As a divorced person, I understand the cynicism. What's so inherently wrong with a holiday about love, hearts, and flowers though? Seriously? Once we cut through the consumerist message from advertisers, we can make it whatever we want. Who says our pets or our friends can't be our valentines?
I can't have children, but I don't begrudge people who celebrate Mother's Day or Father's Day. I haven't eaten a traditional turkey dinner since 1992, but I still celebrate Thanksgiving by cooking huge meals for my family. I like the concept of having half a dozen special days during the year as an excuse for get-togethers and decadent food. In some ways, Valentine's Day is my revenge for having to wait out three months of tacky Christmas displays.
My husband is not a lover of holidays, or at least he wasn't. After ten years, he's starting to come around. I make it a practice to think of things he would like and to do little favors that would appeal to him. Part of what's wrong with the treacly, smarmy consumerist V-Day is this sense of generic, all-purpose gifts. Not everyone likes or wants champagne, chocolate, red roses, stuffed animals, or helium balloons. If my man brought me a $60 bouquet on Valentine's Day, I'd kick his butt. We have to demonstrate that we know each other better than that.
That's why, on Valentine's Day one year, I bought him an anvil.
Being a dream date for someone is extremely, meticulously specific. Nobody has the same dream. The core idea is that you are curious about this person who is spending time with you. What are you like? What DO you like? What's your favorite sandwich? What's your guilty-pleasure musical playlist? It's fun to be able to spoil someone and surprise them in a way that nobody else would know how to do properly. There's no reason why this person has to be a romantic or sexual partner.
The other night, I was coming home from my walk when a woman pulled up in front of my neighbor's house. She had a small crate with a helium balloon tied to it, a balloon shaped like a monkey wearing boxer shorts with a heart pattern. She set the crate at the gate and dashed back to her car. I peeked at the crate as I walked by, and it had a pair of wine glasses and a teddy bear, among other things. My neighbor is a nurse and he often works the late shift. I begrudge him nothing. It's cute to see people in their forties finding love, especially when at least one of them works a non-standard schedule. Good for them. How likely is it that this gal would go out of her way to drop off a package like this on an ordinary work night?
There are some elements of romantic love that we can keep, even while ditching traditional gender role stereotypes and creepy stalker-ish love songs. The idea of committing to a relationship with someone, even when that person is occasionally annoying or confusing, can be rather inspiring. There's a potential for deep dives into extended philosophical conversations that can't be matched through most other types of relationships. Being 'with' someone over a period of years is a way to have a mirror, someone who knows you better than yourself in some ways, someone who will call you on your BS and help you to be closer to the ideal version of yourself. I don't feel that I know any of my friends or relatives anywhere near as well as I do my husband, and I doubt they'd want me to.
I "got me a man" by wearing comfortable shoes and completely eschewing cosmetics, by being extremely opinionated and having a big mouth, by Reading All the Things and completely being myself all the time. This is the best policy. When you always act like yourself, you wind up with people who like the you that you are. We were both single for a long time and would never have settled for just anyone. Not much about conventional romantic advice would have worked for us.
Just be a human and do what you want, and when you find someone interesting, be a good friend and leave space to talk to them. True friendship is a miracle, something worth celebrating, and if it turns into something a bit more schmoopy, allow it. We are social animals, and this world could certainly use more love in it. What else are we going to do in February anyway?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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