Thursday, February 09, 2012

I Rethink Valentine's Day

"Heart-shaped tofu! Are you kidding?"

The first year I lived in Seattle was my "gap year" between college and graduate school. I was a full-time volunteer at a daycare center for homeless children, and I lived in a group house in which I was the only one who didn't have a Significant Other. When Valentine's Day came, I decided not to let the smoochiness bother me. However, I exclaimed to a long-distance friend of mine, "Can you believe that Housemate Charlie made heart shaped toast for Housemate Beth?"

My friend laughed and said, "I have to confess, Chris made me heart-shaped tofu."

It was then that I realized I needed to get over my sneering contempt for Valentine's Day smoochiness and reinvent it for myself. The week of Valentine's Day became a time to write letters of appreciation to people and to do something thoughtful and materialistically indulgent for myself. One year, I bought myself an Italian fountain pen. Another year, I bought myself a little red flashlight. I benefited from my good taste in gifts.

When Bede and I got together, we decided we wanted the Valentine's Day Experience. I remember the restaurant where we had dinner, but I don't recall what we ate-- except that when the waiter told us about the heart-shaped chocolate torte, Bede and I said, "Yes, THAT." After dinner, Bede paid the bill and led me out through the large open window.

February 14 must have been warm that year.

As this Valentine's Day rolls around, I've started writing my letters again. I've got presents for Bede and Lucia, because I like to give and make presents. Since Lucia doesn't read my blog, you can peek here to see what I got her by special request. I'm pleased that some of the dolls in my shop are going to be gifts for other people, too.

I've even become resigned to the sugar-overload that's going to happen on Tuesday in my daughter's class. Before every class party, I caution her, "Don't drink the juice-boxes,"* and fill her lunch with fresh vegetables. Which reminds me-- how factual do you think it is that she is the only one to go to school with a healthful lunch every day? She says all the other kids get candy and chips in their lunches. Is she pulling my leg?** Bede and I work to balance Lucia's need to eat food that's good for her with the desirability to be part of social events.

We have no plans for heart-shaped tortes or anything sugary that night. Valentine's Day is a choir day, and Business As Usual. However, I might make heart-shaped tofu. Or steak.

*Sugar + water= what's the point?

**Remind me to tell you someday of Lucia's tall tale about how all the other children brought Barbie Dolls to a Waldorf kindergarten. I had a hard time keeping a straight face.


tanita davis said...

Every year on Valentine's, I think of my friend Susan who saw me wearing black Junior year and asked why.

"Did someone die?" she questioned me.

"St. Valentine," I sighed wanly.

Susan snorted, and I explained that I was wearing black to contravene our Student Association's "Go Red for Valentine's!" nonsense. By second period, Susan had gone back to her room to change, and every year after, all through college, she and I wore Ironic Black on Valentine's day, and mourned the death of saints.

Not being one of those people who can get over the sneering, I have never had The Valentine's Experience. I also still wear black on Valentine's - not because it's the death of saints, which was funny at the time, but because it's a crap holiday, promoted by marketing corporations, and I hate being manipulated about emotions - on any day of the year. I have three emails per day from FTD this time of year, I'm told what kind of woman gets gifts, and how to be that person, I'm told how to react about gifts - or not the right gift -- and oy, the messages to men this time of year!

To be certain: I think you have a healthy and centered response, which is to appreciate others, and I have, in my life, tried for that. When I was teaching, I insisted that each of my students chose sort of a Secret Valentine and did something kind for them, as well as writing a compliment to every single member of their class. ALL MONTH. I was a Love Facist in February, let me tell you. We were all going to LOVE ONE ANOTHER, gosh darn it, and learn some presidential history and African American history that month, too. It was all-inclusive, yo.

This year, I'm making cookies for my entire chorus - all one hundred and fifty-five of us - and special cookies for friends and my section. I'm sending chocolate flowers to a medical student who is beginning her finals on the 13th - what a woeful week to be locked down until March 7 on fifty hours or oral and practical exams and papers. I'm TRYING to examine my karma and polish it up. I'm TRYING to be nice.

But I still think it's a crap holiday.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to look at juice boxes again. Up here in Ontario I can get a number of different brands of juice box without sugar and just juice. That way Lucia can fit in more. I also wouldn't doubt that it's the truth about her lunch. I homeschool my daughter, but I hear from my friends what goes into school lunches these days. Junk food is just so much cheaper than real food and the mom's are sure the kids will eat it.

Saints and Spinners said...

Tanita: I used to wear black on V-D, too! I appreciate your Love Facism. It rocks.

Fletchingtonfarms: Hello, and thanks for visiting! It's nice to see you.

My concern about juice is that, while 100% juice is preferable to not, juice (as opposed to the whole fruit with its fiber) is sugar + water. That by itself is not such a problem, except that when it's served with cookies, cupcakes, and chips, it's still a sugar overload. Fortunately, Lucia saying no to the juice pouch doesn't call attention to herself, as the grownups in the room are busy trying to corral the all kids, whose behavior has suddenly changed from lively to frenetic. Hmmmm.....

adrienne said...

"I was a Love Facist in February, let me tell you. We were all going to LOVE ONE ANOTHER, gosh darn it, and learn some presidential history and African American history that month, too. It was all-inclusive, yo."

That made me laugh SO HARD.

Farida, I like the sound of your gifts to yourself, and that doll for Lucia is as cute as she can be. I have never gotten the hang of Valentine's Day or any holiday, really. I'm not very good at anything that has to happen on a particular day, which is at least 90% because I just don't pay enough attention the calendar. Also, it just feels like a lot of pressure.

I'm not the kind of girl who longs for flowers or jewelry, either.

Anyway, this year, my best friend and I decided that we are going out to dinner together to celebrate Valentine's Day, so we have reservations at one of our favorite restaurants. I am very much looking forward to that.

Saints and Spinners said...

Adrienne: I am glad you and your best friend are going to a favorite restaurant for V-D. If these kinds of holidays spur people on to do fun things, that's great.

Speaking of flowers, I brought in for Lucia's teacher and principal each a humble little potted plant (bulbs!). Bulbs contribute to world beauty.

Lone Star Ma said...

I agree that holidays are a lot of pressure but I still like them. Traditions help the kids have nice family memories, I think.

Your view of Valentine's sounds lovely. (Bulbs! I also feel tulip-y around this time of year, but the husband doesn't remember that usually so I need to plant some!)

When Youngest started at the Spanish immersion pre-school at 18 months, I became charmed with their take on it - El Dia de La Amistad (friendship).

This year, we (Brownies) took lacy-doily-ribbony valentines the girls made to "our" nursing home on Monday. that was nice.

I gave Youngest's teachers mini-rose plants and wished that my middle schoolers had the day off. I don't mind sugared-up little kids unless I am trying to get people to sleep but sugared-up middle schoolers are rough.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Chiming in late to say I LOVE Tanita's Secret Valentine idea.