Tuesday, 28 January 2014

We Dwell Too Much on Luv

Even a married lady like me gets annoyed by Valentine's Day spam. This spam advertised a combination fitness centre and dating service. Personally, I cannot imagine combining a gym workout with dating. I'm the lady what got the male attendant banned from the University of Toronto Athletic Centre weight room during Women-Only Hour. (The whole point of Women-Only Hour was to prevent men from staring at women while we worked out, but the worst offender was actually that attendant.) Incidentally, I had a big old argument with a prof about Women's Only Hour. He thought it was unfair to men, but meanwhile my Dad was horrified a Jesuit was working out in a public gym in the first place. It made him (Dad) feel nostalgic for the 1950s. Meanwhile, my shock when the tremendously handsome, muscular man at the chest press put on his glasses and was thereby revealed to be my prof---!

Let's just say that I am still a big fan of Women Only Hours at gyms.

Anyway, the annoying ad reminded me that it is time I reasserted my solidarity with Singles readers by agreeing that Valentine's Day is annoying when you're Single and very often when you are not Single but male. And hordes of girlfriends and wives are disappointed on Valentine's Day because they think of it as a Big Deal and think their boyfriends and husbands should too.

Well, I love my husband, but I usually go home to Canada in mid-February, so no V-Day for us. We must have had some V-Days together, though, as I recall that his traditional V-Day present is a handful of snowdrops from the woods. In my opinion, this is the cheapest and yet most romantic V-Day gift in the world.

The idea of fitness + dating epitomizes for me the reduction of love to Luv, love being a real, time-built relationship between a man or woman and his or her family, his or her country or people, his or her best friends, his or her patron saints, his or her God. Luv is the heady rush of infatuation that either calms down into marriage or burns out, leaving ashes. I am grateful for the stage of marital love called Luv, for it transformed my life and set B.A. and me in the right direction. However, I hate how it utterly drowns out the rest of romantic love and the other loves. The airwaves and television are obsessed with sex and treat family life as a carnival sideshow or opportunity for adverts.

One of the wonderful things about marriage is that it transforms the person you are crazy about into a member of your family--as far as you are concerned, the most important member of your family. This makes him or her just as loveable and nearly as annoying as other members of your family. I am sure that when B.A. saw me sitting demurely on a sofa in the New Town, politely dabbing at my nose with a tissue, he did not foresee me this morning, running around yelling "Where the H*** are my KEYS?" Any member of my current family could have warned him, but fortunately they were not there.

I had an email today--I haven't answered it yet--and it is from someone who is dreading going on a first date. She doesn't like going on dates, and I am not surprised. Dates are like going to the dentist. You don't enjoy going, but you have a vague sense that something might be wrong if you don't. The difference is that you really should go to the dentist. Your teeth won't fall out if you refuse to go on dates.

My advice will be to think of dates not as a way of meeting future boyfriends but a way of meeting future male friends. I'm not much of a networker on my own behalf (too shy), but I enjoy introducing friends and acquaintances to other friends and acquaintances I think they should know. It's good to have new people over for supper, and to bring this or that person--especially younger ones--into the old gang.

I think friendship is a place where Luv is just that more likely to mature into Love--either marital love or the love of friends. The relationship does not begin with the artificiality of a cafe, or the frank carnality of a bar or (ye saints above!) exercise studio.

O tempores, o mores! How I wish we could return to the days of variety in love--with popular songs about Mother and Home and Land of Hope and Glory and the Old School and the Regiment. Sure, some of it was sentimental and false, but it gave a truer and more generous picture of human emotion than the sludge on the radio of today. I'd like to add to the list Grandma, Grandpa, Teacher, Mentor, Dear Old Auntie and Kind Mr Contini at the Ice Cream Shop.

It was my birthday recently, and look away now if you don't want to read sappy married people stuff. Sappy married people stuff ahead. Okay, so B.A. and I have two standard squabbles. They are A) the state of the kitchen and B) the hours I spend studying Polish. The kitchen alone is worth hours of traditional marital discord. The Polish adds an exciting international note, plus drama when I weep because compared to my parents and brothers and sisters I am really bad at languages. So it was particularly kindly of B.A. to wash all the dishes from my birthday lunch, even though he cooked the birthday lunch, and really very generous when I opened my new it-bag and found a volume of Polish poetry.

