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Posts Tagged ‘Valentine’s Day’

Hearts. Conversation.

11 Feb

Well, it’s early February, and you know what that means. That’s right! Time for my annual screed against Valentine’s Day!

Now, before you write this off as the rantings of a bitter, pathetic, lonely loser who sits alone at home on Saturday nights over-thinking every aspect of her life, well… um… you’d be mostly right. But don’t write me off yet. I’m actually not so bitter. All that other stuff pretty much applies, sure, but bitter, I am not. I’m like the Yoda of loneliness.

Though I do still hate Valentine’s Day. And those feelings are not limited to times when I am alone. Last year I had a real, live boyfriend. One who actually lived in the same zip code as me. A living, breathing, romantic, piano playing, music writing, hand holding, enjoyed cooking me dinner kind of boyfriend, who once, while on a date, spontaneously and completely without guile said, “You look magical.” Melted into a puddle on the spot, I did. And I still didn’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with him. Seriously, I had to go back and refer to my calendar from 2014 to see what, if anything, we did on February 14th. Turns out we ran a midday 5k at NAS/JAX, and then I vaguely remember going to lunch together. Where I ate salad, for goodness sake. Obviously not a celebration. And then my kids had their two best friends sleep over, so I made ice cream sundaes and watched bad tv in the other room, while occasionally telling five children aged 9-6 that they might try lowering their speaking voices since we were getting noise complaints from the next state. So, I guess that was sort of a celebration of love, of the maternal kind. But I didn’t need to turn February 14th into some kind of event, or even be with him, for boyfriend to know he was my valentine.

So that was fine. I don’t understand the obsession with Valentine’s Day. I mean, sure when you’re a little kid, and there is the excitement of coming home from school with brightly colored scraps of paper, scribbled on by your classmates, and candy of all varieties, I can see the appeal. But once you get past the stage of making a Valentine for every single person in the class so no one gets their feelings hurt, Valentine’s Day can become less a symbol of love and happy feelings, and more about the stress of doing it wrong, and the disappointment when it inevitably goes astray. I remember the cheerleaders (or the Key Club, or some other school-spirited organization) selling carnations on Valentine’s Day when we were in high school. There was nothing worse than that day. I mean, I’m sure it was nothing but, well, sunshine and carnations, for Suzy Popular, who got more carnations delivered every class. Flowers and more flowers from boys who wanted to date her, boys who had already dated her, boys who just liked looking at her, her best friends who wanted to be her, etc, etc. But for people like me, and so many other misfit nerds, it was just another day of dashed hopes. It was torture for girls like me, the tomboy who pined after the boys who never even knew I existed, or worse, asked me for advice on what color carnation they should purchase for another one (or more) of my friends before chucking me on the arm or ruffling my hair. Sigh. And I liked high school, really. There were enough of us misfit nerds that I had people. I think it was probably a lot less angsty for me than some, even if I did acquire the nickname of Elvis the very first week. Seriously, I truly did like high school. But I hated that damn carnation day. Because no matter how cool I wished I could be, no matter how much I wanted to be above it all, I wanted one of those damn carnations! From a boy! Who was at least potentially going to fall in love with me (if he wasn’t already)!

