“Valentine’s Day is the worst holiday ever,” I proudly declared to my writing seminar. “It’s just an excuse for card and chocolate companies to make more money. Anyone in a good relationship doesn’t need that stuff, and anyone who likes the holiday just wants presents and attention.” I smiled proudly as my cohorts applauded my stance, and beginning then at the age of 19, I swore off Valentine’s Day.
As years went by, I mocked the girls who were stressed about being alone on February 14 and scoffed at guys who wasted their money on drugstore teddy bears. I always made it clear to my then-boyfriend (now husband) that we would do nothing to celebrate, and I didn’t even mean it as a trick the way I did when I told him he didn’t have to get me anything for my birthday.
But about ten years ago, I happened to be at a Walgreen’s on Valentine’s Day. Next to the cashier were dog-shaped chocolates in paper houses that said “I ruff you.” Motivated by my sweet tooth and the 2-for-1 price, I grabbed a couple and presented them to my boyfriend later that night. Just as I was about to criticize how tacky and commercialized they were, he said, “Aw, thanks. I love chocolate,” and he gave me a kiss. This is a guy who doesn’t particularly like dogs or puns, but still chose to simply be appreciative and sweet. Stunned, I said you’re welcome and gave him a hug, and it was a moment that didn’t feel at all sponsored by Hallmark or borne from some societal expectation. It was just a small gesture that helped us connect for a second, and the gesture wouldn’t have happened without Valentine’s Day.
These days, our Valentine’s Days usually mean that we get to eat an extra cookie with our kids after dinner, or that we’ve splurged on a fancy frozen pizza instead of just store-brand, but we still take the day as a reminder to show our appreciation and love for each other. And I’m not here to say that this is how you should celebrate Valentine’s Day, or even that you need to celebrate it at all—the only thing I want to say is that hating it is a total waste of time.
I look back with such regret at those years when it was more important for me to be cynical than to do something small for my husband. While none of this fazes him in the slightest, I realize that I’ve never regretted saying “thank you” or “I love you” one more time, or giving one more unnecessary gift; but I do regret all of the times I thought about doing these things and didn’t.
There’s plenty to be cynical about in our world today, and I’ve experienced firsthand how that cynicism can creep into all areas of your life. But don’t be cynical about the people who you love and who have supported you even in those quiet, mundane hours. At the very least, you might get some dog-shaped chocolate out of it.
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