Valentine’s Day – Is It Over Yet?

canstockphoto5757172If you’re a romantic, avert your eyes. Valentine’s Day and I are going to have words. And most of them won’t be very nice.

I can’t pinpoint the very moment I came to loathe this day, but I suspect it was Valentine’s Day 1984, place: high school.

The cheerleaders would sell carnations every year that would be delivered to the intended recipient on Valentine’s Day. In the cafeteria. In front of everybody. Red was for love, white was for like, yellow was for friendship. The mini-skirted popular cheerleaders would gallivant through the lunch room, their 5 gallon buckets of flowers in tow (all class, they were). Just for a second, a brief whisper in time, you’d think “Me! Me! Me!” As they passed me by, I’d think up some snarky comment to make my also-disappointed friends laugh. It was awful – that feeling that no one will ever love you. In high school, it feels like a statement on your person. And you believe in that moment, that you will feel that ache the rest of your life.

It didn’t get much better after that, spending many Valentine’s Days alone or with groups of single friends.  Instead of going out, I’d make a gigantic meal and we’d spend the evening playing poker or making fun of each others’ botched romantic exploits. I was content in the days before and in the days after, but that particular day made me feel bereft. Even during years when there was a boyfriend in the picture, he would have plans to shoot pool with his buddies once the flower/chocolate obligation had been met, calling me in drunken inspiration at 2am to profess whatever he wouldn’t remember in the morning.

I don’t inspire the kind of passion that invites serenades under my window or beds covered in rose petals. Mostly because I mock those kind of gestures the other 364 days of the year. It’s not my thing. Everything associated with commercialized romance is fairly unappealing to me in its own right: the color pink, hearts, jewelry, fat baby archers in diapers, coworkers who act surprised to receive bouquets, bouquets from the person you dumped last year. And I’ll tell you a little secret – I loathe cut roses. They remind me of funerals – the sweet, sickly scent of a funeral home or of someone getting bilked.

Each year, when I realize it’s within spitting distance, I start to feel a little resentful and surly. Do we have to go through this every year? My husband makes a gesture, but he knows me well enough to know that while I’ll thank him and appreciate a bouquet of spring flowers, I’m wishing it were the 15th. The pumped up faux sentiment and rituals remind me of the pressure of being a bride. I’m supposed to get all excited. My husband is supposed to march, lock step, into a Hallmark store and pay five dollars for a sentiment that we live every day. I mean, marriage is a big ass Valentine, isn’t it?

For many years, I tried to follow the rules. I bought my husband a card and a unique present that would never see the light of day again. No one needs or wants a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s compass. Yes, I’m weird, but my husband, a techie, is the hardest person on the planet to shop for. I think my gift to him is that I prefer to skip it all – the huge glittery cards, boxes of guessing chocolates (what the hell is inside this one – spackle?) and teddy bears. Ugh. When do grownups need teddy bears? Most of these bears are holding somebody’s heart in their hairy little paws as if they ravaged a campsite and victoriously snatched out a human heart. And then put graffiti on it for spite. Hug me, indeed.

My low tolerance for overt, commercialized romance is not to say that I don’t have any sentiment in that regard. I have spent Valentine’s Day with someone, just getting over someone, alone, with friends and now, with my husband. The best Valentine’s Days have occurred when I was comfortable with myself, allowing the day to be a mere blip on the radar and not a statement of my ability to love or be loved. And it turns out, now that I’m an adult, I can buy my favorite chocolate all year round. Now that is romantic.

69 Comments on “Valentine’s Day – Is It Over Yet?

  1. I’m with you! Love shouldn’t be confined to one day a year. And it shouldn’t have to have a price tag associated with it.

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    • I think, too, real love is in the small gestures – the kindnesses we extend to ourselves, our friends, our family. So often flowery hearts get pasted on relationships to compensate for the lack of loving behavior the rest of the year.