And now that the commercialism of the holiday has reached an apex, it’s just rife with more opportunities for pressure and disappointment. Jewelry ads everywhere – nope, he still isn’t going to propose! Candy available in every store – but you’re off sugar, because you feel like you have to be on a diet to fit into that new dress you bought to wear tonight! A seven course prix fixe menu available in that fancy restaurant that your boyfriend saved for months to take you to – but you don’t actually like half of the courses, and you’d never eat veal! He thinks you want something fancy, you wish you could have ordered pizza or gotten Chinese take-out, and eaten it on the couch in an outfit that didn’t require Spanx. He buys you long-stemmed red roses, when you would have rather had wildflowers, or better yet, a new book by your favorite author. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of women who really, really want jewelry, and red roses, and fancy meals. To them that is the ultimate expression of love from a man. But this expectation of what the celebration of Valentine’s Day is “supposed to be” or “should” look like is ridiculous. If you must celebrate, and if you are truly using this mandated day as a springboard to celebrate your love, then celebrate her (or him). Make it not about what the card companies, and the florists, and the candy manufacturers, and the savvy restaurants tell you it should be. Make it about your partner, your lover, your girlfriend or boyfriend, your spouse. What do they love, other than you? What are their interests? What are your shared interests? What do you love most about them? What do they need? Pay attention. Look for clues. Ask for specifics, if you need. Have a conversation. Heart to heart. But don’t make February 14 about Valentine’s Day, make it about your valentine. Make it less about the holiday, and more about the person. The one you love. The one you want to love. The one you admire.

Lest you think me a total humbug, I am not above appreciating a silly Valentine’s card – I especially like the new trend towards humorously ironic, or blatantly steamy cards. I think hearts are sweet, and some shades of red, and especially dark pink, look really good against my skin tone. And I do have a particular affinity for conversation hearts. (For the reason why, see my post from February 2013.) So when in Target with my children on Monday, purchasing the brightly-colored scraps of paper they’ll be handing out to all of their classmates on Friday, I bought a large bag of conversation hearts to share with them. And I naively thought they’d be similar to the conversation hearts of my childhood. I mean, I expected that perhaps “Call Me” might have changed to “Text Me” – because who actually calls anymore? And maybe “Marry Me” would have dropped out entirely in favor of something less partriarchally oppressive. But I was not prepared for what I saw when I opened this bag. First and foremost, the majority of them were sloppily misprinted. Not just smudged, but print was off the edge of the candy. Very few had their phrases stamped dead center in their edible red ink. And the ones that were legible? Oy. I can’t even. And those weren’t even the sayings, those are just my feelings on the candies I found. First, there is a conversation heart with only a picture of a moustache. A moustache? Because nothing says hipster love like a handlebar moustache. I fully support the idea that full conversations can be achieved without words, but that’s not a conversation at all! And then there was “Pugs and Kittens”. WTF is that?? I mean, I get it, it’s supposed to be some humorous take on “Hugs and Kisses,” but it failed. Surprisingly enough, the “Marry Me” was still present, though I’m assuming now the proposal is gender-expectation neutral. And apparently a New England bag got mis-routed down south, because “Wicked Cool” is not a typical phrase in the land of sweet tea. There are a few of the classic standbys: “Let’s Kiss,” “Hug Me,” Sweet Pea” (now that’s a land of sweet tea kind of saying!), and “Real Love” (despite the picture on the front of the bag depicting a conversation heart that says, “True Love.”) But my 7 year old daughter actually found the one conversation heart I can really get behind. The one that was apparently meant for me. She came up to me with it last night, loudly claiming it was her favorite, she was going to save it to eat last, and she hoped she got more of them. It simply said, “Let’s Read.” Now that’s true love.

The boyfriend is still real and live, but he no longer lives in the same zip code. No more hand-holding, no more cooking me dinner. It’s been quite awhile since he’s written me any music, and I haven’t felt magical in a long time. However, even if he were here I wouldn’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day in some special way. But since February 14 is on a Saturday night this year (what a boon to the economy!), I also decided that I didn’t want to pathetically sit home alone like I do most Saturday nights. Not when my favorite little renovated theatre, Sun-Ray Cinema in Five Points, is dusting off one of my favorite movies for a one off showing on Valentine’s Day. “Amélie” is the story of a quirky dreamer, a lovely soul who wishes to spread happiness, and along the way finds a little for herself. One of the best compliments I ever received was when a friend said that the character, Amélie, reminded her of me. So, on the day when Hallmark tells us that we should be part of a couple, it will be good to revisit an old friend. Someone who makes me laugh and smile, and feel good that a beloved friend once saw me as a quirky dreamer. And the good thing about about making that visit alone? No one to distract me while I’m reading the subtitles.

