Friday Night Date Place: Surviving Valentine’s Day

Alright, I am beginning this blog with the ultimate of disclaimers: take anything I have to say with a truckload of salt. I am the guy who once timed a break up to start on December 9th (the day before my then girlfriend’s birthday) only to conveniently reconcile with her on February 15th.

I remember when I wrote:

Men, I’m taking a stand against this Hallmark endorsed day of male oppression. That’s right, someone’s got to do it. That’s right men, stand up, cry out with one voice: “We are not going to participate in this made up holiday for the sake of going through the motions of showing some token affection as if this gets us out of anything during the rest of the year. We know that this so-called holiday is just another opportunity for us to screw up and we refuse to be the objects of scorn presented to your girlfriends as Exhibit A in the case of how men are worthless.”

There’s a lot to rail against when it comes to Valentine’s Day. I can talk about how this pretend occasion is a ritual of memory of those around us who have our affections and it is about taking the time to honor them. On the flip side, I can talk about how no one wants gestures of duty, least of all, your significant other. I can talk about how the idea of romance, and I’m talking about this false story we build up around the ideas of what love should be, is a cancer of expectation in relationships. Or how it reduces and objectifies love. You better have done something.

I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care how much you and your S.O. have talked about it and what kind of blood oaths the two of you have made to one another. If your S.O. … okay, let’s be real … if your girlfriend goes through the day with nothing from you (this only gets compounded if while at work, every woman around her is inundated with gifts from thoughtful significant others), wrap yourself in a blanket and enjoy the frozen tundra your relationship will be for the next few days.

It doesn’t matter if every significant other bands together to boycott the occasion, there will always be one to ruin it for everyone else. Be that one.

Here’s the bottom line: you better have done something.

Ideally, you should be living your relationship life in such a way that Valentine’s Day is only a formalized occasion to encounter the ritual of remembrance. The spirit of Valentine’s Day should be part of the fabric of your relationship. I don’t mean continual gifts, I mean continual remembering and gestures of affections. They don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be flashy. They only have to be a thoughtful token of affection and remembrance.

You can’t just say things like “ain’t a roof over your head and food in the refrigerator proof of my love?” And a day after the fact blog on the topic doesn’t count. I’m just sayin’.

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Once More Into Valentine’s Breech

Men, I’m taking a stand against this Hallmark endorsed day of male oppression. That’s right, someone’s got to do it. That’s right men, stand up, cry out with one voice: “We are not going to participate in this made up holiday for the sake of going through the motions of showing some token affection as if this gets us out of anything during the rest of the year. We know that this so-called holiday is just another opportunity for us to screw up and we refuse to be the objects of scorn presented to your girlfriends as Exhibit A in the case of how men are worthless.”

See? I’ve grown since that blog or at least, I’d like to believe so. I’m older, have matured, and most of all, have realized that after nearly seven years of marriage, I’m stuck with Valentine’s Day.

Unlike Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, the traditions of Valentine’s Day predate the greeting card industry forcing fake holidays down our throats. Oddly enough, it has it roots in pagan traditions (in a feast called Lupercalia to honor Lupercus so that no harm would come to the shepherds and their flocks), was Christianized (or mythologized) by the actions of St. Valentine, and then romanticized by Chaucer (though, having read Chaucer, I can’t claim there’s anything romantic about Middle English).

We’ve come a long way from marking the occasion of seeking the affections of women by giving out handwritten messages of admiration citing Valentine’s name. Sadly, handwritten notes have largely given way to greeting cards because, as you know, we are incapable of surmising our own thoughts and feelings – at least, not with the poetry, wit, and beauty of nameless card scribe #12. I’d daresay that it is the endless marketing and commercialization of the holiday that leaves a bad taste in people’s mouth. However, for me, the day comes back to the idea of remembrance.

I am all about remembrance. We, as a culture, have notoriously short memories and notoriously hard hearts and heads. We need rituals to draw our imaginations back to certain things, to stir our affections, to serve as reminders to what is important in life. Valentine’s Day is a ritual of memory for my wife and for those around us who have our affections. It’s an opportunity to take the time to honor them.

It shouldn’t be a matter of fulfilling some sort of “affection duty”. No one wants duty, especially those who are supposed to own our affections. They want our hearts, our choice to love them. With that in mind, once again this year I am going to make a choice to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Once again I’m going to honor she who guards my heart.

I know, it’s early, but I have to mentally gear up for this. I still ain’t buying Sweetist’s Day though. I had to squash that would-be tradition early.

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