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  2. Great post! While I never turn down chocolate I would prefer it in a generic box or bag. V-Day has never been my favorite and even if I had a significant other I just didn’t enjoy it. When I didn’t it was just a reminder that I was…alone again. That is, until I was blessed with grandchildren. Now I babysit while Mom & Dad go out for some alone time and the kids and I play games, draw pictures and eat a lot of chocolate! It doesn’t get much better than that but, of course, we also do that on many other days of the year…but that’s between you and me. Don’t tell their Mom!

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    • Maybe it is that I associate it with so many negative feelings, with or without someone. It’s about setting up false expectations either of where one thought they’d be in life or of a significant other.

      Kids make a huge difference in any scenario. I’m organizing my daughter’s classroom party and the kids are very excited about it.

      I’m guessing that if your grandkids are bouncing off walls at the end of your shift, their parents might have a clue. I can always tell when my daughter has been to visit grandma!

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  3. Wow, I’ve never thought too much about it & also saw it as more commercial hype than anything else – but I am very glad it was no big deal when I was at school, your experience of that (cheerleaders with the flowers etc) sounds just dreadful for all involved! We were lucky, even cheerleaders didn’t exist in Australia when I was at school, they were fictional characters in American movies 😀

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    • American cheerleaders are the stuff of legend here – fueling male fantasy, over-sexualizing young girls and women. While it can be very athletic in nature, the idea of people training to rev up crowds and provide eye candy is really beyond my comprehension. But they exist at every school and athletic institution, so there’s no denying they are part of American culture.

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      • Sadly they are infiltrating the general culture in Australia now too. Like certain types of rap music with lyrics that seem to set sexual views towards females back about, oh, 300 years but are still idolised by our young of both sexes… oops, sorry, I’d better not get started on that!! 😉

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        • I know, it’s a big subject and easy to rail on about. I’ll sound like some sort of cheerleader chauvinist and say that I have friends that have been cheerleaders in the past. They still defend it for its athleticism and the camaraderie that they experienced, but I got the same experience running track. And believe me, there was no eye candy watching me run!

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  4. I love your sarcasm. I’m from Indiana, but lived in Houston for a brief stint and they didn’t get my sense of humor. I reminded them of David Letterman, who also happens to be from Indiana. I’m a non-romantic as well. I don’t know when it happened, but I suspect after so much rejection and redemption one awakens to the realization that it’s just another gimmick. Thanks for your post!

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    • We midwesterners have a bit of a flat affect when it comes to humor!

      Valentine’s is gimmicky, which is a great point. Retailers aren’t just selling products, they’re selling an idea of what romance should look like. The fact that it rarely resembles a Hallmark commercial, can make most of us feel like we’re missing something. I hate being manipulated, so that fosters a lot of my resentment.

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  5. I’m not a big fan of the holiday either. My husband usually buys me a funny card and I usually forget to return the favour, I do buy a chocolate for each kid, but that is it. It’s not really a day that gets much of a reaction from any of our family. I’d rather go out for dinner on a weekend and enjoy it, and I’ve never been a fan of flowers.

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    • I’m a fan of flowers, but ones that are still alive, in a garden. I get chocolate for my daughter as well – every holiday is awesome for kids if you throw in candy! I like activities, too – definitely a better way to spend money. You just can’t put a price on memories.

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  6. hahaha–spackle!
    I, too, used to hate Valentine’s Day, for similar reasons. I remember one particularly terrible V-day in college: my period had started, I broke my hard contact lens against the sink faucet, I had to walk to my job as a babysitter in a church nursery about 15 blocks away in weather so cold my snot and tears froze, and a little white poodle chased me, nipping at my heels. And this was a Sunday morning, so all the other college kids were sleeping in. I spent the rest of the day writing a final paper for my Practical Criticism class, one of the hardest classes I took. I definitely felt sorry for myself. And, hey, in high school, I was even one of those cheerleaders, but somehow, being a cheerleader wasn’t popular at my school. I did it because it was just the only vaguely athletic thing I was good at. I never had a boyfriend in high school or college, then married the first guy I dated after college. Anyhow, my first date with my SECOND husband was Feb. 8 (tea) and then our first real date was Feb. 15, so it’s an anniversary for us. It’s just convenient that lots of good chocolate goes on sale the day after Valentine’s day 😉

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    • I had a few of those days, too!

