You host an Anti-Valentine’s Day party a few years in a row; you start to get a reputation. *sigh* I don’t actually hate Valentine’s Day. I hate particular elements that threaten to completely choke out the viable elements I do like.
The History Channel assures me that this is not what Valentine’s Day was originally about. Mostly. The jury’s still out as to which Valentine might have started it all, and what exactly he did (marry soldiers to their loves in secret during a ban, help Christians escape Roman prisons?, write the first “valentine”…). But somewhere, in that history, is the idea that love is important. Worth celebrating and remembering, and sharing.
So, concept? Good. Execution? Not always so great.
The thing about the commercial side of Valentine’s Day that really bugs me is the sense that love can only be expressed in a particular way. [Roses, fancy dinners, expansive gestures]. It feels formulaic. And it can also start to feel exclusionary. Not in love? Then this isn’t your day.
Both of which are totally crap ideas.
Love is not achieved by applying a checklist. If you like red roses, awesome. I’m not anti- you getting something you really like. I’m anti- me getting something that has no bearing on what I like, because I should like it.
Love comes in more than one form. A few years ago, I had my first “single” Valentine’s Day after a solid run of “coupled-up” V-days. And I was excited about it. I talked about being on my own and how great that was – clearly, I did not need love. I was a strong and independent woman. And ironically enough, it was my ex-boyfriend’s father who wrote me, and said “Dear Bethany, great to hear you’re doing so well! Don’t discount love.” What he meant was this: we’re not ever truly alone or unloved. I certainly wasn’t. The very fact that I had people to email about this grand revelation and say “Happy Valentine’s Day!” to was an indication that I have a lot of very good love in my life.
But perhaps, that anecdote hints at why Valentine’s Day and I have such a tough time getting along. There’s a certain, pervasive mindset that you aren’t complete if you aren’t with someone. And if you buy into it, it can make you feel really horrible when you’re single. So the natural inclination is to say “well, I don’t need anyone.” I am a complete person with a full life. And, suddenly, you’re swinging to the completely opposite side of the spectrum and it becomes equally degrading to admit that you’d be okay coupled-up. It feels like selling out.
When did love become a zero-sum game?
Where’s the middle ground that I thought I was standing on? The ground that makes the argument that love can make a good life better, but that it’s better being “alone” than with the wrong person? That it’s okay to say “I would like good things in my life, please.”?
So, I throw Anti-Valentine’s Day parties, and invite the people who I love – coupled-up or not – and make good food and play silly games and enjoy the chance to celebrate and remember and share the love that makes a good life better. It’s my flag claiming the middle ground, and with it, a small piece of Valentine’s Day back.