Wah. If I should perish early, don't kill each other in your battle to win B.A. for yourselves.


OPERATION VALENTINUS: Okay, you know the drill. If you are Single, pick three to five Single friends to whom to send valentines and chocolate. This way, even if you get nothing, you will have given three to five deserving people a lift. I will soon put out a sign-up feature. Meanwhile, on the theme of love (as opposed to luv), please mention below the most thoughtful gift you have ever received. It can be from a parent, teacher, priest, friend, sibling, cousin, uncle, aunt, grandparent, fiancé, spouse. Anyone you love and who loves you in a REAL, lasting way.


Sunnysaffer said...

No matter what my rational mind tells me, which is in tune with your message here about love, I just can't help but feel a failure because I don't have a man in my life who loves me in the 'Valentines Day' way. I know it is ridiculous, but there is always that feeling of embarrassment when admitting that I am single. A couple of recent examples of when I felt this way -going to the work Christmas party (where partners were invited) alone, having to say "Ich bin ledig" in my German class, out to dinner with work Clients where I was the only single person at the table. I really wish I could get over this, but years of social conditioning have made there mark.

Sunnysaffer said...

Oops! Correction: their mark.

Domestic Diva said...

I had a really. bad. couple of years, and an old friend bought me a beautiful necklace for Christmas, just because she wanted me to know she was with me through the downside of life. Meant the world.

Sheila said...

I don't think I could ever choose the MOST thoughtful gift ever. But here is one that pops into my mind:

I have a very dear friend, whom I often credit with saving my life when I was so severely depressed I could hardly bear to live anymore. We were close for many years, but now that we live on opposite ends of the country and are in different states of life, it's hard to keep up the friendship in quite the same way.

Well, a few weeks ago she came to visit and brought me a gift. It was a bar of chocolate of a kind that she remembered me raving about .... I think six years ago!

It just made me think, no matter how long it's been, she still remembers me and knows me. It meant so much to me.

Anonymous said...

From the man who is now my husband: we had agreed to meet to go Christmas shopping in terrible weather, and somehow we, or I (I am not certain, but it was probably I) muddled the arrangements and we missed each other. I kept trying to call him but got no answer.

Finally, I got in touch with him and found that we had missed each other not once but several times as we went back and forth between venues. It was getting late and snowing fiercely, with cold wet flakes. But he came back for me. A 25 minute walk through the slushy streets, and he came back for me .(I think there's a song by that title, or something like it.) We had only been 'dating' for two months, and no date had ever done that for me before. So I decided to marry him.


Brigid said...

At a new church when I was 13, I met a very tiny, impossibly cute little girl. And she refused to talk to me.
So it turns out that, while I'm not always great at flirting with menfolk, I'm *excellent* at flirting with bairns. I did the glance-and-look-away, the side-eyed grin, the whole deal. It took a month of me quietly sitting next to her, smiling, and playing shy, but she decided she liked me. In fact, we became best of friends.

The following year, on my birthday, her mother sheepishly presented me with two gifts: one from the family, and the gaudiest sparkly pink lamp you ever did see. Monica insisted they get it for me.
I still have it. I knew it was what she wanted to have for herself.

Julia said...

Sunnysaffer, it's a bit like that, isn't it?

I'm pretty easygoing about my single state. I don't see it as a negative thing, and I don't see myself as being a failure because I'm single, but it can sure feel like that's how others see it, right?

Actually, for me that's probably the most frustrating thing about being single. Like it's a defect people want an explanation for.

Seraphic said...

Sunnysaeffer, that sounds awful. Fortunately, though, I think most people merely register the marital/relationship status of others (if they even do that) and then go back to thinking about their own lives. A Single might feel self-conscious being the only unpartnered person at the table, but that doesn't mean that anyone else is thinking "Oh how weird."

