February 4, 2021

It’s February. Especially for those of us in the business of love, it means social media feeds full of pink and red hues, hearts, sweets, sparkly jewels, love sonnets, and tips on all sorts of romantic gestures one can undertake (particularly during a global pandemic). It’s the good ol’ market capitalizing on that delicious crush of love. That wonderful squeeze you feel when you see your partner.

Only there is this nagging sensation I’ve been having. The part about the squeeze. Because there is this thing about Valentine’s Day that bothers me. I may land on the “Authors with Unpopular Opinions” list for this, but I am going to say it.

Valentine’s Day is a lot of pressure on men. A big squeeze – on their pocketbooks, as well as their stress levels.

Think about it. Jewelry ads . . . for women’s jewelry. Chocolates and sweets . . . in frilly boxes. Make reservations for a romantic dinner. Roses and flower arrangements (at many times the price for the same thing on February 15th). It all seems weighted heavily on what a good boyfriend or husband should do for his girlfriend or wife. Now, yes, we strive to be gender-neutral and respectful of modern sensibilities here, but the social construct is blatant come February. And it bothers me. A lot.

I saw it years ago when my husband was dating me. At the time, I started to wonder why this one, random day was suddenly so important to our relationship. And why the expectations seemed to fall unequally on his shoulders. We didn’t have a lot of money, but it somehow seemed even less knowing all of these options – all presumably to express his devotion to me – were marked up (surge pricing in its pre-Uber form). It did, indeed, seem like a lot of pressure on him, but also on our relationship, and even on me. How should I react? Reciprocate?

He is only half-joking when he comments now about knowing I was the right girl for him when somewhere along the way I suggested we celebrate a week later, with goodies at regular prices, and dinner at a less crowded restaurant.

Galentine’s (thank you Leslie Knope) has done a bit to redirect this strange energy. But even with Galentine’s, there is an odd sense of “artificial” around a feast day that even the Roman Catholic Church has acknowledged has dubious roots. And this saint’s connection to the hallmark romantic love we celebrate today? None.

Remember our blog from last week? Authenticity.  Your relationship is real.  Your love is real.  But the expectations on Valentine’s Day, the consumption-driven archetype of romantic love that goes with it . . . are not real or realistic.  Your relationship is about the company and conversation at dinner, not the date on the calendar.  Roses are wonderful.  They are best on a Tuesday, when the day has been hard and the gesture and beauty are unexpected.  Your connection with your partner is authentic.  Your romantic gestures should be as well.  But to be clear, there’s NEVER a bad time to give the gift of chocolates . . .