      Perfect timing for an anniversary, although I would imagine slightly awkward for a first week of dating…

      Maybe you can get some of those teddy bears on clearance, too.

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      • We have enough stuffed animals.

        Funny–we didn’t even think about it when we were first dating. Dating’s awkward enough when you’re divorced and a parent, and in my case, living at my mother’s house!

        Advance warning: your post and few others I’ve seen have planted a seed for a blog post. A blog post about not hating cheerleaders. It won’t be personal, so don’t take it that way when I get around to getting it out of my head and onto the screen.

        May you get through this week in peace 🙂

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  7. I too eschew the to-do (like that?) but I try to think of Valentine’s Day the way some people do about Christmas: even if you don’t celebrate it, it’s a day to get you thinking about love and the nature of love, and, like considering peace at Christmas, that’s not such a bad thing.

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    • Ach! Who needs a voice of reason amidst a good rant?

      I try not to leave thinking about the nature of love until it’s slapping me in the face. Although, for some, maybe the holiday serves as a gigantic mental post-it note.

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  8. I remember those cheerleaders – arrrgh! My Nana and I were born a week on either side of Valentines Day so she told me it was just halftime in the celebrations of our respective birthdays – chocolate for everyone, it’s halftime! Seriously though, I find the hyper sentimentality almost nauseous. The good news here in the Ozarks is that all the good restaurants reopen from their winter breaks on Thursday.

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    • It seems, from the comments, that having happy occasions surrounding the day really helps out. For me, it’s coming at the breaking point for cabin fever and unrelenting winter, so perhaps that shades my POV just a bit! My posts lately have seemed a bit grumpy and out of sorts.

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  9. We’ve never “done” valentines here. Even before in my dating life. My first job was in a hallmark shop so I stopped doing anything for the day after that. Since having kids it’s been about their parties and all that goes with it. My husband is on the same page so we just go about as if it is merely an excuse for the kids to have a party at school.
    The only flowers he buys me are ones i can plant in the ground, and he buys them when he feels like it, not for any other reason.

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    • Ah, a fellow romantic. My husband read my post headline this morning and said “So I take it I shouldn’t be expecting anything?” At which point, I started laughing. I usually send flowers to elderly relatives since they’re perishable. He told me I might as well order myself some, too. Again, I laughed. This is our kind of romance!

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  10. Valentine’s Day was never a big deal at my high school, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m in the UK and it’s not quite as big a deal here or if it was just my school. I’m an old romantic, but I agree love shouldn’t be confined to that single day. I celebrate it with my other half but we have an anniversary that day too so I guess it has more meaning in our book…I think it’s very over commercialised, and people shouldn’t wait until 1 day each year to show each other they care and love each other…for me it’s more about the little thoughtful things we do every day than about one huge gesture every 365 days…(although the gesture is nice too :P)

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    • Absolutely it’s the little things. I don’t know why they had that particular event in high school – it doesn’t seem like a very good idea for a bunch of hormonal, self-conscious teenagers!

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  11. While I agree that the whole day is very commercialized, I have no problems with the post Valentine’s Day sale candy. I also feel like the day gives me an excuse to eat a bunch of chocolate and sweet stuff. I could do without all the ridiculous red dye though.

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  12. If it makes you feel any better I almost forgot that Thursday was V-Day! My husband is a tax accountant so his busy season always fell right smack in the middle of V-Day…that being said, the romance factor is relatively low. I honestly don’t pay attention to small holidays like V-Day. It’s almost a nuisance. I’ve got better things to do (sure I do). But I do the feeling of being the kid in high school that didn’t get any roses (we had roses instead of carnations at my school). Just another day! Oh well!

