I once dated someone who, in my opinion, didn’t observe Valentine’s Day to my satisfaction. Being my direct and tactless self, I expressed this displeasure to him. If you ever want to throw water on the embers of a dying relationship, initiate a transatlantic correspondence by snail mail pointing out a 20 year old male’s lack of romantic initiative.
To my immature self, my anger was justified. Valentine’s Day, as any Hallmark card can tell you, is a day for lavish romantic gestures. Doesn’t every chick flick make this clear? Sure, in elementary school we gave Valentine’s to everyone, but we all knew it was just practice for the Big Leagues: monogamous love. Valentine’s Day, I knew even as a third grader, was about having One Valentine. This Valentine would shower me with roses, chocolate, well-articulated love letters and a surprise outing between Feburary 13th and 15th. As a young girl and later as a young woman, this formula seemed very simple.
Photo credit: Beth Fisher
In the days before Valentine’s Day, I hear laments from friends both single and in relationships. Joke and not-so-jokes are made about lack of dates, buying themselves chocolate and boycotting red. The angst around Valentine’s Day is quite sad.
I think it’s time we all just be honest with one another: Valentine’s Day is a bit of a farce. For the most part, those of us who are dating/engaged/married are not observing Valentine’s Day with quite the oopmh single people might imagine (or that we might imply to one another on social media).
Of course there are the exceptionally romantic men who represent .02% of the population who booked hotels and restaurants months ago, who carefully noted the colour/size/style of That Thing their wife/partner wants and have it neatly wrapped and ready for February 14th. There are also the couples who have discussed their expectations and decided who’s planning what, who’s buying what and making a nice date out of the day.
But guess what: a large majority of People In Monogamous Relationships find Valentine’s Day just as baffling as People Not in Romantic Relationships do.
I can’t tell you how many wives I’ve talked to who have sheepishly told me the same thing: their fiancé/partner/husband doesn’t really “do” Valentine’s Day. He may be the forgetting variety, the procrastinating variety, the boycotting variety or the I-love-you-everyday variety. But for whatever reason, the majority of couples I know are not clinking their glasses over $50 meals and staring into one another’s eyes on Valentine’s Day.
Here’s the crazy part though: we all think everyone else is! Single people think In Relationship People are set: they have Valentine’s for life. And In Relationship People think other In Relationship People are out having a way better time than they are. AND Veteran In Relationship People think Single People are living the dream–carefree and having romantic dates with mysterious strangers.
Hold the phone.
I’ve mentioned before that some holidays, namely New Year’s Eve, can make you feel like everyone else is out having a better time than you. Turns out, social media in general has this effect on us. Sociologists call it “friendly world syndrome“. The point is, before we grab a bag of chocolates and have a pity party or seethe against our partners for not planning a more romantic evening, let’s all take a deep breath.
Yes, my sister cut her potatoes into hearts.
For Varun and I, Valentine’s Day has fallen by the wayside. Not because we’re not still in love, not because we don’t value couple time or romantic gestures. Simply because February 14th has no significance for us a couple. We don’t feel the need to plan a date because it’s a certain day of the year. We may have other plans or papers to write or have just gone on a fabulous date the week before. Love, it turns out, is a million moments throughout the year.
Friends, let’s all give ourselves a little grace this year. In Relationship Friends: Instead of wishing our spouses/partners/special friends into being romantic in the sense that our culture dictates, let’s appreciate the myriad ways they do show affection and love. Instead of waiting all day for that text/flowers/surprise, let’s show love to everyone we meet and make plans and have fun and forget about what we think Our More Romantic Friends are doing. Non-Coupled Friends: Instead of buying the lies media dishes out, know that you are deeply loved and appreciated.
Last week, a friend sent an email to the ladies at our church asking who wants to hang out on February 14th. Ever the social psychologist, I was curious who would respond to a ladies night on Valentine’s Day. I was pleasantly surprised as replies flooded in from women from all walks of life—older, younger, married, single, kids, no kids. No one seemed to mind that it’s the sacrosanct Day of Love. Someone wanted to hang out and a bunch of people said, Sure!
So, what are you up to Friday?
Photo Credit: John Rafferty
P.S. It was awesome to see so much enthusiasm after my last post. If you’re new here, stick around! Besides ranting about my opinions on adoption and romantic holidays, I post cultural observations, share Varun’s hilarious comments and basically write whatever I feel like.