A little Valentine’s Day quiz. I am: (a) cuddled in bed with a lover (b) looking forward to a romantic dinner with a partner (c) wistfully wishing for a lover and thinking about re-installing Tinder (d) none of the above.*
In the year 2016 in America, we have a holiday wherein we celebrate love – emphasizing romantic love. However, a cursory perusal of history sites and Wikipedia tells me that this holiday that carries the name of three martyred saints who became quite popular in England and France. Our holiday also aligns with a pagan festival that involved animal sacrifices and slapping women with the bloody animal hide. Our celebration then, is of death and blood? Or love? It can feel like both, regardless of your relationship status.
Still, greeting card factories and florists need to make a living too, and so we forge on. I had a friend in college who spent every Valentine’s Day in bed. No amount of cajoling, sympathy, or even alcohol could get her up and out. I have a couple of current friends who bemoan this “holiday.” The women wail because they have no love to buy them flowers and treat them; the men gnash teeth because of societally generated expectations. (If that’s you guys – don’t forget about the holiday on March 14.)
I say dispense with expectations and teeth-gnashing and focus on the love. The love must always begin at home, with ourselves.
Don’t just SAY “Yeah, yeah, I know, I have to love myself, blah, blah, blah . . . ” but you must actually ACT on that. Maybe you need a day of couch surfing and Netflix binging to recharge; perhaps a long walk and fresh air; a chunk of time spent reading or journaling; maybe go build something, plan something, or putter in the garage? Whatever it is, as middle son says, take time and “treat yoself.” Because once you do that, you’ll be more willing and able to treat others.
Since it looks like we’re stuck with Valentine’s Day for the foreseeable future, we can at least do it right. Make it really about authentic love for our partners, our kids, our pets, our friends, but first of all: love for ourselves. If what we do is genuine, then this mid-winter shower of red and white might be less like a martyrdom or the pagan sacrificing of a a goat and a dog (for fertility and purification, respectively) on the festival of Lupercalia, and more like a moment just to celebrate the people we care about.
(*answer: (d) none of the above: I’m having a cappuccino, watching the snow fall, and reading the Sunday NYT.)