Monday, February 13, 2012
Valentine's Day - Must I Really? (Again)
The post below orignally appeared on February 14, 2011.
Confession time: I hate Valentine’s Day. I have for… well, as long as I can remember. Oh, yeah, when I was younger I played along, but I never really liked it. Okay, hate might be too strong a word, but it’s the word that came to mind…
If you love me on February 13 and you’ll still love me on February 15, why do I need you to make a bigger deal out of it on Valentine’s Day? Sorry, but the whole thing just plain escapes me. Some might say that I feel this way because I’ve been married for nineteen years, but that’s not it. As I said before, I’ve never really understood it. I tried to. I really did. After all, I’m a woman, these kind of days are supposed to be important to me. Maybe it’s maturity, but I can finally admit that I really just don’t care about Valentine’s Day without caring if people judge me.
Maybe I’m just not the “romantic” type.
I don’t get all excited by receiving flowers. The truth is while flowers are beautiful, they just die. They begin dying the minute they’re cut. Actually, they begin dying the minute they bloom… Not that I would turn them away or not appreciate the sentiment behind them…
I don’t get all mushy over candlelit dinners. I prefer to see what I’m eating. Thank you very much.
Okay, I do like love songs, love poems, romantic movies sometimes - well, I’m actually pretty picky about those, chocolates, and sparkling wine, but I don’t have to have any of those just because it’s Valentine’s Day. And, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for me to enjoy any of the above.
Give me any of these things in the middle of September or July and it’ll mean as much, probably more, than if you give it to me on Valentine’s Day. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Give it to me on Valentine’s Day, and I’m likely to accuse you of giving in to social convention - of it not really being from the heart. Okay, maybe not out loud, but the thought will cross my mind. I was raised with manners, so I would likely just thank you and smile.
Before someone feels compelled to point it out, yes, I got married on Valentine’s Day. When people hear this, they always say “how romantic” with such sweetness in their voices I feel compelled to point out that it had nothing to do with the fact that it was Valentine’s Day while struggling not to roll my eyes. Honestly, I would probably purposely pick a different day if I had it to do over, but that’s life. We live with the decisions we make. It was simply the first day Loay and I could both get off work (Technically, I worked until eight o’clock that morning (night shift), then went to get married.) and have a few days following it to spend together. Now, how romantic is that?
My wedding took place in a lawyer’s office. He happened to be a justice of the peace. There were five people present: Loay, my now husband of nineteen years, Todd, his best friend, Lori, my best friend, me, the bride, and the lawyer who married us. We were required to have two witnesses hence the inclusion of Todd and Lori. I wasn’t interested in all the pomp generally associated with weddings. I wanted the wedding over with, so I could get on with life. Again, how romantic is that?
The idea of romance is sweet, but I think it creates way too many expectations and tends to let people down more often than not. People get so caught up in the idea of what romance is they lose sight of what love is. They’re not the same thing. Really, truly they’re not.
Romance is when you you’re blinded by hearts and flowers. Romance is when you overlook those things you don’t like because you’ve convinced yourself the person will change because now you’re in his/her life. Romance is when you show your best self always. Romance is when you work to make someone like you. Romance is doing things you don’t like to do to make the other person happy and pretending like you enjoy it. Romance is looking for that special someone who will save you from... whatever it is you feel you need to be saved from. Romance is reciting vows at your wedding you don’t believe because it’s expected and it sounds good. Romance is tearing up as you make promises without any idea what they really mean. Romance, in many ways, is akin to manipulation - sweet manipulation but manipulation nonetheless. Romance starts to feel false, contrived, and like a chore as time goes on. Then it either gives way to genuine love or it dissipates. Romance is at best a stepping stone to something better.
Love is when you see reality - the hard work that is a relationship - and you don’t run away. Love is when you accept the things you don’t like. Love is when you support someone as they grow but you don’t try to force your expectations on them. Love is when you relax enough to truly be yourself and neither person runs away. Love is when two people see each other’s imperfections and alternately laugh and fight about them. Love is when you can fight vehemently but know with confidence you won’t lose the other person over an argument. I’m not talking about violence. Violence is NEVER love. Love is when you stay when the fun, newness and excitement of beginnings gives way to the mundaneness of every day life. Love is knowing that no matter whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, exciting or boring, you will be there for one another. Love is that moment when you really see one another for all you are worth - the good and the bad - and you still decide staying together is worth the work it will take. Sometimes love is walking away when you know that’s what’s best for the other party involved. That’s the hardest kind of love, but it can often be the most real.
Romance is always temporary, but love is enduring and everchanging. Romance loses its strength in the face of adversity, but love grows stronger when it survives adversity. Romance can be shaken right off its foundation with the slightest quake, but love grabs hold and shores up its foundation when troubles appear. Romance is easy to recognize, but love is often disguised to the outsider and sometimes even to those involved.
As we grow throughout life, we come to recognize that our very definition of love changes - sometimes almost on a daily basis. We come to accept that that’s okay, sometimes even desirable.
I’m not saying all romance needs to be discarded because romance plays its role in bringing people together and helping people get to know one another. Give me a choice though and I’ll choose real love over romance any time, any place.
Perhaps that’s why the romance of Valentine’s Day just doesn’t hold any allure for me.
Perhaps it’s also why I don’t write romances…
T. L. Cooper grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted, five books of poetry, and a book of short stories. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, creating plant-based recipes, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.