It’s Valentine’s day, which some people would argue is a completely manufactured, and therefore a completely meaningless day. However, if Cupid’s special day was so meaningless, would it sweep up millions of people in a wave of ultimate expressions of love, and inspire elaborate marriage proposals? It certainly seems peculiar that in the vast majority of cases, or at least the ones I have come across, Valentine naysayers are either bitterly single, or partnered up, but have had such a rotten string of Valentine’s Day celebrations that they have given up any hope of having a lovely day with the object of their affections.
It’s pretty obvious how the obnoxious heart motifs and pressure to purchase roses and jewelry (especially a carbon-based bauble for a lady’s left ring finger) have sullied the perception of this day of love. The fine dining industry is probably the most conspicuous and appalling of all, because it never fails to mark up menu items to ridiculous prices, packaged in tricky “Prix Fixe” menus which sound delightful and romantic until the hefty bill comes to the table.
However, despite the fact that Valentine’s Day is hyped and commercialized, it remains a great reminder of how important expressions of love are to the human race. So even if you hate the idea of heart shaped chocolates, long-stemmed roses, and cute little teddy bears, try to remember that it is a day of love. Don’t write off the entire day and risk hurting the feelings of someone you truly love.
Many years ago, when I was in the midst of a divorce, I reluctantly signed up for a dating service. One particularly persistent guy kept messaging me, asking if he could call me. Though I was quite cynical and skeptical, and didn’t think the guy was really my type, I acquiesced. He called me, and right off the bat came across as extremely controlling, but what really ruined any chance he ever had to ever go on a date with me was his admission of several strange quirks. After about five minutes of strained conversation, this man told me that if I went on a date with him, that I HAD TO get my nails done in a French manicure beforehand. He stated that I could choose any salon to fulfill this request, and that he would pay for the service in advance. He then told me that he was fastidious about wiping down his vehicle twice a day with a soft chamois cloth. I didn’t think that was too odd, but it did seem a bit excessive to perform the car-buffing ritual twice a day. Obviously this guy was financially well off and flaunted it in a bizarre way. I have never been impressed by affluent men, especially those who are nuts like this guy was.
Somehow we got on the subject of weightlifting, which caused more oddities to come crawling out. He explained his pre-lift routine and post-lift regimen in great detail, emphasizing the fact that he had a tall dresser jammed full of brand new white athletic socks, and that he wore a fresh, BRAND NEW pair of socks for every workout. Once he returned home, he would immediately remove his shoes and socks, then toss the socks in the trash. Considering the fact that this man worked out six days a week, that meant that he threw out six pairs of brand new athletic socks per week! His garage was also full of boxes of brand new socks to ensure that he would have a steady supply. What made the whole ritual even worse was that he didn’t give those socks to charity, he just threw them in the regular trash bin, which meant that his once-used socks were contributing in a big way to landfill overflow. It was such an obsessive-compulsive, extravagant, wasteful habit that I couldn’t wait to get off the phone with this weirdo!
Many of you don’t know that I attended an Episcopalian school for nine years, from fourth through twelfth grade, and that part of my daily school experience included attending chapel. During chapel, we would sing hymns, recite the Lord’s Prayer (just hearing “Our Father, who art in heaven…” triggers the rest of the prayer in my well programmed brain) and listen to a daily sermon from our dean. Every year during the school’s Homecoming, we would visit St. John’s Cathedral, and though I enjoyed the beauty and majesty of the church, it was all sort of lost on me because at my core, I wasn’t an Episcopalian. Every year we observed Lent, and I agreed to give up something during that period that could be considered a vice for a child.
By the time I reached high school, I was fed up with being force fed a religion I did not practice outside of school, so I gradually began to rebel. When we were in chapel, I would refuse to sing the hymns or recite the Lord’s Prayer. By the time I was a junior, I had fallen into the occasional habit of completely ditching chapel and taking that 45 minute period to hang out in a quiet spot on campus with my best friend Diane or with my friend Shari. Though there were a couple of occasions in which we nearly got caught and spent a few tense minutes standing on toilet seats in the bathroom stalls and stifling nervous giggles, we never got caught. Diane was my best friend, soul sister, bad influence (according to her mom and mine), partner in crime and fellow bad Christian, whereas Shari was a defiant Jewish girl forced to attend a strongly Christian school. Between these two girls, I had rationalized the chapel-skipping behavior quite convincingly.
Looking back at the nine years of chapel which helped to shape me, I am actually grateful for the experience. I may not be a religious person, and I may not attend chapel or go to church, but I truly believe that the Christian environment I was exposed to gave me structure and discipline and helped me to find my way spiritually. Even when I dodged chapel, I learned a great deal about friendship. Teenagers need to challenge constraints every once in a while to help them find their own way.