I’ve been trying to come up with a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We need something that keeps everyone happy, even the single people. The system doesn’t work at the moment. It ends with singles feeling lonely, florists feeling exhausted and couples feeling bad for not being romantic enough.
That’s why, when you ask people what they did for Valentine’s Day, they can get a bit sniffy about it. “I don’t need Michael Hill Jeweller to tell me when to be spontaneous.”
Scheduled romance is not as much fun. We don’t like to be told when to tidy the bench let alone when to buy flowers for the wife. But here is Valentine’s Day shoving its artificial romance in our faces once again like a pointed finger or an overdue bill.
The origins of Valentine’s Day are confused and ugly, with hints of pagan fertility ceremonies and competing myths about a martyr called Valentine. Somehow it went from there to a bland celebration of commercially sanctioned romance.
Maybe we need to reclaim it for something broader than romance.
Valentine’s Day should be the most feel-good day of the year, overflowing with compliments and warm fuzzies for everyone, not just lovers.
Our traditions on this day should revolve around making all the people around us feel great about themselves. Everyone would give and receive anonymous smiley notes. The homeless would be handed flowers. We should all be drunk on good will and random acts of kindness.
With everyone high on the buzz of being nice to everyone else, romance would spill into the mix quite naturally. You’d end up wooing your partner with no effort at all.
If you put aside the commercial hype, all Valentine’s Day asks is that you pause to remember why another human being might be a little bit special to you.
The way you choose to express that sentiment can be as simple or as extravagant as you like. It’s a bit surly to dismiss it altogether just because there might have been a rash of meaningless advertising this week. No one is forcing you to buy the over-priced roses.
The most romantic Valentine’s Day gift I know of, one that will live on as legend in my family, was a large card that my grandfather gave to my grandmother, the same card every year. Each February 14th he added a new message. I don’t know how many Valentine’s Days the card lasted, but it was a lot. In his final year, bed ridden after a stroke, he managed to sign it with a scribble. That awkward mark was infused with as much love as his most eloquent script.
My grandparents set an example that everyone in my family aspires to. Their legacy is proof that you can romance the same person for your entire life and it doesn’t have to be a chore.
Reality is hard work. When young couples get married it’s like watching them jump off a cliff in a triumph of idealism over common sense. You really hope they’ll be okay.
My wife and I were one of those couples. We threw ourselves off that cliff with youthful naivety and subsequently crashed through a few reality checks on the way down. Seventeen years later I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it took some knocks and scrapes before we landed anywhere near the fairytale part.
Every little romantic nudge helps keep the fairytale alive. On that basis, who am I to turn my nose up at Valentine’s Day?
Any excuse to inject a little sweetness into our relationships has got to be a good excuse. Be extra nice to everyone today. Commit a random act of kindness. And embrace the chance to wink at your special someone.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 14 February 2014. Reproduced with permission.