Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Love is in the air...

Am I the only one who finds Valentine's Day stressful?

February 14th has always been the most stressful, angst-ridden day of the year. From the time that I was in grade school until now. 

First there were all those silly little Valentine's Day cards that I had to fill out and give to everyone in my class. Even the people that I didn't like. Which was particularly stressful because I didn't want to give someone I didn't like the impression that I liked him by giving him a suggestive Valentine's message. Remember what happened to Lisa Simpson when she gave Ralph a Valentine's Day card... He fell head over heels in love with her and she couldn't get rid of him!



And then there was the receiving of said Valentine's cards. When I ached with every ounce of my being for the guy I had a crush on to give me the biggest, most beautiful, most love-proclaiming card, only to watch him give it to my best friend instead. And only to find that the guy who I really didn't like gave me his biggest and best Valentine's card. Because he's been crushing on me since Kindergarten... 

And then, in junior high, I was old enough to start dating. Except everyone else in my class was dating and I still wasn't. And so come Valentine's Day, I had to watch all of my girlfriends receive roses and chocolates from their boyfriends, while I spent recess hiding out in the bathroom because the guy that I didn't like - who was still crushing on me - brought flowers to school to give to me... 

And then there was high school. When I finally had a real boyfriend and I stayed up every night for weeks on end agonizing over the perfect gift to get him (a gold bracelet with his name engraved on the back - which in hindsight was uber tacky, but it was the early nineties...). Only to find out that he'd forgotten that it was Valentine's Day, and that during his spare, he had to run to the pharmacy and grab some cinnamon heart candies and a small stuffed bear to have something to give me at lunch. Gee... Thanks....

And then there was my first adult relationship in university. My first serious relationship. At least thought that it is serious. Which is why I spent a week planning a romantic dinner in my apartment, complete with the gift of that stunning watch that he had been eyeing for the whole semester. Except that I never bothered to tell him that I wanted to spend Valentine's Day with him, figuring that this was a given in a serious adult relationship. Only it was not a given for him. Nor was it a serious adult relationship in his mind. Because he had already made plans to hang out with his buddies and watch the hockey game. Did I want to come and have a few beers? No? Alright, well, enjoy your chicken cacciatore...

And then there was my third year university, when I was not in a relationship, but decided to make plans to go out for dinner with my best friend - a girl - anyway. Only to arrive at the restaurant and have everyone assume that we were a couple (the waiter congratulated us on being so open about our relationship and then asked us how long we had been together). Because two single girls can't possibly go out to a nice dinner together on February 14th unless they are a lesbian couple...

Even now, as a married woman who is completely head over heels in love with her husband, I find Valentine's Day stressful. There is so much pressure to "do something", to look at this day as special above all others. To spend ridiculous amounts of money on lavish gifts and dinners and flowers. To show everyone how much you love each other with extremely public displays of affection.

Last year, I ended up having to travel to British Columbia for a meeting on Valentine's Day. I didn't get back until February 15th. One of my colleagues almost had a heart attack thinking about me spending Valentine's Day alone in a hotel room, far away from my husband. "That's so sad, Jay!" she said to me. When I told her not to worry because Hubby and I have never really celebrated V-Day anyway, she looked at me like I had just told her that I had murdered her family. "You mean you never celebrate Valentine's Day? But it's the most romantic day of the year?!?! I am sooooooo sad for you!"

Now don't get me wrong. I get that lots of people want to go out of their way to do something special with the one they love on Valentine's Day. And I don't have a problem with that. If it means that much to you, go ahead and do something wildly romantic. But isn't this notion that Valentine's Day is desperately lonely unless you are with someone you love just a wee bit melodramatic? I mean, Hubby and I wake up together almost every single other day of the year. We tell each other every day - whether we are in the same city or not - that we love each other. We surprise each other with "just because" gifts at random times of the year, for no reason other than because we want to make each other smile. And we make time for each other - even if it is only a few fleeting moments - each and every day. Do we really need February 14th?

Social convention says that we do. (Then again, social convention says that we should get married and have kids. We almost didn't even bother with the marriage part, and we all know how I feel about having kids). But social convention is just going to have to accept that Hubby and I are decidedly unconventional.

And so on Thursday, millions of kids across North America (and possibly elsewhere - admittedly I am not very familiar with Valentine's traditions the world over) will go off to school with a backpack full of cards to hand out. High school students will walk through the hallways holding hands, and maybe make out a little when the teachers aren't looking. Florists, jewelry stores, spas and chocolatiers will be endlessly busy. Amateur chefs will turn their kitchens upside down to make the perfect Valentine's Day dinner for their lovers. Others will make reservations at the fanciest of restaurants and leave the mess-making to the experts. A few people might even get engaged and have a dramatically romantic story to tell all of their friends. And that is all wonderful and great and special and lovely.

As for Hubby and I, we will spend a night like many others that we spend together. He has already told me that he wants to make pizza, and that he will pair it with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, since we have so many of these in our wine cellar. We will cuddle on the couch while we watch reruns of Yes, Prime Minister, which will make us laugh. We will probably be in our pyjamas. Fergus will probably be bugging us to play fetch. I doubt that there will be any roses or chocolate or jewels or gifts of any kind.

But I promise you that there will be no shortage of love. 

The same as all other 364 days of the year.