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    • It does seem more like a nuisance as opposed to the emotional meter it used to be. My husband and I are finally, after many years, on the same sheet of music about it. We went through the “let’s not do anything” stage and then one of us would. Glad to be done with that!

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  13. The thing that strikes me is that you hate the holiday, and yet you celebrate it faithfully every year, even suffering a pro forma gift you don’t appreciate. Why not change the script? Why continue play-acting in a play you dislike?

    If I was with someone who had a jaundiced view of V-day, I’d (a) applaud their good sense, and (2) ask them how else we can regard (or ignore) the day. To me it’s just another day on the calendar. The insanity of others doesn’t require me to participate. Nor does it you.

    Do you remember Opus Penguin? One of the best quotes ever, “If two-million people do a foolish thing, it’s still a foolish thing.”

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    • I don’t celebrate it faithfully, especially the last few years. It’s hard to pretend it’s not there when the town is practically festooned in pink and red. We’ve gotten the knack of it finally, although I will be leading a bunch of 3rd graders in Valentine Bingo. The irony makes me happy.

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  14. I’ve never really had a romantic Valentines day, which is great because I am not romantic.

    However, I broke up with my long-term partner last year on Valentines day, so now the day has much sadder connotations. It’s been a whole year and I’m seeing someone else, but it’s still raw. I think it always will be. And having the whole ‘day’ there to remind me of when it’s coming around is awful. I wish it could have been some other day…

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    • It’s always a bummer to have sad life events happen near a holiday. It usually takes some time to re-claim it to be what you want it to be and not have it overrun by past memories. Hope you have a good one this year or at least are kind to yourself.

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  15. I am so with you on this one. And the best part of being a non-slave to the Hallmark traditions of Valentine’s Day: my chocolates are fresher and cost less!

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  16. I consider myself a romantic, but I read anyway, because I also consider myself to be somewhat masochistic and thought it might be kind of torutous for me. People who are romantic on Valentine’s Day are like people who are big drinkers on St. Patricks Day. If you’re going to love someone, they should know it every day of the year.

    The social crap of Valentines Day is just horrible, and always has been, (or at least it has been since 1910 when Hallmark Greeting Cards got its start).

    No one ever really likes it, except flower merchants and chocolatiers.

    Bah Humbug! (but I’m still a romantic)

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    • I would be lying if I said I had no romantic leanings, but I take the long view. The things my husband does year round are really what has lasting impact. I also don’t like the rote message of what romance is supposed to look like. It seems to me, if you’re a happy person with or without a partner, you don’t need a day to rub it in everyone elses’ faces. Just live it.

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  17. My husband has always observed Valentine’s Day. After my stint working for a florist during that time he doesn’t send the red roses anymore. This year he gave me a pirate gift set, complete with an eye patch, pieces of 8, and a hook to wear on my hand. We’re traveling and I wanted to wear all of it through TSA security but after he was so thoughtful I didn’t want him to be involved in my arrest. I only wish I could be as thoughtful as he is. My gifts are never as spectacular as his. We don’t pay any attention to Hallmark or Teleflora or anyone else; we go our own way and see the day as one to be special between everyday routines.

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  18. My husband mentioned at the beginning of the week that V-Day was coming this week. I shrugged. Years ago, before we had kids, I used to love to make old-school valentines for a select few – construction paper, doilies, the works. (During this period of time I also hand-painted X-mas ornaments as gift tags for each of my family members.) Now – who has the time or energy? I’m feeling a little bad that I probably won’t even do something cute for our kids. But I can’t remember whether my parents ever did anything for me and my sister, so I think it’s safe to say that time will erase my kids’ devastation at not having pink heart-shaped pancakes waiting for them at 6:30 am tomorrow. Also, I live in the South, and the Waffle House around the corner is having a ‘reservations only’, candlelight dinner for couples on V-Day. Now, that, I should go to!

