Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

My Secret Valentine’s Day Shame

on February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day

This secret shame has haunted me for years, but now I think I have the courage to confess it publicly. I know this will come as a shock to many of you, and for all the years I lived in denial about my true feelings, I am sorry. I can no longer pretend. I’m ready to admit it now.

I like Valentine’s Day.

Please don’t judge me too harshly, all of you who knew me from my college days when I protested against “V” Day. You know how passionately I defended those members of our society marginalized by this annual ritual of romantic love. You remember those February 14ths past when, in solidarity with my boyfriendless sisters, I dressed in black and donned my “No Hearts” armband and proudly announced my refusal to buy into the created-by-Hallmark-and-Whitman’s-and-FTD-glorification-of-fake-sentimentality. I mean, why do we need this holiday? Are we likely to forget to cherish the one we love if we’re not reminded once a year? Shouldn’t our significant others be taking us out for romantic dinners and buying us flowers and jewelry as a matter of course? Of course they should! Well, I wasn’t going to be taken in by this transparent attempt by corporate America to force people to spend their hard-earned money unnecessarily! No way!

Of course, my militant stance was buoyed by the fact I never seemed to have a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day either. Every February 14th I seemed to be between boyfriends – either because of a breakup just before, or a new relationship was just emerging and couldn’t stand up to the V-Day scrutiny, or I was just in a dry spell. I started to wonder if it wasn’t a plot by every would-be boyfriend to keep from having to buy me flowers – the timing was just a little too convenient. I mean, I had boyfriends at Christmases and on my birthdays. I had dates to all the important events in college – Inaugural, Homecoming, etc. Just never on Valentine’s Day. It really pissed me off. I remember sitting in the lobby of my dorm watching those long white boxes containing dozens of roses – white, yellow and red – come flooding in, carried by my boyfriended dorm mates or, (and this was almost too much to take), being delivered by a florist. Then I got to see the moment of arrival, when some giddy girl would open the box and wave the offering around the room to her admiring audience. Pretending to be happy for these girls (some of whom were my good friends on every other day of the year) was just too much, so I opted to boycott the whole thing.

I’ll fast forward through the years between college and my first date with my eventual husband (because nothing romantic of note happened – at least nothing I’m willing to share). It was early February 1995 when he finally asked me out. Valentine’s Day was the next week. Great, I thought, here we go again – boyfriend in sight but still no flowers for Amanda! And I was quite right; the whole candlelight dinner and box of chocolates thing was way too much pressure for a second date. I knew it, but I was disappointed nonetheless, and it didn’t do anything to change my attitude about “that stupid holiday”. As it turns out, though, that was the last February 14th that I would spend alone. Ever since, my wonderful, thoughtful, sweet husband has brought me flowers and a beautiful card and we have gone out to dinner at some lovely spot and celebrated our love to the full.

Oh the hypocrisy! Well, yes, you’re right, and at first I admit I felt badly about my shameless embrace of all things Valentine. But over the years I’ve come to look at it in a way that has given this annual money grab more substance.

Valentine’s Day isn’t like other kinds of non-religious occasions that center on human beings. Celebrating an anniversary is an acknowledgement that two people have managed to stay together for another year, which is no mean feat these days. Birthdays are the celebration of an individual life; the completion of another year and the looking forward to the next. But I’ve come to see Valentine’s Day as not being about the individuals involved. Instead, I think it’s about the third thing that exists when two people decide to commit themselves to each other – the relationship itself. As anyone who is or has been in a long-term relationship knows, the relationship has a life of its own that must be nurtured by the individuals involved. It has its own history. It exists both within you and apart from you, and sometimes in spite of you. It is a thing that should be acknowledged and protected if it is to survive. I talk about “my marriage” as if it is a living thing, separate from myself, and it is.

Now that I am in a committed, long-term relationship, I have come to view Valentine’s Day as more than just a commercially driven, shallow enterprise. I now see it as an opportunity to hold my relationship up to the light and admire it anew.  It is an opportunity for my husband and I to pay homage to this third entity that lives with us, the thing that over the years has come to be much greater than the sum of its parts. It isn’t about the flowers or the romantic dinner or the gifts – they are just the ritual sacrifices we offer to the god of Romance. Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the “Us” that is more than just “You” and “Me”.

My friends, I hope you will forgive me for my former hypocrisy and jealousy. I have mended my ways, and I now fully and joyfully engage in all the silliness and manufactured sentimentality that Valentine’s Day has to offer. So, what do my husband and I have planned for this year?  I don’t know, we haven’t talked about it yet. It’s this Friday, right? The restaurants are going to be mad houses . . . Ugh.

We’ll probably just stay home and watch a movie.

***********

Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

photo credit: Shenghung Lin via photopin cc

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