Being the first-born child has its definite perks. Your doe-eyed parents are mistily setting aside locks of your hair and baby teeth while you are bestowed with gifts for any occasion whatsoever. Valentine’s Day included. But by the time both my brothers had entered this world kicking and screaming, it was all I could do to return the attention to myself. Dethronement is a bitch, that’s for sure. To be fair, the third time around the smell of baby poop wasn’t quite so adorable for my rents, I can imagine. The other downsides to being born first? You have to deal with Beta Parenting, your parents don’t chill during your childhood, and the spoiled indulgences fade into very very distant memory.
But it wasn’t the specific candy and gifts that mattered, it was the idea that Valentine’s Day is for love of others, not just significant others. I don’t think this is what was running through my parents minds’ those first few years. They were (much more) religious when I was growing up, and of course Valentine being a saint meant much more than any Hallmark holiday to them. We are talking about a couple that I have witnessed multiples times baking birthday cakes for Jesus around Christmas time.
Not that I think there is anything wrong with that, now that I am a safe distance away from weekly family rosary praying on Sundays. Of course, that is no longer their practice, thanks to my adolescent rebellion that got my brothers off the hook. Like I said, Beta Parenting.
Back to Valentine’s Day. After being spoiled so often as a little girl then being thrown headfirst into a public school system (in a new neighborhood, no less) I was quite surprised to learn that Valentine’s Day love is not as universal as I thought. As everyone else got flimsy little paper Spider-Man and Toy Story pieces of cardboard with a lollipop taped to it or boxes of conversation hearts, I looked in my empty brown paper bag and slowly contemplated loneliness.
And that is what I feel like Valentine’s Day has become about. Either love or loneliness, no in-between. People consider themselves alone on Valentine’s Day if they do not happen to be in a relationship. And if you do happen to be single on V-Day, common cultural practices suggest you better be unhappy about it. And why? Because your mate is going to (supposed to) be the only one to go out of their way to buy overpriced and cliche flowers and boxes of chocolates or a $9.00 card to engage in some silly display of affection that society has deemed necessary.
When any woman can tell you that the little things matter much more than that. If you are with a guy who constantly breaks plans, criticizes, or you suspect might be cheating, once V-Day comes around his “romantic” read:scripted tokens of affection forgive all wrongdoing. At least that’s how it works right? Better stay with the bastard than have to be one of the Lonely on Valentine’s Day (dun dun dun…)
But consider this example, now. A woman who lives at home without working, on her husbands dime, becomes irate because work kept him too late for them to attend dinner. Now, this guy could bringing home a Tiffany necklace for her every damn week, and I bet she still would be indignant that both of their means of livelihood ruined the day that was predetermined by commercialism to be the only time when love truly counts.
By the same token, imagine the deadbeat husband who happened to remember the holiday for the first time in years, and watch him throw it in his wife’s face every time she gets angry about his dirty clothing lying everywhere. Or the extremely poor couple living in poverty who cannot afford chocolate covered strawberries, but know in their hearts that their love remains regardless of possessions.
The point I am getting at, is we as individuals determine the influence Valentine’s Day is going to have over our collective psyches. If you decide to subscribe to the all too common beliefs that you can only enjoy the holiday if you have a mate, or money, or a rose garden in your back yard, you are going to be all too disappointed when you realize these things won’t bring love.
But if we see V-day as a celebration of love, any kind of love, the way I did when I was an innocent child then we could collectively take part in a positive, non-commercial means of connecting to each other. So, this Friday, forget about your ex-girlfriend or your money problems, and love yourself, love your friends, tell your parents that you LOVE them. I know I will.
And, hey, crazy idea. If we do that, maybe love won’t just be for one day a year, anymore.