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Peaked too soon

14 Feb

The honest, and oft-repeated, truth is that I don’t like Valentine’s Day. And I blame Adam Jenkins.

Adam was my best friend at Scott Mill Lane preschool. We sat next to each other during carpet time, we roughhoused on the playground, we even had play dates at each others’ houses. He was my best friend. In kindergarten we had a Valentine exchange. And despite the fact that was 34 years ago, I remember it as if it were yesterday. Because I grew up in an age where you were allowed to give Valentines to whomever you chose, and were not forced to include every single person in the class (even if they were a paste-eating, wedgie-giving neanderthal) our exchange took place one student at a time. All the other students were to sit with their heads down on their desk while the person went around and stuck Valentines into the construction paper envelopes that were taped to the back of our chairs. I was peeking through my folded arms as a very earnest, slightly embarrassed-looking Adam approached the teacher and started whispering to her. I closed my eyes as she glanced my way, afraid I was going to get into trouble for peeking. As he went about the business of delivering Valentines to their proper recipients, Adam came around the front of my desk and slid something towards me. Despite the fact my head was still down, my eyes squeezed tight, I felt it bump against my arms. When we were finally allowed to lift our heads I saw it, a small, heart-shaped box filled with conversation hearts. And just like that my best friend became my boyfriend.

So, to you, Adam Jenkins, I say, “Thanks for nothing!” No, I’m just kidding. Here it is, 35 years later, and I still remember his name. All because of that tiny box of conversation hearts. And there hasn’t been a Valentine’s Day since that could even touch the sweet romanticism of that day. Because isn’t that the ideal way for love to evolve? When your best friend singles you out, lets you know that you mean more?

And that’s why I could never get behind Valentine’s Day. It is a day fraught with unrealistic expectations. It is a holiday tailor-made for disappointment. Because, as the multiple Valentine’s Day related memes featuring Admiral Ackbar have pointed out, “It’s a trap!” Can you trust your girl when she says, “You don’t have to get me anything for Valentine’s Day”? Do so at your own peril. But then there are girls like me who truly don’t want you to buy flowers or candy. Yes, if we were dating I’d want you to acknowledge the fact that Hallmark insists you show your love on February 14, but a post-it with a heart drawn in red Sharpie will do. I just can’t stand the idea of forced romanticism. Bleech. It’s false. I’m sure there are people to whom a mylar balloon, a cellophane-wrapped grocery store bouquet, and a Whitman’s sampler is the most perfect expression of love. But not me. To me love is taking your garbage can up to your house because I don’t want you to have to do it when you get home from work still wearing your suit. Love is a picture texted because the view makes you wish that person was sitting right next to you. Love is watching a movie I raved about, or reading a book that made me cry, because you want to better understand my obsession/point of view. To me love is thoughtfulness expressed every day, not just on February 14. Now, that said, if it takes a Hallmark holiday to force your hand, to push you over the edge, then I can see the redeeming quality of using it as a jumping off point. But if you’re already in a relationship, then it should be acknowledged, sure, but overall just treated as another day filled with love and respect. Any day of the week I’m going to buy your favorite sour gummy candy when I see it on sale. But I’m not going to pay full retail for it on February 13.

Love is rightfully expecting reciprocal respect, even during the other 364 days of the year.

