Maybe it is just me, but I do not understand Valentine’s Day. The holiday, and everything that comes with it, just plain confuses me. No, I am not one of those crazy conspiracy kooks who believe top executives from Hallmark, Russell Stover’s and FTD Flowers held a top secret meeting to concoct this lover’s holiday in order to boost earnings. Granted, when a dozen roses that normally cost $8.99 suddenly jump to $20 the week of Valentines, it leads me to think those folks who also believe the moon landing occurred on a movie set and the government has warehouses full of flying saucers are on to something. After all, the truth is out there.
Some ladies will be making birdie sounds under their breath trying to explain away my lack of interest in Valentine’s Day: cheap, cheap, cheap. I will admit this line of thinking has a little bit of traction to it. Considering the times we live in and the fact we are surviving on one income with two rugrats to feed, being wise with our money is done out of necessity. I don’t think this makes me a penny pincher though. It’s not like I steal ketchup packets from McDonalds, pile free samples of cheese into Jenn’s purse at the grocery store or have a closet full of travel size shampoo containers I swiped from hotel visits. I like to treat Jenn, the girls and occasionally myself to something special now and then.
The more I have tried to wrap my mind around Valentine’s Day I have learned that this holiday is one of the few instances where value is found in the extremes. Almost every other situation in life it seems the middle ground is where you want to land. In my limited understanding of politics, the answer for change in our country does not lie in the flaming liberal who says the way for life to be all sunshine and roses is for everyone to go wild and free while singing a non religious version of Kumbaya My Lord. On the same hand, I would be a little nervous if the direction of country was placed in the hands of the staunch conservative who leans so far in one direction politically that their gas guzzling truck with gun rack only has the capability of turning right as the owner has disabled the left turn signal out of principle. The moderate viewpoint seems like where progress can be made.
The middle ground is something you also learn to appreciate if you live five minutes from the beach. In the summertime when the family is relaxing in the sand collecting seashells, the last thing I want to do is deal with Paige panicking over seeing a ghost when in actuality she just spotted an extremely pasty white guy taking his shirt off trying desperately to get some rays. The other extreme is just as unpleasant: the individual whose skin now resembles beef jerky thanks to lathering themselves up in Crisco before spending all day out in the sun.
Many of us live this median lifestyle out of fear, for a sense of protection or not wanting to rock the boat. For the most part, this mindset has served us well and provided us with some comfort. Yet, Valentine’s Day comes and the middle of the road response of a nice meal out at Applebee’s with flowers, chocolate and a card seems a bit of downer if you are trying to express your undying love to your spouse. Even springing for a gigantic stuffed dog who barks “I Ruff You” every time you squeeze its’ paw appears to diminish the value of the relationship.
Men have been programmed to do “something” for Valentine’s Day. So we go into autopilot mode and get the predictable (roses and candy) or cheesy (picture of the two of you on a coffee mug). We all experience this pressure to do something, which make our actions seem forced or driven by obligation. The middle of the road in this instance is not a “feel good.” This is why Valentine’s Day was meant for the extremes. Either make it a 24-hour marathon of expressing love to your wife or let it be like any other day where you put her needs first.
If you are super romantic then by all means go all out. Leave your wife a love note on her pillow so she has something to read while you prepare breakfast for her in bed. After the meal, walk in the park where you first met talking about why you love each other so much. On the way home, surprise her with an afternoon of pampering while you clean the house from top to bottom and finally complete your “honey do” list. Have the black dress in the right size and matching earrings from Jared’s waiting for her so she’ll feel beautiful for a night out on the town: dinner by candle light at a fancy restaurant and two tickets to the play she’s been begging you to see. Then as the evening ends it will be what the Flight of the Concords say is “Business Time.”
The other end of the spectrum of ignoring the holiday completely has received a bad wrap. We have the married schlep that fails to show appreciation to his wife not only on Valentine’s Day, but also for the rest of the 364 days that make up the calendar to thank. If I just described you, then please man up and love your bride or at the very least resort to the middle ground for this one day by getting a card and a heart shaped box full of chocolates. I am begging you.
When I say it is okay to go to the extreme and treat this day in February like any other, it comes with the expectation that you are expressing your love throughout the year in different ways. Both extremes involve being proactive in your relationship as well as the care and support you provide your wife. The little things mean a great deal to a woman or so I have been told. This option still leaves open the possibility of going to Jared’s. However, instead of buying a diamond ring, you will be purchasing $5 foot long subs from Subway on your way home from work. Knowing your wife has had a long day with the kids and the last thing she wants to do is cook, you pick up dinner for the family to ease her mind.
So, after years of Valentine’s Day going through the motions of the middle ground, I decided to make the 14th like any other day in February. Actually, I decided to go retro this year – circa 1983. Jenn, the girls and I have settled down for a special movie night: Fraggle Rock. This was one of my favorite shows growing up and I wanted to share that experience with my girls. The special treat was going to Fresh Market to make sure each woman in my life had her favorite sweets for the show. Swedish Fish for Madison, Gummy Worms for Paige and chocolate covered pretzels and coffee for Jenn. Everyone all cuddled up on the couch together. I can think of no other place I’d rather be.