Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Musings on Valentine's Day
Evidently the big (and I do mean big) thing at Sue's school this year was enormous stuffed animals: four-foot high teddy bears and the like. All the boys showed up in the morning with these behemoths; by midday, all the girls were carrying them. If it wasn't a teddy bear or the like, it was a large array of balloons. It's kind of cute, when you think about it. Sue ended up storing a lot of them in the office during class, and then the kids had to get them home somehow. All a big project--and those kids probably won't even remember one another's names in a few years!
You're supposed to get someone chocolate for Valentine's Day, but this too is fraught. I heard a piece on NPR the other day about Ivory Coast, where a lot of the world's chocolate originates. As you probably know, things are a political mess there (Gbagbo apparently lost the election but won't leave office), so all of a sudden eating chocolate ends up being a political issue (actually, it probably already was: the places where chocolate is grown tend to be poor and exploited). And that's saying nothing of the fact that it might be a diet issue--as it is in my house. We've got one dancer and one diabetic; chocolate doesn't mix well with either. We went out for dinner on Saturday to celebrate Valentine's Day, ate ourselves silly at a really good restaurant, and both weighed like four pounds more the next morning. Not cool. (I'm not even mentioning those ridiculous chalky hearts that feel horrible in your mouth and taste worse--the ones printed with gooey sentimental messages on them...)
Then there's the commercial aspect of the whole thing: florists and chocolatiers make a huge percentage of their income on this one day, Hallmark and the post office make a mint on the cards that go flying all round, and the internet prospers from the e-cards... (Sue was reminiscing--not fondly--about the duty of preparing a valentine for each kid in our daughters' elementary school classes. It was usually an ordeal. Just signing their name 25 or 30 times was torture enough for those kids--and then my kids, who are thoughtful, always wanted to give just the right valentine. We just wanted to get it over with...) I will also pass on mentioning the superabundance of frilliness--to an almost nauseating extent--that seems to accompany this holiday--a day when otherwise sensible people who usually have much better taste give in to the most saccharine expressions of sentimentality and the most appallingly over-decorated items in red or, Saint Valentine preserve us, some shade of Pepto-Bismol pink.
And of course there are all the unattached people who somehow feel left out and unhappy at Valentine's Day. I have a number of very worthwhile friends who have to face this every year. All of these folks are fascinating, delightful people who for one reason or another are, shall we say, between relationships? Who needs a holiday that makes half the population feel bad about themselves? Yikes!
We had a nice little celebration: there was the aforementioned eat-yourself-silly dinner; cards and foodstuffs were exchanged; and we generally acted a little giggly. But we could have done that without a prod from the calendar (and often, I'm pleased to say, do--when the spirit moves). I mean, heck, even the Catholics aren't sure exactly who they're remembering on St. Valentine's Day. If they don't know, what are the rest of us supposed to do?
So on the whole, I have to agree with Sue that Valentine's Day is a bit overrated. I hope you had a good day. If you did, and you love Valentine's Day, go for it. But I also hope that today is just as nice. If you can eat chocolate, hit the stores: you can get it for a discount today, and it'll taste just as good. (But remember that you're probably helping to keep Gbagbo in power. Now how does it taste? Hm?)
Any day is a good day to do something nice for those you love. Pick some random day and do it. In the end, the object of your affection will be much more pleased and delighted, because you didn't need Hallmark or Teleflora to remind you to do it.
ADDENDUM: I just saw this on NPR.org. I guess it could always be worse. I'll take sicky-sweet hearts over whipping women with the hides of newly killed goats and dogs any day. But maybe that's just me.
Posted by David Schildkret at 11:42 AM