So, I’ll be the first to admit that I regard Valentine’s Day with a certain amount of cynicism. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the flowers and candy and soft words, it’s just that I have the uneasy feeling that this is the plan of the candy companies, card companies and flower shops to boost their profit margins.
I don’t begrudge them their clever plan to make a living, but I do hate the awful pressure brought to bear. What should we do for our loved ones on this day? It is best to do something, to show that we care, but, after all, it’s not Christmas or birthdays, what if we go too far? What if our loved ones come to expect too much? What if Valentine’s Day becomes even bigger than the other holidays combined???? I just can’t take the stress.
It was the first Valentine’s Day I spent with my husband, Roy, and we were new and green at the art of Valentine’s Day. I was so excited. I baked a special cake decorated with those conversation hearts and I bought some fancy chocolates and dreamed of the wonderful gift Roy would get for me.
An enamel roaster. Yes, the very one in the picture accompanying this article. My sweet, lovely husband, after approximately four months of marriage, had looked at my inept cooking skills, my inability or disinclination to follow a recipe, my skill for picking out new restaurants to eat at, and he had bought me a cooking pan. And when I looked up in confusion from the wrappings surrounding this roasting pan, he compounded the crime when he announced brightly, “I thought maybe you could use it to cook us a Valentine’s meal!”
I have always looked at the strength of our marriage as having its early foundations in the fact that the marriage actually survived that first Valentine’s Day. Of course, the only conversation Roy got from me for the two weeks following it was whatever he could read on the conversation heart candies on his cake, but eventually I managed to articulate my displeasure at receiving a cooking pan as a gift without clanging him over the head with said pan, and we moved forward!
It has been a long trip since then until today when he safely sends me flowers every Valentine’s Day. And usually he buys a card as well, so he satisfies all the requirements laid down by the businesses who are promoting the love holiday like a new way to win the lottery, but only if you follow all the strict rules. I see others around me receiving the hearts and flowers and chocolates and so I assume that everyone out there is following the holiday traditions, but what I don’t understand is who came up with this idea? Surely it wasn’t St. Valentine, who, I believe, gained his fame by becoming a human sacrifice in the early days of the church. I doubt that as he was losing his head he said, “You know it would be nice if they named a day after me and everyone got candy and flowers!”
A holiday devoted to love comes with its own set of traps. It’s hard to ask people how they feel about the holiday without sounding cynical and jaded. In some cases, I have been accused of trying to trap someone into revealing that they don’t like the holiday, so that they will then never receive another Valentine’s gift. Kind of like a child admitting that he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and so he doesn’t receive any more toys. I swear this is not my intention. I’m just trying to figure out if I’m the only one who is suspicious of the motives of a holiday based on our affection for one another–I have to believe there are others out there who are as skeptical as me….but who still don’t want to receive a cooking pan as a sign of their loved one’s undying devotion.
This week I put the question to my students: Do you think Valentine’s Day should be a holiday or not? Explain your answer. The students stared at the question, thought a while and then quietly wrote their answers, most of which were in favor of the holiday. I was beginning to be very discouraged when one of my senior boys, in the midst of writing, raised his hand and asked, “How do you spell crock?” Now, see, there’s a boy who is going to pass my class with flying colors…and who is probably destined to give some girl an enamel roaster for Valentine’s Day some day!