Is it me, or is there less emphasis on Valentine's Day now? I avoid malls and newspapers, so maybe I'm just out of it, but Valentine's Day is not impinging very much on my consciousness. It could also be because I am married, of course. Eventually we married folks go deaf and blind to the issues that bedevil Singles.
That said, I know there are married women who put a lot of emphasis on Valentine's Day, which I think is a mistake. When you have a wedding anniversary to get mad at your husband about, why sweat V-Day? "Valentine's Day is for engaged people," I pontificated to a married friend, but of course it is also for boyfriends and girlfriends. The main problem with finding the coolest Valentine's Day gift for your boyfriend, though, is that you are SOOO tempted to give the same thing to your next boyfriend. Not that I know anything about THAT.
For a happily married woman, I am very cynical about romance. The romances of my past life that I remember most fondly are the totally and absolutely unrequited ones, like the crush on such-and-such and the crush on so-and-so, and the crush this absolutely adorable Polish boy had on me that I didn't know how to handle as we were only six and he didn't speak English. Now that I speak some Polish and he speaks much English, we're both married to other people. Life is like that.
Where was I? Oh, V-Day. Every cynic is a disappointed idealist, and as a child I somehow developed an idea that Valentine's Day was magic and through this magic an Anonymous Admirer might send me a Valentine. I don't think this ever happened, but I still loved Valentine's Day, with its red and pink, white lace and Victoriana and its hints of chocolates to come. This may partly because deep down I just really loved red, pink, white lace and Victoriana, and my mother had a strict no-candy-on-ordinary-days policy. But it was also because ROMANTIC LOVE was shoved at me as the GREATEST THING ON EARTH by most of the books I ever read. Lucy Maud Montgomery was a TERRIBLE influence in this regard, as were all books about orphans. The only author in all of Victorian children's literature who ever hinted that being a single lady could be marvellous was Louisa May Alcott who, forced by her readers to marry off Jo March, refused to marry off all Jo March's nieces. The greatest love of LMA's life was her dad.
Deep down I still love Valentine's Day, which is why I think Singles and Married Ladies should celebrate it like little kids, sending Valentines and chocolates to their friends and relatives. And by the way I don't want to hear any modern Bollandist rubbish about St. Valentine not existing because I saw his skull in church in the Rhine Valley and when I said "But the Bollandists", the German priest and seminarian I was drinking with metaphorically danced on my own skull. St. Valentine, a Catholic cleric of the Classical eaa, would have been big on affection but rather down on sexual passion. So really Valentine's Day should be about affection, not the sturm und drang of passion, anyway.
And so I recommend that tomorrow, if there's any chance you are going to feel melancholy, either because there is neither husband nor living embodiment of acute sexual temptation (aka a boyfriend) in your life, or because you suspect your husband is going to bring you a bunch of subway roses and then fall asleep right after dinner, you do something affectionate for the people you hold in most affection, without expecting (but certainly welcoming) anything in return.
In past years readers have reported throwing candy-fueled girl-only parties, sending off cards and chocolates to fellow Singles, visiting grandparents and even (my favourite) secretly decorating the house
of her grandmother with hearts, so that she would be delightfully surprised by it in the morning.
Increasingly I have thought about married women feeling let down by the day. I don't think men, even married men, get how much some married women really do long for some thoughtful symbolic token of affection from their husbands on Valentine's Day and feel so disappointed when they don't get one. I'm too old and confident to feel lonely, old, rejected and taken for granted, but I can understand how young wives might feel this way, poor darlings.
Oh, and if you do feel sad despite all your gifts to others, it would be nice if you offered up your feelings of sadness for other lonely people, maybe recent widows in particular, or bereaved mothers. Giving doesn't have to cost money, not even the pennies and stamp it would cost to send a homemade Valentine to Gran.