Valentine’s Day …Bah humbug
By Ed. Lange
You are hereby directed to express your love to your wife, girlfriend, partner or significant other on February 14 of each year. If you don’t give flowers, candy, an overpriced and sappy greeting card, jewelry and a candlelit dinner, it means you don’t love her. You are a thoughtless, inconsiderate cad who deserves to be reviled by her and all of her friends until you atone for your despicable failure.
Poppycock. And if this weren’t a family magazine, a stronger word would be employed.
Why are so many people brainwashed into this lunacy? Why in the name of Cupid do intelligent, rational men and women accept the concept of an obligatory day of love? And if someone does kowtow to the peer pressure and extortion and bestows the card, flowers, jewelry, and dinner, is that someone then exempted from the need to offer any expressions of love on the other 364 days of the year? Can you then go back to being a jerk on February 15th? “Hey, I went into hock for you on Valentine’s Day, that oughta be enough to prove I love you!”
It may be that Hallmark, FTD, and Fannie Farmer will all put contracts out on my life for these sentiments, but I’ll take the risk, because I’m unalterably convinced that actions speak louder than words. Especially pre-printed words on a five-dollar card written by someone else whose job it is to sit around thinking up “meaningful” words of affection and devotion. Give me a break!
When Linda and I were first married, 40 years ago this June, I worked at a job that required me to tote a lunchbox to work. Linda made the lunches and sometimes she’d cut the sandwiches into funny jigsaw shapes and include a little love note. You can be sure that I remember those tiny acts of love more than any greeting card. Ah, but I can hear you thinking, “Oh sure, but that’s when they were newlyweds, all newlyweds do silly, love-struck things like that.” Wrong. It continues to this day. Not the funny jigsaw sandwiches, but other thoughtful actions have taken their place. Actions that happen spontaneously and unexpectedly on no particular day or date and without direction from a red-letter holiday on the calendar.
I might wake up some morning and make biscuits for us served with honey and butter. Linda might cook up a favorite dinner. We even have our own expression for this, “It’s the homemade biscuit way to say, ‘I love you,'” or “It’s the Yankee Pot Roast way to say, ‘I love you.'” And no, it doesn’t apply only to food, but to many little acts of thoughtfulness from one of us to the other. A love note on a bathroom mirror. A small bouquet of flowers after a rough day. A surprise vacuuming of the house. Doing a couple of loads of laundry. Making a cup of tea. Giving a back rub.
The unexpected expressions of love, the unscheduled acts of caring and the unplanned gifts of the heart all have the power to mean so much more than the preordained, required ones on the calendar. So much of our lives are dictated by our careers, obligations, the economy and necessity, that when the spontaneous occurs, it delights us beyond measure and certainly beyond the effort it takes us to make the spontaneous happen for our loved ones.
If you’re married, ask her to marry you again. Do the grocery shopping even if it isn’t “your job”. Tell her she’s pretty. Wash and vacuum her car or check the air in the tires. Fill up the washer fluid. Ask her for a hug. Turn off the computer and the TV and cuddle together on the couch listening to music or a crackling fire. Mail her a postcard from a business trip. Remind her of the first time you met. Recall a time that the two of you laughed your heads off together. As tiny as these are, they are all ways to say, “I think about you. I care about you. It’s the washer fluid way to say, I love you.”
But if you feel that you must spend money, be sure that the gift is for her, and not for you. A sexy nightgown does imply the compliment, “I think you’re beautiful,” but it also has the potential to carry a self-serving suggestion. Do not buy her a toaster. Try a gift certificate for a pedicure. Really surprise her by taking her to the theatre to see a play or take her to see a chick flick. (Yeah, I know, it’s a sacrifice, but hell, it’s only two hours.) It’s better still if you don’t tell her where you’re taking her. Make it a total surprise. (Warning: Do tell her what type of clothes to wear, though. Some women absolutely hate being inappropriately dressed.)
And give her the gifts, surprises and kindnesses when they’re least expected, not when they’re calendarized. As a kind of proof, I offer you romantic comedies. Yes, I confess, I’ve seen some. I guarantee you that in all such plays or films, the leading guy will do something that’s incredibly spontaneous, outrageous and silly, and that the leading female love interest will find it wildly romantic, go ga-ga over the guy, and fall hopelessly in love with him (even if he isn’t dashingly handsome).
At doctors’ offices, I sometimes sneak a look at women’s magazines just to learn a thing or two. I’m not sure that the surveys they publish are scientifically accurate, but from what I’ve read, it seems that some women (no generalizing for this guy, pal) value qualities like humor, thoughtfulness, honesty, kindness and communication as most important in their partner. So what if you don’t look like George Clooney or have the money of Bill Gates, even you have everything it takes to leave a love note in the refrigerator.
A freelance writer, three of Ed. Lange’s plays were finalists for national Audie Awards, in 2000, ’05, and ’07, and one of the three won. His articles have appeared multiple times in national magazines: Sail, Soundings, American Theatre, and Dramatics.