So, wherever you are Adam Jenkins, I hope you’re happy. I can’t see conversation hearts without thinking of you. And I can’t stomach forced, saccharine displays of false affection when you made me smile with a simple, surprising gesture, an expression of love from one friend to another. It’s sad really. I peaked too soon. Reached my romantic pinnacle at the age of 5. Oh well,fingers crossed for Arbor Day…

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Patron Saint of Bee Keepers

11 Feb

Here’s something you already know about me: I’m an unapologetic, unabashed romantic. I cry. Easily. At books, movies, real life. It’s one of the reasons I love airports so much. And why it was so much better when you could escort a traveler to, or greet them at the gate. Reunions, partings, those raw moments of life, played out in a public forum. Love, tension, anger, relief, fear. All the possible emotions of a separation or reunion. Simple gestures of love, a sloppy grin, tear-filled eyes, a tenderly taken hand, a token tucked into a bag or a beloved’s hand as you part from that last embrace. The one where neither wants to let go first. The frantic eyes searching for and then blazing with happiness when they light upon the object of their affection. The dropped bags as they rush into a loved ones’ arms.  Again an embrace where neither wants to be the first to let go. So, yes, I am a cliché. A die-hard romantic. I will go see “The Vow” and I will cry freely. I am physically incapable of changing the channel when “Last of the Mohicans” comes on TV. I have sat up in bed, a Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult novel across my lap, sobbing so hard that I have trouble catching my breath. And I have found myself tearing up in the grocery store for witnessing the simple gesture of an octogenarian lightly resting his hand on the shoulder of his wheelchair-bound spouse.

But here’s something you might not know about me: I hate Valentine’s Day. Hate. It. With a passion. To me there is absolutely nothing romantic about it.

To me the most romantic gesture is the one that is not expected or dictated. I don’t want an ornate card with a saccharine love poem that you picked out from the store. I’d rather you jot something real on a post-it note. I don’t want to get dressed up and have dinner in a restaurant packed with other couples, the air thick with expectations, many of which will be disappointed by the end of the evening. Instead let’s order pizza, sit on the floor, watch a slasher flick so I can bury my face against your chest during the scary parts. Instead of buying me flowers at the grocery store that will begin to wilt and die the minute I unwrap them, why don’t you just pick up some Slim Jims. If you truly loved me, you’d know how much I love those disgusting things. Or maybe bring me a fountain Coke, or perhaps a cupcake. That’s a perfect way for you to express genuine affection: here’s something I know you love, and I don’t care if you get fat.

Life is full of opportunities to express affection and love. To be thoughtful. That to me is the ultimate expression of affection: thoughtfulness. Something that can and should be exercised every day, not just on February 14th. I don’t want to be anyone’s Valentine. I want to be their partner every day of the year. I don’t want you to be sweet and romantic on Valentine’s Day just because you think you’re supposed to. If that’s not who you are, it rings false.

You know I looked it up. Again, in my slipshod internet “research” sort of way. Apparently there is a lot of confusion and disagreement over who Saint Valentine really was. In fact, there are no fewer than three men recognized as Saint Valentine. Of course most of us have been told the tale that he was a Roman priest who was such a fan and supporter of love that he was willing to go against the state, to marry young soliders despite a military ban on marriage. (Apparently the Romans believed that a single man, one without a wife or family back home, made a more fierce warrior.) And that’s a great story. Not sure if it’s enough to spawn the Hallmark holiday during which an estimated billion cards are sold, but who doesn’t love a great, rebellious love story? Then there’s the story about a priest named Valentine who was jailed and fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Before his execution he sent her a love note signed, “From your Valentine.” Which is ironic. That the first “valentine” was sent by a man. Since it is estimated that women purchase over 85% of all Valentine’s cards. Saps that we are. But to me, the most humorous Valentine’s Day find was on the website catholic.org. There it is said that Saint Valentine is “the patron saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people.” Hmmm. Yep. Sounds schizophrenic to me. So, maybe he is the right guy to stand as a symbol for love after all. It’s a condition that makes most people crazy. Or at least act crazy. And I’ve often thought bee keepers were crazy.

So, for all you lovers out there, I hope you don’t have a good Valentine’s Day. I mean, I hope February 14th is a nice day for you, don’t get me wrong. But I hope that instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day with some overblown romantic scheme, that it’s just another day of the year. One among 364 others where you do something that truly expresses your love, something that can be genuinely appreciated. Like take out the trash just because it needs to be done.

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim