Thursday, 13 February 2014

Preparing for V Day

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.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I suspect that slacking off in V-Day craziness, if any, has more to do with the end of the dating culture than anything else. The hook-up culture has divorced sex from dating and romance much as contraception has divorced sex from procreation. 20-somethings are no longer dating... they don't even know how to date, to ask, or to court. Personally, I would rather be fighting Unrealistic Expectations of Victorian Lace-fringed Romance than the consequences that come from the death of Romance altogether.


TRS said...

Oh my gosh, anonymous! That is profound!

Claire said...

Fifi - I think you are right on the money! The 20-somethings in my peer group (just out of school, mostly secular, artsy types of folks) are all either in a relationship with someone they met in college, going on sporadic dates with people they meet via Internet dating sites or iPhone apps like Hinge or OkCupid, or like me are single and not actively doing anything to change it. It's like we're all caught between the easy hookup culture of college and the scary adult world of "serious relationships" and so we're settling for awkward chats over coffee or drinks with random people who we have some Internet chemistry with. It seems silly to expect flowers, chocolate, or anything really from that guy you went to a concert with two weeks ago and who hasn't responded to your texts yet...and of course it's not really cool anymore to care about Romance. Agh,

I've had someone to celebrate Valentine's Day with two or three times in my whole life, all when I was a teenager, but I deeply love chocolate, candy, and giving/receiving pretty cards from people, so I always feel pretty ok about it. Tomorrow night I have cheap tickets to an ice skating show with a big group of friends and we are all going to have a grand old time!.

Incidentally I cannot for the life of me remember the last present I got from a boyfriend on V-Day was, although I very much remember what I got him...proof, I guess, that giving is sometimes better than receiving?

Jam said...

Valentine's Day has diversified; seems like every business under the sun uses it or the hatred of it to market their products. I feel like it's still everywhere, but it's much more sex-focused and rather less focused on couples and romance -- unsurprising given Fifi's analysis. And while, as adults, I don't hear people fluttering over wanting a date for the 14th, I do hear LOTS of people talking about how they "don't really do Valentine's Day" (as if that were in any way unique...) - of course what they mean is that he doesn't get her 12 red roses and take her to an Italian restaurant. They have a date night in or exchange quirky presents. But, y'know, they don't *do* Valentine's Day, it's just so commercial and lame. *rolls eyes*

Anna said...

Had lunch with a couple girls who have boyfriends. They've been with them (and sleeping with them) for months now. But they were talking about how they didn't want to give them cards that have "love" on them. The disconnect is amazing.

Anonymous said...

For my part, I am hosting a Valentine's Tea Party with games for a small group of single women friends. Sweets, good company, and a lot of laughter!


Julia said...

Here in Australia, it's already Valentine's Day, but I swear that no one would know it. No red, white and pink festooning the place as I suspect happens in North America.

It's such a non-event here that I didn't sign up for Operation Valentinus - I think that by sending my Single girl friends something for V-Day, I'd simply be reminding them of it rather than giving them a pleasant surprise.

And how did I begin my Valentine's Day 2014? 6am kickboxing class. The rest of my day will be spent running errands, vacuuming and working on my mountain of postgrad work.

This is not meant to be a slap in the face to my North American sisters who, for cultural reasons, might not be as sanguine about V-Day as I am. I hope you all have a wonderful day and get to do something fun.

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

Interesting... I always thought of Lucy Maud Montgomery as a sane influence, at least in the Anne books, because after all Anne's wild romantic daydreams her dearest love turned out to be her best friend/intellectual sparring partner, and because as soon as Anne and Gilbert got married, the focus shifted to their family life. The focus on their romance was also incredibly light compared to the average teen novel nowadays.

Emily, however, might be another story. But then, that was one REALLY unsatisfying romance. There was also Pat Gardiner, who was pretty much in love with her house.

For me, since getting married, St. Valentine's is just date night, held at home because neither of us likes crowded restaurants. The holiday meant much more to me when I was single, so by far my most memorable V-Day was when the boys in my singles' group threw a party for all the girls in the group, everyone welcome, no one singled out for special attention, but all of us feeling very appreciated. Eavesdroppers, there's something for you to think about. :)

In the meantime, Seraphic, thanks for the reminder--tomorrow would be a perfect day to call my grandma.

Jen D said...

" embodiment of acute sexual temptation (aka a boyfriend)" - haha so true!
Can I ask what the Valentine's Day gift was, that was cool enough to give to two boyfriends? :)

Anonymous said...

I think my best Valentine's Day was in Ecuador on a study abroad year. Everyone called it "El Dia del Amor y Amistad" (Love and Friendship Day). So, they totally had the friendship side of it. When I had lunch in a restaurant, I got a rose. It turns out that the restaurant was giving roses to every woman. And just (female) friends would give each other flowers. It was lovely.

Seraphic said...

@Jen. Nooooooo....! But it was pretty cool. I mean, for back then. I give B.A. WAY better stuff. And I buy it on sale so I can say, "And I bought it on sale!" which he likes most of all. ;-D

Anonymous said...

Interesting side note: Google search "death of the romcom" and scan the results. The old formulas don't work because the culture of dating and meeting has changed. When was the last time you saw a good (new) romcom? I would argue Sweet Home Alabama.


lauren said...

I stopped by the grocery store last night, and it looked like something had exploded, leaving ugly flowers, cheap chocolate, and pink balloons everywhere. It was all rather sordid, actually.

My parents have a tradition of sending valentines with wacky -- and very funny -- variations on the "Roses are red, violets are blue" poem. Those are always a delight.

Nzie said...

It seems to me my friends are getting a bit back into middle school mode - not just romantic stuff. Last night a bunch of us hung out for Galentines (ladies only... and when it's about 15 women doing potluck, it is DELICIOUS).

Also, it's odd, but I have two wonderful roommates, and only one of us is dating, and she basically planned an evening with her bf and both of us! We all think it's kind of funny, but what she planned is 2/3 stuff we typically do together as roommies plus a Disney film... I guess I appreciate that mid-to-late 20s people are less high school/college clingy and are fine being around other folks, and her bf seems okay with it so... We'll see how it goes. I'm making dinner so it will be tasty. :-)

Also, have you all noticed the trend of funny Valentines on the internet? I love them & they remind me a bit of elementary school where you gave valentines to everyone and it wasn't a romantic thing. :-) Plus they're often hilarious.