It is almost Valentine’s Day.
Soon, they will begin to appear on doorsteps and office desks across America.
(Cue theme from Jaws)
The dozen long-stemmed roses. Da duh. Da duh.
The heart-shaped chocolate boxes. Da duh. Da duh. Da duh.
The blood-curdling squeals. Da duh.
“He remembered! He remembered! I have the greatest boyfriend/fiance/husband/ secret Twitter follower ever!”
iPhones snap. Succulent floral arrangements and golden-foiled Godiva boxes make their rounds, in both verbal and viral form.
Do you love or loathe Valentine’s day?
Does it plunge you into an existential funk so deep that only a Kate Hudson movie marathon will prove a worthy antidote? Are you cool, calm and collected, riding out the day with Zen-like ease? Maybe you’re a middle-of-the-roader, moist-eyed-in-the-bathroom-while-everybody-is-collecting-their-flowers and blasting-death-metal-on-the-way-home?
1. Girls and guys, if you find yourself singular, either by choice or default, on this all-important holiday, you can be death-and-taxes certain of one thing. Societal pressure to find a date.
Anybody. So what if he or she is an axe murderer? At least you’ll have ‘somebody.’ Fight the power, will you? There’s somebody who is right for you. Patience is a virtue. Or something like that.
We all have that friend, family member or co-worker who is certain that one must be in a relationship (any relationship, to say nothing of healthy qualities like mutual trust, respect or admiration) to feel validated in the eyes of the world. V-Day is a grand opportunity for this individual to get upon his or her virtual soapbox and shout—and usually at the most inopportune time possible.
Maybe this person is trying to be ‘helpful?’ Maybe not. Do you recognize that voice in your own life? Mine sounds a little like Great Aunt Gertrude, Glenn Beck and that jerky guy from junior high gym class rolled into one.
It purses its lips and shakes its highly dysfunctional head and says stuff like:
Do you really want to carry heavy tables up the stairs by yourself, honey, for the rest of your life? Or change the spark plugs? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life eating frozen dinners from boxes? Do you want to keep doing middle-of-the-floor Pincha Mayurasana without a spotter? You know you’ll break every bone in your body and be devoured by the cat when the Friskies run out?
So, let us gird our collective loins against the Valentine’s industrial complex—the notion that one is only a ‘complete’ adult as part of a couple (with a stockpile of gifts to prove it). Let us practice acceptance and non-attachment. Love is wonderful. And fate has accorded that it will happen to each of us in a different time and place. Which brings me to…
2. The flowers/chocolates/shiny baubles/expensive dinners/lovey-dovey Facebook posts/singing candy grams are sweet gestures.
But true love requires time, dedication and selflessness. You can’t just buy a bouquet at the bodega or bribe the maitre’d at Chez Amour.
Financial or material generosity is important–so is generosity of time, energy and spirit. True, these ‘slow and steady’ varieties of care and dedication do not inspire the same droves of Facebook ‘liking’ cheerleaders as the $150 prix fixe dinner at Chez Amour or the imported Belgian chocolates (photographed on Facebook, of course).
It’s like yoga class. ‘Boring’ yoga poses like Tadasana, performed with focus and attention can generate more heat than the most advanced, sexiest one arm handstand when said handstand is practiced with unease and distraction. Appreciate these gestures, but accept them as a smaller part of a larger whole.
3. There are a whole lotta kinds of loves.
Listen to Led Zeppelin? Romantic, passionate love is powerful. It induces a ‘high’ in the same part of the brain that registers opiate addiction. Loved and lost this season? Take a lesson from the ancient Greeks who, when they weren’t busy drinking wine and having orgies or inventing sacred geometry, were trying to distill the varietals of love into several handy categories.
Eros: This is romantic, passionate love—the kind you hear most about at this time of year. (Eros was the Greek god. Cupid is the Roman.)
Agape: This is more of a divine, self-sacrificing love. It has been referred to as charitable, love for the Divine or love for one’s fellow man.
Philia: The type of love shared among friends. Remember Valentine’s Day in elementary school, when we taped paper lunch bags to our desks and filled them with small, perforated Valentine’s cards, signed by our classmates? This is philia.
Storge: This refers to familial love
You may not have a hot date this Valentine’s Day, but you will receive love and affection from the Universe, which operates in mysterious ways. Remember friends, family, teachers, pets and the many people who work behind-the-scenes to enrich your life. You’re part of a web of millions and billions. What about the ineffable, inspirational qualities present in a good book, piece of music or work of art? Pay homage to love in its many incarnations in a cross-legged position, thumbs and forefingers touching, palms facing up.
Yeah, right? you say. Continue on, my lovelies.
4. Deconstruction is good in literary criticism. Not for Valentine’s Day. Stop over-analyzing.
What should I wear? Where should we go? Am I sending the right message? Are we serious? Should I get her flowers? Should I get him a present? Do we split the check? Do I have foie gras in my teeth? Which one of my kidneys am I going to have to sell to pay for this? What does this mean?
Time for a little meditation on non-attachment.
Valentine’s rumination. It gets your mind going like a Nascar race and takes your nowhere.
You see, my birthday is February 14th, a state of affairs I attribute to the fact that the Universe must certainly have a grand and slightly twisted sense of humor.
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking once explained:
“Not only does God play dice but… he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.”
The answer is out there, coursing at warp speed through all that dark matter.
Valentine’s Day is what we make of it. We create our own fun. We create our own meaning. I have truly experienced some unorthodox Valentine’s Days. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
There was the Valentine’s Day spent at karaoke night with a group of bike messengers. I was new in town, and didn’t know anybody. There was the following Valentine’s Day, when everybody I did know had dates and the guy I was kind of seeing did not believe in Valentine’s Day (or didn’t believe in spending it with me, as it turned out). There was the Valentine’s Day I spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa with a box of white chocolate-covered ice cream pops, a rare treat. There was civil unrest and the truck had just made a delivery, a rare confluence of events.
Sometimes I go out for birthday lunch or dinner with my family. This often induces confusion among the romantic couples, who actually seem a bit tense. Actually, I’ve seen a more relaxed group of individuals waiting for a root canal at the dentist’s. (“What is a passiontini?” asks my mom. “Do I have to get dressed up?” asks my brother. “What is a balsamic reduction?,” asks my dad.)
Godspeed on this most auspicious of holidays. Remember that eros may have united empires, but it is agape that sustains worlds. And, for that nosey co-worker, there are always headphones and show tunes, sung loudly and clearly.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger
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