In many ways, I am not your typical white woman. I have never seen an episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, I have never eaten at The Cheesecake Factory and I have never been able to name all four Golden Girls. (I think the slutty one was named Blanche. Or is that from Sex and the City?)
It could be why I don’t have many close female friends. But let’s save that pseudopsychology for another essay.
At the risk of losing my White Woman Membership Card, I will confess to perhaps the biggest divergence between otras mujeres blancas and myself: It’s my total disdain for Valentine’s Day.
Before I lay out my argument as to why Valentine’s Day should be as widely celebrated as other February “holidays” such as National Baked Alaska Day (Feb. 1), National Home Warranty Day (Feb. 10) or National Public Sleeping Day (Feb. 28), I should also confess to not being a very romantic person in general.
If I see a strolling violinist, my first thought is, “Please don’t come over here! Please don’t come over here!” If I’m handed a single rose at a restaurant, I will say to my husband, “Great, now I have to carry this around all night.” When I see a 5-ft.- tall teddy bear clutching a heart on the top shelf of a grocery store, I immediately imagine the poor thing—at some distant point in the future—being the last item stuffed into a moving van.
Yes, I’m practical to the point of being a buzzkill. It’s probably a good thing I’ve been married for 32 years. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be for most men to date me.
Fortunately, my husband gets me. He understands that, for all my unsentimental bravado, I still enjoy genuine acts of romance. He knows I would prefer to be given flowers on a random Tuesday for no particular reason rather than a giant bouquet of roses on February 14 that cost 100 bucks. (To be honest, I don’t want roses any time of the year.) If you want to make me happy, give me tulips or sunflowers. I think they are far happier flowers than roses. Roses—particularly red roses—seem dour in comparison.
I suppose you could say it’s the commercialization of Valentine’s Day that makes it so appalling to me. On the first Valentine’s Day after my husband and I started dating, he was out of town performing at a comedy club in upstate New York. The day next, while driving home, he stopped to buy me flowers before coming to visit. (This was in the old days when you still had to go to a flower shop and you couldn’t just pick up a bunch at 7-11.) The florist called him “cheap” for buying flowers the day after Valentine’s Day. Prior to this incident, I had never been a fan of the holiday, but I went along with it because I thought that’s what normal people do. And then my boyfriend was called “cheap.”
I vowed never to celebrate Valentine’s Day again.
Yet, when I tell people I don’t like Valentine’s Day, they accuse me of lying. Countless times over the years other men have told my husband not to listen to my wishes. They tell him I must REALLY want him to do something romantic. They imply I must secretly resent him for not buying me a heart-shaped box of chocolates. And all this adds up to one more reason I’m not a fan of VD: It makes women look typical.
Contrary to popular opinion, women are not monolithic. We don’t all like the same things. Yet, there seems to be this immutable list of items a man must purchase in order to demonstrate his love for a woman. (Curiously, a heart-shaped cheese wheel is nowhere on this list, which, in my mind, is criminal.)
Not only do these items make women look interchangeable, they also make us seem juvenile. Somehow, men have convinced each other that a grown woman wants balloons and stuffed animals and we go along with the gag. (Maybe some of you do like them. But seeing so many bears with hearts at garage sales and thrift shops makes me think you may be in the minority.)
To add to the creepiness, men will often give—or women will buy on their own—lingerie for the big day—or, more appropriately, the big night. So, ladies, here’s a teddy bear—a gift a five-year-old would love—now go put on a thong and bustier. Ewww.
I also think Valentine’s Day lets men off the hook for the rest of the year—birthdays and anniversaries notwithstanding. If they send you flowers at work, and you post a pic of your bouquet on social media, they think they’ve done something special. (Even though there are thousands of photos that look exactly the same as the one you posted.)
By now, I know many of you are thinking, “This chick has issues.” And you would be right. A few years ago, I did some soul searching to figure out why Valentine’s Day makes me so hostile. It took a while but I think I figured out the source.
When I was a kid (don’t all revelations begin with those words?) my mother (and those words, too!) would always insist that I give Valentine’s Day cards to every member of my class. It was a lovely gesture and not something people thought of doing way back in the ‘70’s. Sometimes, I would protest because there would be one or two kids who were mean and I didn’t want to give them a card. But she would say, “You don’t know what their home life is like.” So, I would begrudgingly obey her wishes.
One year (I think it may have been second grade) we were all sitting at our desks with our Valentine’s cards. Since I was a pretty child, I had a pile of them. A giant stack. And not just from the boys. Even the girls who wanted to be my friend had given me a card. I looked around at the other kids and some of them only had one. I knew it was from me. Actually, I knew it was from my mother.
I have no idea how those kids felt about only getting one card. It’s not something 7-year-olds discuss. But it broke my heart. And I felt guilty for having so many.
A psychologist might suggest (and this is why I don’t go to therapy) that I’ve been punishing myself for almost 50 years for this one incident. I suppose there is some truth to that scurrilous claim. But there are also adults who don’t celebrate Halloween because they went to a haunted house when they were five.
As ridiculous a holiday as I think it is, I actually don’t mind when I see others celebrate. If waiting two hours for a table at a restaurant is your idea of a good time, then knock yourself out. Besides, love is a good thing no matter what day of the year.
As for me, I will spend Valentine’s Day nursing a cheese hangover from partaking far too much on National Cheddar Day on (February 13). (Between you and me, cheese is my real love. Don’t tell my husband.)
Happy Valentine’s Day!