I like the idea of Valentine’s Day. What’s not to like about celebrating love and eating chocolate?
What I don’t like is the commercialism around the day — or the pressure associated with it. We all know what the former looks like: towering stacks of heart-shaped corn-syrup-laden candy; overpriced mass-produced sickly sentimental cards; and garish forced hothouse flowers that smell like … well, not like they should.
What does the pressure looks like? “Why the hell do I feel compelled to make this a special romantic day for my loved ones because some ancient Roman dude helped soldiers marry their sweethearts behind Emperor Claudius’ back?” (Seems that married guys were thought to make poor soldiers because of their emotional attachments — i.e., perhaps it’s easier to throw your life away in battle if you’re not thinking about the wife and four babies who will starve when you don’t return).
In past years, I’ve dealt with Valentine’s Day by making a few cards and giving good dark chocolate to those I love (hate to tell you this, but the cheap stuff contains so little cacao that the aphrodisiac qualities are nil).
My kids’ primary experience of the day, so far, is gorging on candy and having to make 20-something construction paper hearts to give to each of their classmates.
But the pressure, oh, the pressure, starts early, doesn’t it? Remember the agony of deciding who got which Valentine and whether or not writing “love” on it was appropriate or would get you shunned from the playground for life? Wait … maybe that pressure’s still there for some of us, though now we have the option of being VD grumps and claiming that none of that stuff matters anymore. Cause we’re mature adults, right?
But my kids are starting to pick up on the romance part of the pressure equation (that’s supposed to be a capital “R”). My oldest doesn’t have a “boyfriend,” because she’s 12 years old — which I want to write in all caps, but I’ll refrain from shouting.
However, according to my girl, a number of her friends do have boyfriends and girlfriends. I’m not sure what “dating” entails at this tender age, but you can bet there’s gonna be some pressure when it comes to the big VD (I actually did have a “boyfriend” in sixth grade. For about a week, I went “steady” with him. Our entire relationship was conducted via notes passed between us by an intermediary. We never spoke to each other or even looked at each other. Of course, today’s relationships can progress entirely via text message, which makes the note-passing of yesteryear seem kind of steamy — or maybe I’m just old).
So, while I’m thrilled that my daughter is not yet going “steady” with anyone, I recognize that at some point both my kids will have to deal with the pressure of how to measure up to Valentine’s Day expectations.
I have no clue how I’ll deal with that, except to tell them how incredibly hurt I was when the boy I thought was madly in love with me sent me a white carnation instead of a red one in high school. I’ll also tell them I survived that trauma. I’ll explain that most teens and pre-teens are emotionally challenged (as are way too many adults). I’ll let them know that lots of us are feeling the same angst and agony around the day that they are. And that Valentine’s Day is just another day, like Christmas, that has been taken over by marketers to help big corporations make more money. I’ll tell them that the day probably evolved from a pagan festival that the Christians co-opted (before St. Valentine entered the scene).
Though I don’t think I’ll tell them that the pagan holiday, Lupercalia, was an orgiastic fertility celebration. They don’t need to know that.