Every year, sometime right after Groundhog Day, my wife will
turn to me and say, "Oh God, you're not getting me anything for Valentine's
Day, are you?"
I will immediately shoot her back my most incredulous look
possible. "No, why? You didn't make plans, did you?"
And then our shoulders sag in sweet, sweet relief and we go
back to watching the second season of "Fargo"
THIS IS WHY I LOVE MY WIFE.
My wife and I have known each other for 20 years and we've
been married for 16 of those years. In all that time, it has never once occurred
to us to actually "celebrate" Valentine's Day. It has just never come up in a
serious way. Sure, we're aware of
Valentine's Day. We occasionally have to visit a CVS between late December and
February, so it would be impossible to completely ignore it. But we've just
never really seen the point.
Now, to be clear, my problem with Valentine's Day isn't the age-old
complaint that it's a Hallmark holiday, that it's a soulless corporate creation meant to stimulate the economy more than my spouse. I have no issue with the
origins of Valentine's Day. I like dumb traditions and wacky holidays. So, my
problem isn't that Valentine's Day exists. My problem is that Valentine's Day
is so poorly defined.
Because what the hell IS Valentine's Day, really?
Is my daughter supposed to be acknowledging that she loves her classmates? Because she doesn't.
It isn't actually about romance. I mean, that's the
marketing pitch, right? That Valentine's Day is the most romantic day of the
year? It's the day where you're supposed to have a special night out with your
loved one, buy chocolates, eat an over-priced meal, exchange "love gifts," and
feel obligated to bring your A-game to the bedroom, correct? Is that the point?
Because that doesn't sound romantic to me. That sounds like
work. That sounds like a drag.
As a long-married man, I understand that it's easy to
neglect the romantic side of your relationship, and, yes, you do need to check
in from time to time and remind your partner that, as the song says, "there ain't
no sunshine when they're gone." So, maybe Valentine's Day has some value in
that regard, but it couldn't be a clunkier, more shallow way to remind someone
that you love them.
If I suddenly planned a gigantic romantic gesture for my
wife on Valentine's Day, it would be the equivalent of those people who ONLY go
to church on Christmas and Easter. Who do they think they're fooling? They're
not being pious. They're hedging their bets. They are doing the least amount of
work possible to keep thinking of themselves as "religious" people.
That's how I feel when I see a couple out for a date night
on February 14. Seriously, guys? THIS makes you feel romantic? You
couldn't plan a night out in June or November? You could only work up the steam
to be romantic on the most obvious day of the year?
Valentine's Day feels disingenuous to me, and I'm lucky that
my wife feels the same way. And the holiday gets even more confusing once you
have a kid.
Because how do you explain the point of Valentine's Day to a
child? You can't delve into the romance angle too deeply because, you know,
they're like 6 years old, but there's not much more to the holiday than its
weird pantomime of the mating ritual. So, for children, you find yourself
trying to sell V-Day as some kind of "Love Day," a celebration of all things
lovey, which, again, doesn't make a ton of sense.
All they know is that, on February 14, they
have to buy every kid in their class a cheap piece of paper with a Minion or
Ant-Man on it. Paper hearts will be exchanged, completely devoid of emotion,
and they'll be forced to choke down the chalkiest candy ever created, solely
because it's shaped like a heart and has "Be Mine" stamped on it.
What's romantic about that? How does that have anything to
do with love? Is my daughter supposed to be acknowledging that she loves her
classmates? Because she doesn't. She likes them a lot, but giving them hearts
and love messages feels really odd and confusing.
Valentine's Day feels like an excuse.
I have tried and failed to explain Valentine's Day to my
daughter and, if I'm being honest, I've never been able to explain it to my
Fortunately, my wife feels the same way. To us, Valentine's
Day feels like an excuse. It's an excuse for children to eat candy. It's an
excuse to have a red-frosted cupcakes at work. It's an excuse to buy stuff, dress
up and have a night out. And there's some value to that. Who doesn't like
candy, cake and presents? But I'm not going to call that romance.
Romance should mean more, cost more and require more effort.
Valentine's Day is like the Cliff Notes of romance and, once my wife and I
realized how seriously we took our relationship, we simply couldn't imagine
accepting such an abbreviated form of affection for one another.
So, if you have a hot date scheduled for February 14 and your partner is into it, good for you. Meanwhile I will probably sit on a couch next
to my wife and maybe check my phone while she watches "Gilmore Girls" on
Netflix. And, as she slowly falls asleep on my shoulder, in the same way that
she has thousands of nights before, I will feel more love in those familiar,
intimate seconds than I ever could during a 15 percent off couples massage or steak
Ultimately, we don't celebrate Valentine's Day
because we have no use for it. And that's the best possible gift we could ever give