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    • Funny you should mention pancakes. I didn’t realize that Tuesday was Shrove, or Pancake Tuesday. It’s a pancake kind of week, I guess.
      The only thing we did as kids was exchange valentines at school. I don’t recall any other festivities around it, but maybe I’m just old.

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  19. I like the holiday but maybe because I don’t take it too seriously and don’t limit it to one person. But the stuffed animals and commercialization of the day, I agree it can all be a bit too much. The daily expressions of kindness are most important.

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    • I think there are a lot of people who like the holiday. For whatever reason, I associate a lot of negative feelings and expectations with it. And again, even on a normal day, the things that get hyped on V-Day are things that don’t appeal to me anyway. Romance and feelings of love come in so many shapes and sizes and not all of them look like hearts and teddy bears. My romance looks like a small gesture, a shoveled drive, a fixed computer, a smile, an unexpected conversation….so many ways to experience love.

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  20. Michelle, I love how this rant ends with your confession that you learned to love yourself: “The best Valentine’s Days have occurred when I was comfortable with myself, allowing the day to be a mere blip on the radar and not a statement of my ability to love or be loved.”
    I, too, was passed by on those days in high school when the roses were passed out. Worse yet, was seeing your friend get a red rose from the girl you sent a red rose to. I, too, am learning to love myself. My take-away from your post is that everyday is Valentine’s if we love ourselves.

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  21. Valentine’s Day has so many connotations. The good, the bad, the ugly. Perhaps it is intended as a day to reflect on the love we have which has endured and to honor it. However, I agree that it shouldn’t be limited to one day–it would be better to make everyday an occasion to celebrate the love we feel. However, it does help those who sometimes neglect the ‘romance’ of a relationship to look up once a year and say, ‘do we still have IT’?
    Even if that ‘IT’ may wear a pirate’s eye-patch and hook! (See above posting by Mad Queen Linda.)

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    • I think it’s very risky to ask if “we still have IT” on a day when overblown gestures are the norm. You or your partner might easily come up lacking. Whenever my husband makes me laugh or I him, I feel the IT and fortunately, that happens throughout the year. Although I might start wearing a pirate eye-patch for the hell of it.

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    • I do, too. It’s one of those pleasures that I really embrace now that I’ve gotten over all the “oh, I really shouldn’t. It’s not good for me” nonsense from my 20s and 30s. Bring it on!

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  22. Pingback: Still « A Gracious Life

  23. I love this. I enjoyed and appreciate what you have written. Your beautiful ending to this piece touched me. I shared it in the V day post I made. Thank you for opening our eyes. =>

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  24. Even though it was your memory, not mine, I was really wishing I could have been sitting next to you when the cheerleaders came in with their buckets of flowers. I would have tripped at least one of them.

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    • Ha! I think it would have been better directed to trip their coach or one of the administrators – whichever knucklehead who thought that this was a good tradition for a bunch of pimply, hormonally-challenged teenagers.

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      • True, but the cheerleaders were usually such jerks. At least in jr. high. By high school where I lived it was no longer cool to be a cheerleader. Only 11 girls tried out for a squad of 10 and surprisingly because as you said their coaches/administrators were not the most sensitive souls, they couldn’t say no to just one girl so there was a squad of 11. Of course, I know this only second hand and never once darkened the door of a game.

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        • I was a teenager back then, so I thought everyone was an asshole. The cheerleaders did tend to be the popular, clicky girls, so there were plenty of reasons to dislike them, especially if you were an introverted outlier like me. I wasn’t even cool enough to be a goth. But I was in speech club, so I had that going for me…

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        • I learned my most valuable lesson in a Speech class. It’s hard to describe stuff you can do without thinking. Seriously. Valuable lesson for a future writer.

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  25. Enjoyed the post. Rest assured if Hallmark thinks it’s a big day, chances are pretty good the day is going to get distorted or confused somehow.

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