Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Thoughts on Valentine's Day - Yay or Nay?

Valentine's Day. It has exploded in stores. Hearts are taped to windows. Red and pink cards are flooding the shelves. Cute little cupids are everywhere and some kids are decorating little card boxes to take to school to collect cards from their admirers. Love is in the air... or is it? I think there is also pressure, feelings of obligation, unrealistic expectations, and anxiety mixed in there. It's different for everybody, but honestly, I'm not a huge fan of what it has become. Here's why:

For those in relationships, romance should be often and by choice, not obligatory. What kind of example do we set when we say that Valentine's Day is THE day for romance (Aren't there others?), and it must be over the top full of roses or chocolates or expensive jewelry or all of the above? Some of us spend exorbitant amounts of money that day. I better spend at least this much because I know ______ is spending this on _____, and I don't want my Valentine to feel less valued. We stare at cards for hours reading every line as we try to imagine our lover's reaction. Will it be what they want to read? Is it too much too soon? Is it too little? Maybe it should be funny or is that insensitive? Maybe your partner doesn't even care about cards, and unbeknown to you, they either recycle them or put them in a box in the closet because they'd feel guilty throwing it away.  Obligation.

We should strive to love each other more every day and to express that love in a language our partner understands. I asked my husband, "What do I do that makes you feel loved?" He told me, "When you cook for me or do something like bring me a drink without me even asking for one." Maybe you think that's funny. I think it shows that he acknowledges the effort I put into meals for him and that doing something as simple as bringing him a drink without him asking shows that I was thinking about him. Have you ever asked your partner what makes them feel loved? Everybody has a different love language (From: The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary D. Chapman). How different would relationships be if we all took the time to figure that out and show how much we love each other with a "Valentine's Day" every month or every week!?

For those who are single, there's no need to be reminded by the world. So, now single people feel the need to compensate... to show the world that they are totally fine being single by dubbing February 14th as "Singles' Awareness Day" or whatever you like to call it. We buy gifts for ourselves and gifts for our best friends instead. Or maybe we make it about a niece, nephew, or other member in our family to switch the focus of the day away from ourselves...or just to have somebody to love. Maybe you are the type that just avoids people and plans a night at the pub with the girls. Seriously. How many times have you been asked, "Are you celebrating with anybody special tonight?" when they know damn well that you are not? Pressure.

For kids it's a day full of possibilities. I fully support a head full of possibilities but maybe not those that are put into their heads by adverts on TV and unrealistic movies. I think teachers now require kids to bring a card for every member of the class on Valentine's Day, but I remember when they didn't. I'll never forget that day in second grade when I made my box and Valentine's cards for lots of people. I watched in class as kids open their boxes and dumped piles of cards onto their desks from all their admirers. I opened my box excitedly and expectantly. I had three. THREE. Two from friends and one from a person who was just really nice to everybody. I was shattered. As I think about it now, I realize how much we allow Valentine's Day to determine our worth to others or how desirable we are (or aren't... at least that's how it can feel). Unrealistic expectations.

I'm not saying you shouldn't celebrate or enjoy it. My husband brings me a chocolate bar (or two) and a bottle of wine each year, and I cook him his favorite meal. That's what we like. I'm saying that instead of being persuaded or feeling forced into something this Valentine's Day...instead of getting anxiety... celebrate love. Celebrate your love for yourself and your love for others, and do it in your own love language or in theirs (if you have a partner). If you love chocolate... have some! If your partner loves dates, go on one. If you both (or you and all your friends) love Star Wars, put on your Jedi and Darth Vader onesies, break out the lightsabers, and plan a marathon complete with take-out. Make it your day full of what you love.

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