Why Valentine’s Day isn’t Romantic

I know, I know. Writing an anti-Valentines Day post is about as original as telling a knock-knock joke in a pair of Uggs. I also realise that my blog title has the word ‘Cupid’ in it and that I often enthusiastically write about my relationship. You’d think I would be out on the street ringing a bell with an “I LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY” sandwich board.

But alas, Valentine’s Day is not for me. Besides the fact that it is a cynical corporate ploy, I find it wholly unnecessary. For me, it’s just another way for society to try and convince us how inadequate we are. It’s like there’s someone shouting “ROMANCE? YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!” into our ears. We are constantly surrounded with propaganda that attempts to convince us we’re not sexy enough, romantic enough, wild enough or fun enough. Valentine’s is just another way for us to feel that we need to spend a certain amount of money on grand romantic gestures to somehow quantify our relationships.

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Source:
http://leftsrightswrongs.blogspot.com

It was a few days before Valentine’s last year when an excitable colleague of mine asked me, with all the enthusiasm of a girl in the early stages of a relationship, what I was getting my boyfriend of ten years for a gift.

“A giant teddy bear, but instead of a bear’s head, I’m going to put a model of my face,” I answered her, expecting her to deduce that I was joking. She stared blankly at me. “Alice, I’m kidding. I’m not getting him anything.”

This shocked her even more than my psychotic present idea.

“You can’t get him nothing,” she complained, “it’s VALENTINE’S DAY!”

Even though I knew Alice was just a hopeless romantic and there was no malicious intent in her questioning, I felt slightly irritated.

“Alice, we’ve been together for ten years. We love each other but we don’t need to buy each other gifts to show that.” I could tell by her face that she didn’t agree with me. So I told her about our first Valentine’s Day together.

I had been just sixteen years old. Jack and I had been together for about six months. I was young and naive and I genuinely believed that if I didn’t buy Jack the most amazing gift and have the most romantic day then it would spell disaster for the future of our relationship. Jack told me that he had gotten me “something special”. You might assume that this would have delighted me, but instead it added to my apprehension. If he had gotten me something so wonderful, then how could I possibly measure up? Men are almost impossible to shop for. I traipsed around shop after shop, with several friends in tow. “How about a teddy?” they would recommend, “or a watch? Book? Jersey? Cologne?”

“No, no, no, no, NO!” I would screech manically, “it has to be PERFECT!” The problem was, I didn’t realise that last minute gifts and nails bitten to the quick hardly constitute perfect.

I can’t say I enjoyed that Valentine’s Day. I spent most of it imagining various reactions to my terrible present (I think I went with aftershave):

“Are you implying that I SMELL?!”

“This aftershave smells like the inside of a Hippo’s colon!”

Etc, etc.

My point is that that day was ruined because of the pressure I put myself under. I confessed this to Jack a few weeks later. He was surprised.

“You really thought I would break up with you if you couldn’t find me a gift? Do you really think I’m with you so that once a year I’ll get a bottle of Hugo Boss? Do you think that that’s how I know you love me? From PRESENTS?!”

“Well, when you put it like that….” I admitted, feeling sheepish.

Since that fateful first Valentine’s, we have a rule: no presents. Instead, we cook a meal together. We chat, have fun while cooking and then eat it over candlelight and reminisce on the all the years we’ve been in each other’s lives. We decided that one day in the year shouldn’t be dedicated to making each other happy; that should happen as often as possible. Sure, not everyday can be Valentine’s, but shouldn’t the supposedly selfless and romantic spirit of that day be present in a relationship more than just one day a year?

There are times when Jack and I argue of course (tomatoes ARE fruit, damn it!) but when I look back in years to come at my favourite memories with him, it won’t be those I remember. It also won’t be any grand romantic gestures. It will be the days when I came home from work and Jack had warmed my slippers by the fire and had a cup of tea waiting for me. For me, and I know for many others, it’s the little things that count.

So if you happen to be nervously perusing shops looking for that perfect Valentine’s gift, relax. Take it from me, expensive gifts don’t equal romance. In the long term, this realisation will benefit any relationship. Or destroy it, whatever.

A Beautiful Poem: The Skunk by Seamus Heaney

The Skunk

Up, black, striped and damasked like the chasuble
At a funeral mass, the skunk’s tail
Paraded the skunk. Night after night
I expected her like a visitor.

The refrigerator whinnied into silence.
My desk light softened beyond the verandah.
Small oranges loomed in the orange tree.
I began to be tense as a voyeur.

After eleven years I was composing
Love-letters again, broaching the word ‘wife’
Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel
Had mutated into the night earth and air

Of California. The beautiful, useless
Tang of eucalyptus spelt your absense.
The aftermath of a mouthful of wine
Was like inhaling you off a cold pillow.

And there she was, the intent and glamorous,
Ordinary, mysterious skunk,
Mythologized, demythologized,
Snuffing the boards five feet beyond me.

It all came back to me last night, stirred
By the sootfall of your things at bedtime,
Your head-down, tail-up hunt in a bottom drawer
For the black plunge-line nightdress.

Today, I read the poem ‘The Skunk’ with my pupils. It is one of my favourite romantic poems and my students loved it. It elicited a great discussion of what constitutes romance and I left class knowing that my students had personally connected with this beautiful poem.

In terms of being “romantic”, it is unconventional to say the least. The poet compares his wife to a skunk, which on the surface, is not the most flattering of comparisons. However, a deeper look at the poem reveals the affection and tenderness that is evident between the poet and his wife. I love it because it is not cliched; it is affectionately teasing and the comparison makes sense to them. His deep love and desire for his wife is obvious.

Heaney died last year at the age of 74. His last words, to his beloved wife, were in beautiful simple Latin: Noli timere, meaning “don’t be afraid”.