Monday, February 13, 2012

A frank conversation with Valentine's Day

Yo, Valentine's Day...

I'm not down on love.

I'm not down on romance.

I'm not even down on Valentine's Day, per se.

What I'm down on is the pressure of Valentine's Day.

It is totally possible to have a perfectly lovely Valentine's Day. Yes. It is possible.

Just like it's possible to be happy in the face of pretty sucky circumstances.
It's possible to experience love on a day that seems to be designed to make most of us feel like our love isn't the right love.

Yes, Valentine's Day. You did hear me correctly. You are designed to make us all feel like losers in love. No matter what.

If we're single we're losers because we don't have someone to be with on your day.

If we're in a relationship, we're losers because our relationship doesn't look the one put forth in the glossies or the ads. Whatever it is, it's not enough.

I'm a total sucker for romantic stories and movies. So I've been wondering why just the idea of a day dedicated to love and romance paralyzes me so.

I think it's this idea of perfection. And one day. Like I have this one shot to perfectly express my love for Bob in order to feel like everything is right in the world. That I'm doing the right thing. That I'm with the right person and our marriage is on the right track. Right. Right. Right.


Too much emphasis on right only leads to wrong.

Because there is no such thing as "right."

There's only what we say is true.

There's only what we create.

But you don't emphasis that, do you?

It's in your best interest for us to feel inadequate because that way we'll spend more money on flowers, chocolate, lingerie and bling in order to feel RIGHT.

You set this up so well. You're so sly, VDay. You tap into that part of us that makes us desperate to prove how perfect our love is and how loved we are. You want us to spend as much money as possible as a way to go from feeling wrong to feeling right about ourselves. About our relationship. And in order to erase any loneliness we might be feeling.

In fact, you want us to feel bad about feeling lonely, don't you? As if loneliness itself weren't bad enough. We all get lonely from time to time, Valentine's Day. Whether we are single or married. We get lonely. Why? Because we are human. And loneliness is a perfectly normal and acceptable human emotion.

You want us to be terrified of loneliness. As though being lonely on Valentine's Day is the worst thing in the world. You want us to feel like we did in third grade when we were so fearful of being the only one in class who didn't get a homemade valentine. You want us to remember that feeling and organize our lives around making sure it never happens again.

You want us to think that if we are alone on Valentine's Day that means we will be alone for the rest of our lives.

But that's not true. Not at all. I mean, think about it. It would be like me believing that if I'm mad at Bob on Valentine's Day then I'm going to be mad at him for the rest of my life. And then I'll end up alone and we're back to the loneliness.

You know what I most dislike about you, Valentine's Day? 

That you make me feel incapable of adequately expressing the love I have in my heart for Bob.

Here's the thing. Of course I'd love to be able to show him how much I love him by surprising him with a fancy sports car with a big bow on top.

That'd be nice. He'd love that.

Or whisk him off to some tropical location for the weekend. He'd love that too. We'd both love that.

But I can't. Kind of have this debt we're paying off, see?

So what is it about you that has me want to spend money I don't have?

It's like I'm afraid if I don't then it means my marriage is missing something.

Really, Valentine's Day? Really? Is that how you want me to feel?



So, let me get this straight.

You're saying that if I spend more money than I can afford to buy my husband the perfect gift that makes him feel like he's 18 all over again
and I give him that gift with the perfect card with the perfect message
and I wear lacy lingerie just this side of naughty that makes my boobs look like I'm 18 all over again and I light candles
and wax my body
and tantalize his senses with perfume and aromatherapy
and I cook him a meal made for a man with sophisticated palate that also makes him feel comforted like he's at home with me... something like slow cooked short ribs and garlic mashed potatoes
and I bake him a chocolate cake with some sort of hot chocolate pudding lava center that we eat together and that has us wanting each other in a way that we haven't in a long time...
that he will fall in love with me all over again?

And in turn, he will look even sexier than Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise
and he will say all the right things in just the right way
and he'll give me those earrings I admired that day that we were walking by that shop in the neighborhood and I will love them more than any gift he's every given me not because of the earrings, but because it will show me that he was listening. He was listening.
and he'll hang on every word I say with the utmost sincerity.
and our conversation will be mutually fascinating like we are the two most fascinating people in the universe.
and he'll gaze at me as though I'm the only woman in the universe
and he will make me feel like everything is absolutely perfect and that I am without a doubt the most beautiful, accomplished, sexy, brilliant, powerful woman in the world.

