Remember when you were dating, and Valentine’s Day was a Big Deal? I mean, weeks of planning could go into that single evening. There was the sexy new lingerie you had to buy, along with the thoughtful token of your romantic affection, plus the best-you-could afford wine chosen specifically to accompany the sensual, home-cooked meal you planned to whip up (just as soon as you figured out—and this was without the help of Google, mind you—how the hell to make a prime rib). I won’t even mention the weeks of ramped up workouts endured in an effort to dazzle in the aforementioned whisper of lace.
These days, at least in my house, the preparations are much simpler (Push-up bra? Check!) and the only thing being made in my kitchen is a dinner reservation. No longer do I fantasize about candlelit, champagne-soaked celebrations involving hours of intense eye-gazing; my heart-day hopes are now pinned to a successful combination of a) landing a babysitter and b) not being too full to fool around after dinner.
We’re so programmed by the Hallmark Holiday mentality that we actually fall for the hype. We buy dozens of boxes of chalky, heart-shaped candy and Disney-character cards for our kids to distribute so their classmates will know how much they care. (And the crafting of these cards is done with so much love it nearly hurts. “I don’t fucking CARE if you like Jason or not! You’re doing a card for every kid in the class, like it or not! Now hurry up, I don’t want to be here all night.”) We fork over ridiculous sums for overpriced foliage and prix-fixe dinners at fancy restaurants when in truth, we prefer tulips to roses and would honestly rather stay home and eat pizza in our PJs. We pretend to be thrilled to receive approximately 17 million calories worth of drugstore chocolate we don’t really like and swear we won’t touch but somehow wind up polishing off in a matter of days.
The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that somewhere in the neighborhood of one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide—85% of which are purchased by women. (Way to go, guys!) I haven’t stumbled across any restaurant, flower or candy industry statistics, but I imagine they are equally staggering. And here’s the irony of this so-called holiday: All that money, all that effort, is sort of meaningless because it’s expected. He sees that relentless parade of diamonds-are-forever commercials, too, and knows he’ll be in the doghouse if he doesn’t do or buy you something.
I don’t know about you, but I could definitely live without the forced affection. I’d find it infinitely more touching if my kids came home with a hand-picked assortment of weeds one random day in March, or my husband slipped a sweet, hand-written love note into my desk—unprompted by any official holiday or celebration—for me to find later at work. And honey, if you’re reading this, just so we’re clear: I’ll take a diamond tennis bracelet any day of the year.