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”?’
Welcome back to North American Things That I Still Find Weird Despite Spending Two Decades Here: Age Appropriate Activities EditionI was born in Finland but have lived in Canada since I was 11. In the years since moving, my penchant for soap-boxing has combined with nostalgic childhood fairy-dust into the terribly annoying habit of picking on North American ways of doing things. And then telling you about how much better it is across the ocean (conveniently omitting any unflattering bits). This is just one of the many perks of interacting with me! I suppose I should also mention that I continue to live in Canada and have no plans to move, so take that as you will. Not that that makes me any less right.
I have done most of my adult-ifying in North America, but that doesn’t stop me from finding it all rather weird.
Exhibit A: Letting kids drive. Because 16 years old is a kid. That’s not just my opinion based on the mind blowing ignorance they display online – I’m pretty sure actual medical professionals will tell you that teenagers do not have fully developed impulse control. Which turns out to be essential for holding back the impulse to pimp up your
car metallic one-tonne murder-device with other smelly teenagers, loud music, and a lead-heavy foot on the accelerator. My point: I’m pretty sure you should at least be trusted to wield a vote before you can wield an automobile.
Exhibit B: Not letting adults drink. I’m referring here to the narrow band of adults between the ages of 18 and 19 in Canada (which I find slightly silly) and 18 and 21 in the US (which I find ludicrous). I’m no lawyer but I believe for most other purposes the law considers you to be an adult after 18: you can vote, you’ll get in pretty deep shit if you break the law, and you can buy a gun! – all years before you can be trusted to operate a beer. But then again I’m one of those wacko liberal European types who thinks alcohol is better introduced slowly and in the safety of your parents’ home than through a beer bong at a frat party. (Are beer bongs a thing? Seems like they should be. I honestly have no idea.)
Exhibit C: Not letting adults out after dark. Specifically to establishments that offer dancing and drinking. I haven’t quite figured out the finer details but as far as I can tell this applies to anyone who has children and/or is over the age of 40 (if you’re a parent in your 30’s it’s vaguely acceptable – as in you probably won’t have the authorities called on you – but be careful). Acceptable forms of socializing for these mature stages of adulthood appear to be: the PTA, dinner parties with other couples, coaching a sports team, and mommy-yoga. If you leave your house in the evening hours to socialize in other settings you are clearly a cougar/non-dedicated parent/creeper in a mid-life crisis.
Luckily in Finland it is quite common – practically expected – that people go out regardless of their age. On a trip a few years ago I had the best time dancing up a storm with my mom at a bar where neither of us was out of place and we both actually liked the music. In fact, no one considers getting married/having children/turning 30/turning 40/turning 50/turning 60 to be the end of fun. And AMEN to that.
Welcome to North American Things That I Still Find Weird Despite Spending Two Decades Here: Floor EditionI was born in Finland but have lived in Canada since I was 11. In the years since moving, my penchant for soap-boxing has combined with nostalgic childhood fairy-dust into the terribly annoying habit of picking on North American ways of doing things. And then telling you about how much better it is across the ocean (conveniently omitting any unflattering bits). This is just one of the many perks of interacting with me! I suppose I should also mention that I continue to live in Canada and have no plans to move, so take that as you will. Not that that makes me any less right.
Back in my young and naive days, I thought floors were pretty simple and basically figured out throughout the world by now, but boy did I ever learn how deeply wrong I was:
Exhibit A: Wall to wall carpeting. Seriously, who thought that attaching a permanent dirt, mold, and allergen trap to your floors was a good idea? Your dog/kid/drunken self pukes on the floor once and the remnants of their revolting bile and partially digested burrito are forever trapped on your floor now. FOREVER. I don’t care if you have some fancy carpet cleaner that your mother in law recommended. That shit is not coming out.
Doesn’t seem so cozy on your feet now does it? Well the little baby mold-spores would beg to disagree as they nestle quietly in their perfect little nursery under your feet, undisturbed by things such as “cleaning.” Insanity I say! My mom and I were pretty perplexed by the whole thing when we arrived – what’s wrong with some strategically placed mats that can be washed?
Wall to wall carpeting becomes downright disturbing when combined with Exhibit B: Not taking your shoes off inside.
I can’t believe this is even an option in anyone’s home. Most of the people I know are civilized enough to know better, but I know this is an issue because an entire Sex and the City episode was dedicated to highlighting the right of extravagant women to wear their Manolo Blahnik’s wherever they please, children be dammed! Because if a toddler ends up sucking on a piece of feces-encrusted gum that came off your shoe, well that’s a small price to pay for not cutting your leg line short. Kid might as well learn the E-coli lesson early! Survival of the fittest and such!
There is a reason we wear shoes outside – to put a layer between us and the grimy, disgusting world – so don’t then drag that shit all over where I eat, sleep, and do push-ups once or twice a year (yes I eat off the floor, what of it?). So what I’m saying is, wearing shoes inside a Finnish home is basically an offence equivalent to killing their firstborn.
This concludes North American Things That I Still Find Weird Despite Spending Two Decades Here: Floor Edition. Stay tuned for upcoming parts of this potentially infinite series!