And that is how Valentine's Day is supposed to be.




Ridiculous expectations?

But, Valentine's Day, that's not the message you send. You make it seem like that IS how it's SUPPOSED to be. And now you're suddenly saying I'm the one with ridiculous expectations?

Let's get real.

This is how it normally goes:

Every year. I tell myself and Bob that I don't care about Valentine's Day because it is a stupid and contrived "holiday" and I will not be caught in it's net of stupid expectations and childish fantasies about what real love is. I won't spend money in order to prove that our marriage is romantically on par with the best marriages in America... or what the magazines and movies say a romantically healthy marriage is. No. It's dumb.

We're happy. We're in love. We don't need to prove it to each other. We express our love every day. In different ways. In a look. In a kiss that lingers longer than usual. In our daily routines. The sharing of our lives. The way we parent together as partners.

We have nothing to prove to Valentine's Day.

We don't need to plan anything. Nope. We'll do what we always do. We'll eat dinner together as a family. We'll laugh at something adorable that Malcolm does. We'll get frustrated when Pablo begs for table scraps and even more frustrated when Malcolm throws his food on the floor for Pablo. We'll get frazzled when Malcolm screeches that he wants down and we don't get to finish our dinner.

Then we'll take Pablo and Malcolm for a walk. We'll relax. We'll look at the moon. The stars. We'll be in the moment. We'll give Mallie his bath, put him down to sleep, then snuggle up together and maybe watch a movie. Or just listen to music and talk. Yes. Perfect.

And it's settled. That's my ideal Valentine's Day. Being happy with my life exactly the way that it is. Yes.

But then something happens as you get closer, Valentine's Day. I panic. I don't know why, exactly. Maybe it's the amount of Valentine's Day e-mails I get (I'm clearly on too many of these lists) or the plethora of stories about how to have the perfect perfect perfectist day that proves just how perfect you are and how perfect your life is... or maybe it's the inordinate amount of conversation hearts I've consumed in the last 24 hours.

But, it happens.

I admit it. I allow you to suck me in.

I get anxious. I did it again, I think. I planned NOTHING for Valentine's Day and it's TOMORROW.

What's wrong with me?! What does this mean? Who am I? Am I a terrible wife? Boring? Lazy?

I worry that if we do nothing to celebrate, that I'll feel left out. I already do. I feel left out.

Why does everyone else get chocolate?
Why does everyone else get champagne, fancy dinners, a night out worthy or red lipstick, back rubs and sex?
Why do I have to be "above" it?

I want romance. I want love. I want lingerie.

I get desperate. I start thinking of ways to make this the BEST VALENTINE'S DAY EVER.

There's still time to rectify this. No problem.


Wrong! This is a problem. There's not enough time. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

I'm here to tell you this, VDay: This one day is not a telltale for our future.

Stop making yourself so important. Seriously. You need to stop.

Oh, I need to stop?

I'm the one making you so important?

You're just you? You're just a day. A day that someone invented. And I'm the one giving you power and meaning?

Damn it! I know. You're right. I already knew that. And yet. And yet... I let you suck me in for a second.

It's a good thing I sat down to write this blog post because who knows what I might have done. Most likely I would have made Bob's life miserable by comparing him to Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise. What man can compare to that?! I would have just continued to invalidate myself and my marriage.

Because that's what we do when we measure our lives up against unrealistic expectations.
 A "perfect" Valentine's Day, just like a perfect ordinary day, isn't something that just exists. It's created.

And it has nothing to do with how much money you spend or how delicious a meal is.

Just like happiness is not a static state of being, neither is romance or love.

Romance and love are created feelings/emotions/moments.

Circumstances have nothing to do with romance. The circumstances in life rarely line up to create romantic moments all on their own. More often they seem to conspire against romance. At least against our pictures of what romance is.

So what to do?

Appreciate the love in your life.

Laugh when the perfect meal you were planning goes up in flames.

When the cookies you bake him end up being literally, "The worse cookies in the world."

Laugh at yourself. Laugh with each other.

GIVE the gift of unconditional love to others.

If nothing else, Valentine's Day is an opportunity to practice being the love we seek in our lives.

How do you celebrate Valentine's Day? 
Do you hate it?
Love it?
Please share in the comments below!

Check out this blog post on the subject:

Valentine's Day and Emotional Spending - EducationCents

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