. Because isn't your guy's Valentine's Day performance supposed to be some sort of test of how much he loves you? That's what all the commercials say. Like the pressure to be skinny or eternally youthful--even if you know perfectly well the message is bogus, it's still hard not to be affected by it.
(So, like how come you ended up with the guy who never remembers it's Valentines Day at all, or who'd rather celebrate with pizza and a night in front of the tv? Where's that thoughtful hubby who sends flowers to the office where all the other girls can admire them? And how come other women get those broad-shouldered dudes in black tie who spirit them off in a limo for an elegant dinner, then coyly pull out a $20,000 diamond necklace? Where the hell is your limo ride and diamond necklace, huh?)
As for the men... I'm guessing no matter how diplomatically they've learned to hide it, many must secretly dread the whole thing. Culturally, Valentines Day is not a gender-neutral, equal opportunity occasion. It's a test. If you are a straight couple (one gathers from the tv commercials) the Boy's role is to Come Through with the Goodies. The Girl's role is to Cross Her Fingers and Hope He Doesn't F*ck it Up.
So yeah, I hate Valentine's Day... in theory.
But, well, the Crab and the Lobster do celebrate Valentine's Day anyway and it's pretty much always awesome.
[Sorry, some of you probably didn't need to hear that today].
I think same-sex couples have it a little easier on Valentines Day--we're pretty much left out of the cultural and media conversations. DeBeers has not yet, to my knowledge, tried to put pressure on Susie to spring for an expensive diamond bracelet to prove her love to Pam. The 1-800-Flower people are not bugging Steve to make sure he remembers to send a bouquet to Jonathan on this special day. The advertisers leave us the hell alone. Usually that bugs me, but it this case, I feel like it's actually a favor.
However, there are still plenty of miserable gay people on Valentines Day. Why are the Crab and Lobster so lucky?
Partly it's because we've customized the celebration. There's no pressure--it's just one more chance to say "I love you" and have a really nice dinner out. (Which we may actually have the night before or the night after, when it's easier to get reservations. We don't give a crap about the actual date). We don't do the candy or the flowers anymore, or even cards, because after 17 years, we've done all that stuff enough already. We don't need to make any sort of special statement, other than: you're amazing, I love you, how about steak tonight? It may be coincidence, but other couples we know who enjoy the holiday also tend to take a fairly low-key approach.
(Actually, I think the main reason I still enjoy Valentines Day so much despite all my objections is because the Lobster is an incredible person and a perfect partner. So what's not to celebrate? And yes, we belong to that rare and profoundly annoying species: the blissfully happy couple. Really, I'm not kidding, you best avoid us--we're totally nauseating to be around.)
Anyway, to me, what's wrong with Valentines Day is pretty much what's wrong with our view of romantic relationships generally: we celebrate the superficial and barely acknowledge the deeper stuff.
Just look at how so many people select mates: The sweetest, most reliable, thoughtful guy in the world is considered a "loser" if he's not financially successful. The funniest, kindest, brightest woman in the world is considered hopeless if if she's got a few extra pounds or wasn't blessed with a pretty face. Fortunately, not everyone is so short-sighted--but a lot of people are exactly that superficial. The poster children for "love" are always young and pretty and rich, as though those qualities have anything at all to do with the success of long-term relationships.
So my advice? Screw the arbitrary over-hyped Hallmark version of Valentines Day. If you have love to celebrate, celebrate it every day and any old way you feel like it. And if trading heart shaped boxes of candy once a year makes you happy, then do it and have fun!
Just don't let a bunch of corporate hucksters set your expectations for how love is supposed to be shown. The flower and candy and diamond merchants don't give a hoot about your relationship--they just want your credit card number.
What if you are single on Valentines Day? Try to ignore those ads that imply everyone else out there is (a) coupled and (b) happy about it. Sure, a few of us are, but in most cases, a recent study says couples actually find each other more irritating over time. (Not true of other relationships, apparently, like with your friends or your kids). Just keep in mind that a lot of those guys you see dutifully heading home with huge bouquets of roses are actually feeling kinda pissed off at the gals they're bringing 'em home to.
And if you've got some extra unused love on a day meant to celebrate that emotion? Well, how about spending some on yourself. Strangely enough, you may find you plenty left over for other people you care about too.
How about you folks--do you tend to enjoy Valentine's Day, or do you just wish it would hurry up and be over?