Valentine’s is here again with all its pink, flowery crap, its expectations, and its disappointments. And I’m here to once again plead for a different approach because I find the whole exercise so…. tired. I’m just not big on Mandated Feelings days. We already have plenty. Let’s give our poor psyches – which are already expected to perform on cue so much of the time – a break shall we?
So I’m here with a rerun – a public service announcement really – in hopes that one day Valentine’s could move past romantic love.
Hyvää Ystävänpäivää (translation = Happy Friendship Day)!
Yes, the ever-wise Finns* celebrate Valentine’s day with the far more inclusive name of ‘Friendship Day,’ an interpretation I still miss. Romantic love already gets celebrated through weddings, anniversaries, and countless quiet moments together – celebrations that have far deeper roots because they have actually grown from our own relationships and histories. Valentine’s Day only has the non-specific, idealistic demand of romance, now! And by the way, in case you weren’t sure, THIS is what romance looks like! (insert images of happy couples exchanging diamonds and plasma screen televisions – they are a modern, egalitarian couple after all – over a candlelit dinner while fireworks go off in the background.)
Not surprisingly, this singular mold for romance doesn’t fit most of us very well. I for one have never done well with the Grand Romantic Gesture that seems to lie at the very heart of Valentine’s Day. The thing is, my conversational repertoire mostly revolves around sarcasm and attempts at dry humour, so the purely lovey-dovey spirit of the Grand Romantic Gesture sucks all the wind out of my sails and leaves me awkwardly searching for genuinely nice things to say. It’s just unnatural. I far prefer romance that occurs in the company of sweatpants and u-brew wine, where my ironic and occasionally obscenity-filled expressions of love aren’t shamed into hiding.
I’m going to venture to say that on any given Valentine’s day, there are very few people who fit the romantic mold as it’s prescribed, resulting in each and every one of us, at some point or another, feeling in turn inadequate, stifled, fake, and self-righteous – sometimes all at the same time.
Celebrating friendship is far less loaded. Maybe it’s because friendship hasn’t been as rigidly defined by society; it takes many forms and we expect it to. It’s generally not as focused on a single person, thereby diffusing the expectations and the guilt-driven consumerism (somehow I think the jewelry companies would have a harder time convincing us to buy diamonds for all our friends, though I’m positive they would try.) Friendship is also thus far neglected in the schmorgasborg of honorific days – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, days for various dead presidents/monarchs, the country’s independence day, and our own awesomeness day. But at no time in the year do we actually get reminded to express gratitude to our friends.**
Just imagine an alternate universe where planning for Valentine’s Day means getting in touch with all the people you always mean to call but rarely get a chance to, maybe getting a few together for a nice potluck dinner – not to hate on romantic love, but to laugh and drink and remind each other that you’re needed and loved by people other than your partner. This I think would be a holiday really worth acknowledging.
Despite my firm belief in the superiority of this alternate version, I’m not a Valentine’s hater. Valentine’s day, like weddings, has become a favourite target of scorn and derision among the Holier Than Thou. You know, the people who when you mention your wedding will describe, with barely concealed smugness, how they spent just $103 on theirs ‘because they don’t need a big party to advertise their love’.*** Those are the same people who will proudly tell you they do not have plans for Valentine’s, because their love is so far above such trivialities. Yeah that’s all well and good, but sometimes we mere mortals just like to have fun. Although smugness is admittedly satisfying, it has a bitter after-taste and on this rainy
Monday Thursday in February I’m quite happily going to choose a decadent meal and a bottle of wine by the fire in the name of romantic love instead.
But first, I gotta make some phone calls.
*In case you’re wondering, yes, I will continue to put all things Finnish on a pedestal because it gives me an easy vantage point from which to judge all things North American. And since no one I meet has actually gone to Finland to verify my claims this can go on in perpetuity. Haha! Just try and tell me we don’t ride reindeer to school and have Nokia cell phones with mind-predictive texting.
**I’m going to say I lurrrv youuu’s slurred over pumping Lady Gaga while spilling your watery vodka-cran on passersby don’t totally qualify for ‘making time to appreciate your friends’, though they do have their own undeniable charm.
***$100 for the license and $3 for bus fare. The bride wore a charity 5K-run T-shirt, the rings were made from twist-ties they found in the garbage together, and the wedding took place in the alley behind their house, witnessed by the blind, orphaned kittens they help care for in their spare time. ‘It was so special and intimate…. so what were you saying about your, uhm, “details”?’