Friday, February 13, 2009

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Valentine's Day?

“If you were a pill, I’d take a handful at my will
And I’d knock you back with something sweet and strong”
– Paul Westerberg (The Replacements) “Valentine”

Valentine’s Day is probably the only dualistic holiday where our society permits us to love it or loathe it. There are hundreds of lists counting the top love songs and just as many lists of anti-love longs. We can go out to dinner and a movie with that special someone or stay at home and watch slasher movies instead. Valentine’s Day is the only holiday you can protest without criticism. As much fun as preempting Thanksgiving Afternoon Bowl games for a Jason Voorhees slaughterthon might be, this may cause a slight protest from the rest of the guests. Christmas also requires a certain stereotypical behavior: go to relative’s house, eat, be nice to some people you don’t like, eat more, open up gifts, go home and pass out. Little variation is permitted these aforementioned holidays. Valentine’s Day you can pretty much do what you darn well please.

Earlier this week, I was discussing with an esteemed colleague about bring the old “inner Linus” out of retirement to combat the commercial forces driving many of us on Valentine’s Day. Although a romantic at heart, my friend despises the concept that we are supposed to spend a day’s wages to prove to our significant other we care about them. Dozen roses: check. Decent bottle of wine (no Boone’s Farm!): check. Box of chocolates with multi-colored mystery fillings: check. Overpriced dinner at a restaurant where the special is more than likely something you can cook yourself: check. Obligatory Hallmark card: check. Expensive gift given because you will be in the doghouse if you don’t buy one: check. Checkbook with no money to write checks: check. It’s easy to see why anyone’s “inner Linus” is clinging to their security blanket for protection. Valentine’s Day can definitely have a smackdown with Halloween as our most commercial holiday.

I decided to leave the “inner Linus” alone after seeing a handful of people going home today with Valentine’s cards and flowers. I realized many people use Valentine’s Day as one of the few occasions to express overt affection for their loved ones. It was heartwarming in a Capra-esque way to see an older gentleman waiting in line to purchase a card. Many relationships don’t last a year, let alone a decade or five. Although somewhat ritualistic, those who give a Valentine gift someone after being with them for so long is a celebration of affection, commitment, and one that is sadly diminishing. It’s great imagining a box in this older couple’s house containing all the Valentine’s cards they’ve given over the years, which is a great reminder to their children and grandchildren of a couple’s eternal love for each other.

A few years ago, I was going through a box of my Grandma’s pictures. I’d pull one out and she would conjure a memory vivid enough to have happened yesterday. I eventually came across a letter my late grandfather wrote to her before they were married. Written during the Great Depression when jobs were scarce, he had moved away from her in hopes of earning enough money to come back, marry her and start a family. Needless to say, he did. I’d like to think this type of devotion exists within many of us today. A willingness to sacrifice short-term fulfillment to build the foundation for a lifetime of memories. The concept of buying a manufactured home in a cookie-cutter development with a quaint front yard and children playing in the street may seem a little silly to us, but for a generation that lost nearly everything, it represented hope of a better life. If flowers, a card or a steak dinner helps anyone remember what’s really important in life, by all means, do it.

That said, if you are stressing yourself worrying about Valentine’s Day, hoping the florist will still have fresh roses at noon, the restaurant won’t be too crowded or if your new dress won’t impress, take a step back. This ain’t what love is about at all, Carrie Bradshaw. It’s about enjoying the moment when you realize a feeling is more than emotion but rather an infection. It’s about looking each other in the eye of a new morning and just saying “hi.” It’s about silence that is intimate, rather than uncomfortable. It’s about listening, understanding and cuddling. If you’re fretting about going out, stay home. Send the kids to Grandma’s house. Get to know each other better. Instead of dancing to a band, enjoy the movement of your eyes when they gaze into your lover. Make some popcorn, have a food fight and remind yourselves that you’re still two goofy kids on a first date.

Like Christmas, Valentine’s Day can also be a day of sadness, a reminder of those we’ve lost or wish to be closer to our hearts. It’s hard to be alone or feeling lost when so many are celebrating the enigmatic concept of love. This is probably why slasher flicks are so popular this time of year. I’d like to think most of us aren’t out in the woods, waiting for a rescue that will never come, but sitting in the still place inside ourselves where the candle never burns out. For all those wishing to be closer to someone somewhere, please find happiness in the dreams and fantasies that sometimes do become reality if your faith is strong and belief is true. Sometimes love is closer than you think. Be it dharma or karma, the world has a way of working things out. Love is indeed a many splendored thing. It is the tender trap and also a bitch. It is also what keeps us going and keeps us believing that there is someone out there beneath the shining stars that feels the same as you do. Make a wish and keep your light burning. Sometimes reality is just a dream away. May it come true, as each and every one of us have a place and a time. A time to dance with the stars and sleep with angels, for tomorrow is making Valentines.

No comments: