Two whisper thin young women were offering Valentine's advice this morning on the news talk show I watch while I crunch my cereal and gulp that first cup of coffee.
In their defense, their suggestions did not lean too heavily on commerce and cash. Sure, anyone desperately seeking a date or a mate was going to fork over cash: these ladies advocated dinner, flowers, the whole shebang. But for those "already committed", Valentine's day could culminate in an evening of board games, or a home cooked gourmet meal, or a movie, or a candle and massage, or any number of fairly unimaginative and trite notions of romance.
Am I bitter? Cynical? I don't love Valentine's day as an event or a cause celebre'. Yes, it was fun in grade school to make Valentine's mailboxes; but then I was the kind of kid that liked art projects. I even liked the little folded Valentines and divvying them up among my classmates. I'm part of the baby boom, so my grade school classes way exceeded the current fetish for small numbers. Which Valentine was appropriate for the girls in the class and which would not be too silly for the boys? We had solid notions about the difference between the sexes even in the lower grades, so any hint of sentiment was verboten for the males. Some kids signed their Valentines; some didn't. It was ritual after the exchange of cards to attempt to decipher the scratches on the backs of the card or fronts of the envelopes. I never sent candy, but adored getting the little conversation hearts. Inedible, yes; full of signs and intimations, you bet.
Perhaps I would have been more impressed by a duo of blue haired matrons or balding geezers with hearing aids. Let's ask them about romance and longevity. What do you name the relationship that exists for a half century? After work and children and leisure and pain and loss, after routine and habit is the rule and youth and energy a memory, what do you call the partnership, the bond that remains? Bubble bath and candles seem trivial, if not ridiculous. Is the idea of Valentine's day even viable or appealing? Should it be?
Outside of flowers, outside of steak, I suspect this old house will have to come up with a different construct for romance. Don't get me wrong; I love a good romantic setting! A table for two, a grand piano, a chanteuse? Two glasses, two chairs, a view? A long night on the road with the ball game on the radio? The Pacific from the Cliff House, Irish music at O'Malley's, an open air supper in Hawaii, a starry evening in the combine: there's a hint of conspiracy, separation, distinctiveness, contrariness in the notion of romance. 'Birds do it, bees do it; even educated fleas do it', but we humans want to be one and onlies, even if we're heading to a romantic resort dreamt up by a focus group. Romance is in the eyes of the beholders. Whether its a lukewarm mocha from Starbucks in May, a melted Dairy Queen Blizzard in August, or taking the trash out without being asked, a heart warming gift is the one that says 'This I did just for you'. Does anyone really get a Lexus with a big red bow? Or a diamond something in a remote snowy cottage? In the long run, I'd rather have the sidewalks scooped and the socks put in laundry basket. Flowers will never be a cliche' in this house; an occasional juicy steak out will build up brownie points.....
So, let's cede the Valentines Day battleground to the folks still on the front lines. There is such a thing as too much chocolate. There is life between PajamaGrams and Kay Jewelers....lots and lots of life. Nothing wrong with hearts and flowers, but spread 'em out through the year. Why limit it to a single day? Same goes for Victoria's Secret and Vermont Teddy Bears.....no, never mind, its never time for a Vermont Teddy Bear.. ...
Before I even saw the sweet things hawking the perfect Valentines, I awoke to the strains of Trisha Yearwood in my head:
'There's nothin' at the five and dime that I really need..
Your love is the only thing that means a thing to me....
Give me all your loving, throw the presents in the creek,
Give me all your loving, and I'll be tickled pink...'
Now there's a romantic notion!!