Friday, February 14, 2014

Contemplating Valentine’s Day

I think it’s fair to say that, generally speaking, men don’t like Valentine’s Day and women do. Men don’t like feeling pressured to be excessively romantic and having to express their emotions, not to mention spending money. Women like it when men are mushy, especially if they usually aren’t, and getting to hear a sometimes-rare “I Love You” is a thing of joy. And we like getting flowers and chocolate; gifts, period. I believe lesbians feel the same as straight women about Valentine's Day, but their relationships are usually more touchy-feely than straight relationships anyway. I can't speak for gay men.

The best Valentine’s present I ever got was a shipment of filet mignons from Omaha Steaks. It felt very sexy to be the kind of woman who inspired a gift of raw meat. His card was restrained, but since we had only been dating for six weeks when Valentine’s Day rolled around, I didn’t mind. I gave him a shirt – pedestrian, I know, but I couldn’t afford a gold cigarette case. My card to him was one with the photo above in which I wrote a correspondingly sexy message inside. Both of us were pleased.

Some people, men and women, straight and gay, reject Valentine’s Day because they view it as a Capitalist conspiracy among the greeting card, flower and candy industries (which, in the business of marketing, would be considered a clever “cross promotion”). I think that’s rather cynical and humorless, even if it’s become true. However, historically, Valentine’s Day dates back to Ancient Rome, 270CE, when an imprisoned priest was martyred by Emperor Claudius II for falling in love with his jailer’s daughter and sending her a letter signed “from your Valentine.” Priests weren't celibate yet, but those old Romans didn't like Christians, so he couldn't win for losing either way.

What is now an annual holiday is also connected to a Roman spring fertility festival and evolved into a Day of Romance by the 14th Century. Printed Valentine cards made their U.S. debut in the mid-1800s and traditional gifts were already chocolate and flowers, particularly red roses: the Roman symbol of love and beauty. The Valentine’s Day tradition endured and is celebrated in the US, England, Canada, France, Mexico and Australia, among other countries.

Like many women, I enjoy Valentine’s Day when I have a man in my life and don’t when I don’t. I don’t this year, but I’m not feeling bummed out. This country is in such a state of turmoil, division, anger, want, greed, and need (I really think America is having a nervous breakdown) that I welcome anything pleasant and that celebrates love when hate is going around like the flu.

I painfully miss affection and believe the lack of it is truly unhealthy. There was a study many years ago that separated a bunch of babies in an orphanage or hospital or some such into two groups. One group got a lot of holding, fondling, kissing, cuddling, etc. and the other group got none. The untouched group constantly cried and fussed, ate and slept poorly, and were just cranky little miserables all the time. The coddled group was the complete opposite. I don’t think this changes as we grow up, especially when we mature into sexual beings, as well.

And some kind of love and affection is, I believe, markedly important for the aging and elderly. I wouldn’t be surprised if some future study discovered a connection between a lack of affection and the development of severe depression and even Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. I don’t think it takes scientific genius to figure out that when people aren’t touched for extended periods, they literally lose their minds; affection is as basic a need as food, water, clothing, and shelter.

So, this Valentine’s Day, I’m thinking lovely thoughts. I’m remembering how lucky I was to have had a very loving, affectionate mother, and, how sweet it was when I had certain men in my life (others provided the emotional sustenance of a rock). I’m remembering my half-aunt Mildred (long story…) who, after many years of being widowed, had the courage to marry a second time at the age of 66 (and the even greater courage to divorce him at 76). 

I’m happy for everyone I know – and even those I don’t – who are fortunate to have a Valentine, and I wish all of you a happy, loving Valentine's Day. For those of you who don't have a significant other but want one, I hope you find one soon. And because I haven’t given up hope, I’m thinking positively and looking forward to my own next one. This fat lady ain’t singin’ yet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's a hug from an old friend. Pax et Amor, Susan