I went to the supermarket yesterday afternoon, I like going around 3 o’clock because most of the mums are picking up their kids, the older people have done their shopping hours ago, and most office workers are still chained to a desk. I was surprised to see it fairly busy. With men. Confused looking men, often clutching a bunch of flowers.
And then it dawned on me. Valentine’s Day.
Out of the woodwork had come all the men who have one job a year, buy some flowers, maybe some chocolates, sometimes a ridiculous stuffed teddybear that no one really wants or needs, and now and then they attempt to cook dinner. I’m generalising, of course. But it’s based in fact, not fiction from what I saw yesterday.
I saw men looking at one box of chocolates and then another, probably unsure if their partner even likes truffles. Grabbing bunches of flowers from the most expensive bucket, even though they were wilted and the ones a price point down were beautiful and about to flourish the very next day. I overheard a conversation between two men that went a little like this:
Man 1: I’m going to cook dinner.
Man 2: Nice! What ya making?
Man 1: Steak. Of course.
Man 2: Does she like steak?
Man 1: …
He had no idea. None. He even suggested that she may have spoken about trying vegetarianism recently, but he couldn’t really recall.
Then I saw a couple, a young and obviously deeply in love couple. She was clutching onto his arm as if she hadn’t quite figure out how to walk independently yet, he was holding a giant Valentine’s Day Card, a giant teddybear, a box of chocolates, and holding her up and attempting to place Eskimo kisses on her nose. It was quite a feat, he’s a keeper for coordination and carrying skills alone. I thought they were sickly, though clearly in love. Until I heard her say, “if you really loved me, you’d get me both the teddybears.” He then said something about not having enough money, and she replied with the biggest pout I’d ever seen. I wanted to remove her from his arm and inform him he could do so much better.
I saw a couple of women talking by the chocolates.
Woman 1: He better get me something this year.
Woman 2: I told mine, you wake me up tomorrow with a glass of champagne or you can pack your bags.
Woman 1: Absolutely! I want a box of chocolates, nice ones, and to go out to dinner. Or I’ll give him the silent treatment all weekend.
Woman 2: Are you getting him anything?
At this point, Woman 1 laughed so hard I thought we might need to get an ambulance.
This is why I dislike Valentine’s Day. The enforced, often one-sided, gestures of love. If someone can only do something nice or romantic for their partner on one day of the year when they are practically blackmailed into doing so by a tidal wave of marketing and consumerism… does it really count?
I’m guilty of it myself. I remember being in a relationship years ago and sighing as I picked up a card for someone I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be with. I hadn’t decided if we’d make it until the end of the week, and yet I found myself buying a card with a pair of cuddling teddybears claiming undying love for each other. Which made the inevitable breakup all the harder as it appeared that my feelings had gone from “you’re my everything” to “get out of my house” in a few short days.
And, pardon me for saying so, but isn’t it all a little bit…. heteronormative? Doesn’t it seem like we’re conditioning men that they don’t have to do much for most of the year, as long as they buy the most expensive flowers and a card three times the size of your face on a predetermined day once per year? Because it’s almost always men who have to make the effort. The consumer juggernaut that is Valentine’s Day doesn’t often show women buying flowers and chocolates for their man. If anything, they buy a card and prepare themselves to be wined and dined. Possibly to receive an item of lingerie in the wrong size. Because that’s what Valentine’s Day is, one day where cards, chocolates, flowers, expensive meals, wine, and lingerie fly off of the shelves to prove that… actually I do like you even though I rarely show it.
And so, I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t tell my gorgeous wife that I love her on Valentine’s Day. Because I tell her I love her every single day. I am blessed to be in a relationship that means I don’t need one day where I’m reminded that I’m loved. I feel loved every day, and I know that my wife feels the same. It doesn’t matter the day or the month, Emma is always in my mind and at the forefront of everything I do. I care for her, and I show her that through actions and words throughout the year. And so, this Valentine’s Day will be the same as every other day of the year for us… and that is so much better than being woken up with a glass of champagne and a giant teddybear.
Personally, I think a gift of chocolates, a meal out, or a gesture of love is far greater when it doesn’t take place on February 14th.
What do you think?