This day, Valentines day, has always been a nice one for me. I somehow got the idea (probably from my mother, who has always had a very subtle plan) that Valentines day was about Love in general, not romantic love in specific, and so around these parts it has never really been tied to anything soul-crushing and ego defeating.
It has remained relatively mundane, even in the currently awesome and enormous face of teenaged love, something that I appreciate to no end.
I am an intensely pragmatic person, and I don’t suffer fools gladly, not even teenaged lovestruck fools that I am related to, and it turns out I am not much of a romantic. Don’t get me wrong…I wholeheartedly agree with love. Especially love of family, love of friends and love of ethics and fairness, but on careful reflection it seems to me that romantic love, given completely free rein and allowed to run wild through civilization, has been responsible for more poor decision making, wars, kidnapping, obsession, suicide, low self-esteem and generalized rack and ruin than any other human emotion in the whole world…and this belief has led me to a significant level of caution around the sort of love that Valentines day sells wholesale.
This Valentines day idea of love, that we can be swept up, or away, or that there is a complete and total love and trust that doesn’t necessitate a safety net (particularly for women, who seem to sometimes forget that the best man in the world can get hit by a bus and the rest of them occasionally run off) isn’t something I want my daughters to think about. When I was younger, I would have thought that this quote was really beautiful.
We are, each of us angels with only one wing; and we can only fly by embracing one another.
-Luciano de Crescenzo
Now it gives me the itching heebie geebies.
I want my daughters to know that it is possible to be a whole sensible person without benefit of romantic attachment, and many people have gone on to be happily single as well as unhappily married and ….
Well. I just wish we would stop holding out these “I would die without your love” fairy tales to young women and men (we could lay off the older ones while we’re at it) and start talking about the sort of love that we should be honouring and asking kids to aspire too. Love that is good for the people who are in it and supports and encourages growth in both partners is to the Valentines Day sort of love as whole grain bread is to twinkies.
I personally am way, way more turned on and reassured about Joe’s love when he cleans the bathroom than I am when he brings me flowers. Don’t get me wrong buckaroos, I love the flowers, but they would be an entirely hollow gesture if the dude wasn’t coming to bed smelling a little like Vim once in a while. A beautiful card would mean little to me if Joe were not an equal partner in parenting, and chocolates would taste a little off if they were given to me while I was felt I was being denied proper support for my career and education within our loving relationship.
Having a day where the romantic performance of your mate and whether or not he or she gets you a card, flowers and chocolate (although I do like all of those things) is paramount takes the focus off of real love and real issues between mates….job sharing, equal education, support, loyalty…and who the hell is making dinner tonight and are both of your names on the mortgage anyway?
I think the world would fare a little better if from time to time we looked at a couple swooning with love and instead of drawing pink hearts and singing “all you need is love” at them said “This is all very nice, but you are both going to be needing an education and life insurance.” The streets are littered with women and men who bought the commercialized Valentines day idea of love and ended up in some real trouble because it turned out that there was a lot of dirty laundry, diapers and bills under all that frilly pink adoration.
That’s why Valentines Day is going to stay as much of a family affair as possible around here. A celebration of the Whole Wheat sort of love to balance out the overwhelming tide of twinkie love sweeping over them every day through pop culture. I know that I sound more than a little cynical, but I maintain that I am not. What I am is a fan of real, whole love. Love that makes everyone in it better, not just vaguely happier for a while. Love that makes strong women, women who don’t end up loosing track of all of the dreams and hopes they had for their own lives because Valentines Day style love says that if you’re in love that’s all you need, and that if you still want things for yourself after you are in love then you must not be in love “enough” or you would be completely fulfilled by it. I want my daughters, (and your daughters and sons – because my kids are going to need some well adjusted people to marry) to have realistic expectations of love. I want them to know that the Valentines Day love isn’t sustainable. Not through taking out the garbage, skunks in the chimney or losing your job. You need love with teeth for that.
My daughters will have their days, and they will be knocked down and dragged through the snake pit of crushing romantic first love and they will likely get hurt and learn something and sob because they think they can’t live without the object of their affection. I know it. All I’m trying to do around here is to make sure that someday, when they gaze into their lovers eyes and the lacy and ruffled world of romantic love unfurls around them, that somewhere in the back of their heads, a little voice (it will probably be mine) says “Don’t forget to have a bank account in your own name, cupcake.”
I’ll close with the immortal words of Lily Tomlin.
If love is the answer, could you rephrase the question?