Valentine’s Day is a rather minor holiday around here these days. It’s a good excuse to go out to dinner.
I’ll admit that, unless you are paired off with someone, the day can be truly nauseating. Believe me, pre-Dirtman, I put in my time covering for co-workers who received rose-accompanied invitations to long lunches, and babysitting for friends escaping the prison of being snow-bound with three toddlers. So I know how badly Valentine’s Day can suck.
Even when you are a part of a couple, there is usually so much pressure put on the day, everything you do seems overly orchestrated. And there are those sad couples you see sitting in restaurants, having their obligatory Valentine’s Day meal, who silently stare at their plates looking like they’re counting the minutes until they can be home watching ESPN.
That being said, I also recognize that, however forced and contrived it feels to the participants and cloyingly sentimental to observers, the day does have its merit, especially if you publish greeting cards and ply chocolate. With all due respect to every romantic comedy ever made, ours is not a culture given to grand statements of unending affection and undying love. Something needs to get us out of our self-analyzing, self-absorbed, self-driven ego-fest of a winter slump and force us to consider what cheesy heart-shaped dust collector would fulfill our obligation and cover our butts when our significant other pulls out his own version of the same. Valentine’s Day will work just as well as any other title since Romantic Obligation Day just doesn’t look as well on a greeting card.
Long-term relationships in particular need a Valentine’s Day. Let’s face it, after a while that initial passion tends to wane a bit. Oh, you can keep it going with the anticipation of an engagement, a wedding, a honeymoon and even the birth of a kid or two. But sooner or later life is going to get ordinary and mundane. Without that adrenaline rush, our “soulmate” looks strangely like a lot of other guys, only this one isn’t rinsing the sink after he spits out his toothpaste and, for the love of God, what is that smell after he drinks a few beers?
You can get really bogged down in all that and start yearning for that time when the fever of passion blinded you to the fact that you hadn’t vacuumed in three months and, come to think of it, neither had he. This is when, we are told, more than 50 percent of couples in this country decide they’ve fallen out of love and, in a desperate attempt to salvage the rest of their lives, call it quits.
I always felt that marriage should come with its own version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with that all-important message on the front stating: DON’T PANIC!
The fact is, in spite of wanting to believe that our relationship is breaking new ground in the field of human interaction, the pathology of most couples is about the same. We continually mistake passion for “Wuv – twoo wuv.”
Sometimes love is passion, but during some phases it just ain’t gonna happen. That’s when true love becomes being able to tag-team change a really disgusting diaper on a feverish baby or working together to get two adults and two children to seven different events in three different counties and still manage 20 minutes together to scarf down a burger and fries.
Valentine’s Day is crucial to this phase in a relationship. I can remember some Valentine dinners out, looking at Dirtman like I’d never met him before and him looking back at me without a clue about what to say. At first we’d have to force ourselves to act like two people in love rather than two roommates organizing our lives. Eventually things would warm up and for a moment we were reminded that someplace, on some level, the old passion-filled Us was still there, however dormant and sleep-deprived.
Dirtman and I are well past that time of parental craziness and, honestly, sometimes the holiday creeps up on us and we forget we’re supposed to be doing something. Only now it just doesn’t seem as crucial that we make some grand observation since, frankly, at this point in my life, I’m not up to teaching someone else that I like my coffee taupe – not beige, not tan – taupe.
So, yeah, Valentine’s Day is cheesy and it’s over-priced and, to some, downright depressing. But, just remember: Somewhere, someone is having to “ooooo” and “ahhhhh!” over that irritating stuffed cat spouting insipid phrases that’s been in every commercial for the past week. So count your blessings.