Monday, February 14, 2011

My case against Valentine's Day

A metric ton of marketing always comes with the holiday known as Valentine’s Day. And, since we all know marketing is, in fact, truth, then the retailer will bank on us to validate our lovesick ways at the cash register. Florists, jewelers, restaurants, car companies, teddy bear makers, lingerie makers, chocolate producers, they all want to cash-in on the hopes that we’re hopeful about the status of our relationships. With all the subtlety of a February blizzard, they remind: “We’re here if you need us; and you really do need us.” The ads are slick, mushy, thoughtful, and appeal to our happy, fuzzy weak spots.

Caring: the casual card secretly slipped into a jacket pocket, to be “discovered accidentally” and opened while caught a little off guard, a little breathless, and a little embarrassed, alone, or in the company of the thoughtful card buyer. Touching.

Naughty. Amping up the intimacy with a bit of colorful bedroom attire––lacy things, silky things, pink, red, and playful things––provocative, expensive things, designed to be worn for only an instant, and no sooner haphazardly adorning the floor next to the bed. Kinky.

Nice: dinner for two in a perfect restaurant with perfect food and perfect decor, served under perfect lighting and by a perfect wait staff. Magic.

Scrumptious: stuffing the mouth of your lover with decadent sweetness––a box of mixed chocolates, hard candies, or baked goods straight from the kitchen of your heart––to simply say, “I love you just the way you are... if not just slightly fatter.” Tasty.

Aroma therapy: perhaps perfume is your sweet pheromone charged nod to your lover’s scent, “I love the way you smell most of the time... if not just slightly better.” Smell that? That’s love.

Glitzy: jewelry is perhaps the flashiest twinkle of love and affection. And, by far, the most expensive. It’s electric. It’s turbo-charged confirmation in a felt covered, silk lined box. It’s a bold statement: no price comes close to the value of the relationship. “I love you––us––and you look amazing... if not twice as dazzling wearing this.” Breathtaking.

Love, life’s sweetest reward; set it free, and it floats back to you. Take a cruise on the love boat. Buy a Lexus. Go to Paris. These are all just perfect occasions to say the three perfect words: I love you.

And all of it a load of steaming B.S.

Like Christmas, where love is measured in an abundance of gifts and bloated credit card bills, Valentine’s Day is another chance to spend lots of money, hoping to reassure our fragile souls that other souls love us. To prove it, essentially.

It’s a gesture. And if life teaches us anything it’s this: you only get credit for the gesture. Gesture is king. A sappy card; a nice dinner; earrings; sexy underpants; or sweet nothings in a chocolate box. Commitment? No credit. Sacrifice? No credit. Choosing to love every day when it’s harder than hell? No credit. The real and meaningful things are too constant, too true––as not to be noticed, catalogued or appreciated.

The things that matter, in the end, are too vaporous, like clouds: brilliant, beautiful, and gone too soon. Nobody ever comments on a cloudy sky. People only seem to notice when the clouds are gone.

But at least we have Valentine’s Day, to keep our hopes alive, to perpetuate the belief in the fantasy––always and forever––that the fantasy of love remains even in the absence of love itself. Or worse, the utter blindness to real love right in front of our eyes, day after day, week after week, year after year.

Where’s the card for that?