Monday, February 12, 2007

Is it wrong to have girl hope for Valentine's Day? or are we sucked into commercialism?

Who's asking: Chandra Leister, somewhere in Maine

Most of my own romantic history could be filed somewhere between "ambiguous" and "imaginary," but if priests can be marriage counselors, I'm happy to tackle this question.

Valentine's Day represents the unified field theory of modern romance. If you've figured it out, I invite you to post your own solutions below.

Easy part of the question first: yes, we're sucked into commercialism. The fact that jewelry stores offer payment plans for Valentine's gifts is horrifying. Do women expect men to go into debt in order to prove their devotion? Obviously, some do. If you're one of those women, shame on you.

The "girl hope" part of this is more difficult. All any of us really wants, I think, is for someone we find amazing to find us amazing. This is "in love." It tends not to last very long, because familiarity does breed contempt. As we get to know the object of our affection better, the things that amazed us become ordinary or even annoying. It takes energy and desire to keep looking for amazement in one person, and to keep trying to be amazing for the person we love. The truth is that we can never know everything about any other person. If we remind ourselves that any long-term relationship is a never-ending process of getting to know each other (and ourselves), we will always find new things to amaze us.

Hope of any kind suggests a position of weakness. Men justifiably complain that women don't tell them what we want, then yell at them for not being able to figure it out on their own. If Valentine's Day is important to you, you need to let your husband or boyfriend know that well in advance. I don't believe in picking out one's own presents -- in fact, I think that's kind of tragic -- but you can certainly drop a few hints about the kind of things you'd like. (Some people are good at presents, and some aren't. Being a person who's good at presents, I'd like to consider the lack of this ability a character flaw, but it isn't.)

The other thing to remember is that Valentine's is one arbitrary day. What matters is every other day. If you're in a relationship, remind yourself every day to look, really look at your partner, and ask the only question that really matters:

How are things with you?

Oh, and before I forget: best birthday wishes to Adrienne Lakadat, my oldest friend (oldest in duration, not in age), and to Sarah Weinman, the Idiosyncratic Mind.


Jennifer Lechner said...

I happen to think that Valentine's Day is a horrible set-up for men. We Lechners choose to ignore it and celebrate dates that mean something to us, like the day we met.

Anonymous said...

Valentine's Day, for me, really isn't so much about "romance" (the word makes me a little itchy). I just enjoy having a one-day license to eat from a heart-shaped trough.

I think that if you took a poll, most men would say that they'd rather drop some cash once a year to demonstrate their devotion than be required to engage in pillow talk or hold our purse on a regular basis. My suggestion to the guys would be this: Buy her a little something nice (HINT: if you can buy earwax remover at the same place then you're on the wrong track). Tell her she's pretty, tell her you love her AND occasionally hold her purse AND try to stay awake for 20 extra minutes once a month while she unloads a little at the end of a bad day. It's really not so much to ask.

Besides, you can try to buck this "holiday" all you want to, but it's on the calendar this year and for all the years to come and despite what we may tell you guys, Girl Hope is alive and well somewhere deep within each of us. Girl Hope is watching and waiting.

And for your listening pleasure this Valentine's Day, I would like to suggest "The Origin of Love" by Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

AnswerGirl said...

Excellent taste in music, but please, Ms. Commenter, identify yourself!

Is that you, Kris?

steve said...

Yes, it's me. I really didn't intend to be anonymous (mystery doesn't agree with me). I was thrown by the ever-changing word verification and, quite frankly, I panicked and hit the "publish" bar.

So, was it my spelling that gave me away?

Hedwig rocks.

AnswerGirl said...

No, it was your use of the word "itchy"!

steve said...

Did I say "itchy"?
See? My spelling is awful. I forgot the "B"!!

Wa ha ha!!!

John Schramm said...

Clair, you're a very wise woman. Nice post!

And Happy V Day to you...