Indeed, if you watch some married women when their husbands are holding forth on some enthusiastic topic, you may notice that they are a little embarrassed or that their eyes are glazing over. And believe me, you can cause the not-married-but-sleeping-together couples to fight all the way home just by asking the married couples about how long they were together before they married. You can see it in the girlfriends' faces. Eeek! Don't do that though--it's cruel. (When we get asked about our story, I can feel the tension in the room.)

There's a lot of misery in unresolved "Valentine's Day" style love. Really, happiness resides in being with friends and friendly family, and hopefully a husband is one of those friends and family members.

Pearlmusic said...

Sunnysaffer, I can relate. Oh, I do. Although I must admit that learning to say the awkward phrase “I’m single” without embarrassment is one of the most challenging but yet the most therapeutic step towards Seraphic Singleness. For being Single is not against any law and you have nothing to hide. Of course, it is not reasonable to walk around and shout “Hey, I’m Single and I’m fine!”. There will be days when you won’t feel so fine, after all. But, to learn to say “I’m Single”, from time to time, in a relatively neutral social situation, just as a statement of fact, can be much relief.

Hmm… I haven’t thought about Valentines yet, although I love your idea, Seraphic, to send small presents to a couple of friends (or family members) and I will do! Oh, and Paulinho Garcia’s new album “Beautiful love” will be released on 14th February this year, that’s why I remember :-D

Jam said...

I like Operation Valentinus because actually I really like Valentine's Day. I like the gaudy color scheme, I like the sweets, I like the glitter, and I love flowers. Plus, it's in February which is the most boring and cold month. So it's a bummer to think it's something that's Not For Me, or worse, that it's something I'm supposed to hate. So I like getting to participate by making it a fun girly day to treat friends. (Yes, I'm a little bit Leslie Knope at heart.)

Brigid reminds me that during my senior year in high school I was a tutor to two little girls from poor families at a local Catholic elementary school. I didn't feel like a very good tutor; the girls generally wouldn't listen to me and I never felt like I'd made any impact. When I graduated obviously my time as a tutor was over, and one of the girls' mothers asked to see me on my last day. When I met her, she thanked me for helping her daughter and gave me a card and a little silver heart-shaped box. The little girl was so excited to tell me that SHE had picked that out at the dollar store all by herself. That was a really sweet gift.

PolishTraveler said...

Sunnysaffer, I'm sorry that you feel that way. I agree there is a lot of social pressure to be in a couple. But honestly, if you look at couples around you or friends in relationships, it's not all that rosy. Who knows what other people suffer through on Valentines Day which could be much worse than our single plight...

In spire of having dated a lot, I always managed to find myself single come Valentines Day (and the one year I was in a relationship on Feb. 14th the relationship was so toxic and awful I was secretly wishing I was alone but afraid to follow up on that). In comparison to that, having a free evening I can spend however I like, with friends and family who love and appreciate me - an evening just like any other evening - is amazing.

I'm also very encourage by a recent study I read which said that people's satisfaction in life/sense of happiness is significantly increased by spending time with FRIENDS but not necessarily spouses/family. The study's authors said this might be due to the fact that our family/spouse may be a source of pleasure but in a way they are also an 'obligation' or responsibility and thus we are not as free to enjoy their company as we are to enjoy a good friend's. Worth a thought.

Cordi said...

I think some of the most thoughtful gifts I've received have come from one of my younger brothers. One year I really wanted a bull-mastiff puppy, and he tried to find one for me as a Christmas surprise, and when he couldn't he got me a stuffed dog and some pepper spray, so I would have something to sleep with, and something to protect me.

This past year I've been talking about maybe, possibly, somehow going back to school, and dreaming of rehabbing a really old house, and he got me GRE prep books, and some iron stars (they have a structural function in old brick houses around here) that I can hang on my wall until the house dream becomes a reality.

And the birthday before that, he bought me a really cute red motorcycle.

Gosh, my brother is really sweet...I kind of forget that sometimes.

Micha Elyi said...

"Even a married lady like me gets annoyed by Valentine's Day spam."

I see some of your problem. It's Saint Valentine's Day.