I love my wonderfully magnificent husband. He loves me right back. Today, however, I will not be receiving anything heart-shaped from Kay Jewelers. We will not be spending $250 on dinner at a restaurant where we typically eat for less than half that price. Although it is entirely possible that I will gorge myself on chocolate treats (this is essentially known as “Thursday” in our house) and while it is fundamental to our marriage that we demonstrate love openly and frequently, it feels forced to do so specifically on Valentine’s Day. Aside from the fact that the Holiday originates in the veneration of a Saint (which is not really our thing), Valentine’s Day has never seemed terribly significant in our lives. Perhaps it is this way for many married people, couples that have been together for a while or couples that came together a bit later in life. I said, A BIT. But before you decide that I am the exact opposite of fun or light-hearted, please know that I have certainly done the whole shebang for Valentine’s Day at various points in my illustrious romantic career. I have coordinated and participated in elaborate spa getaways, decadent meals, surprise concerts - you name it – as well as the giving and receiving of delicately packaged items. I do also recollect from my dating years the buzzy thrill of a person asking you out for Valentine’s Day - a sure sign (much like the first road trip together) that the relationship has bumped up to the next level. And we haven’t even touched on my experience working in retail flower shops for days on end to prepare endless vases with floral expressions of love. I have been there. I have done that.
It should also be noted that I am in full support of the tradition of children crafting Valentines and learning to formally display affection for others. I think it is ridiculously sweet to introduce any mode of creative correspondence, particularly for children growing up in the age of the iPad mini. When parents and teachers of young children are sensitive about distributing classroom Valentines, it presents a genuine opportunity to learn about inclusivity. I recall concrete lessons from my early elementary years about making each of my classmates feel exceptional. For many little ones, the template for empathy comes from this kind of social experience.
I think my primary issue with Valentine’s Day is that like with so many things in our culture, we have decided (somewhat arbitrarily) that this is the single day each year that we publicly acknowledge the love we have for the people around us. I am much more concerned with keeping my relationship fresh and conveying appreciation during the daily slog. It is not tremendously complicated to throw money at one of the many clichéd offerings on February 14th. The real labor of love, in my view, is to make eye contact and tender a bear hug during the morning greeting; to remember to ask your partner how the big meeting went today; to not finish all the ice cream yourself. Enduring love means being the one who gets up before dawn with the baby because your cohort doesn’t “do mornings.” It means not freaking the fuck out even though this has got to be the 794,375th time you have picked a ball of socks up off the floor. It means never, ever, ever checking out mentally or emotionally.
I haven’t picked out a card or made reservations anywhere. I will be wearing regular, nondescript, cotton undergarments all day. But I hope he will consider my abiding commitment to nurturing our life together a most treasured and heartfelt Valentine.