Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Valentine's Day is about Affection
The point of the photograph(s) is to entice men and women into cinemas to watch Fifty Shades of Grey--a porno film--on Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day which, I will argue, is about tender affection, has been perverted into a day to "celebrate" kinky sexual behaviour. As annoying as all the couples' lovey-doviness as been, this innovation strikes me as a lot worse.
What is WRONG with us? (She bangs her head on her sister's desk.)
When I was a small child, I thought Valentine's Day was mostly for kids. Schoolrooms were decorated with red, pink and white, and we made valentine themed projects in art class. On Valentine's Day, we brought in little pre-made valentines punched out of books with the names of our classmates written on them, and passed them around regardless of sex. It was probably weird that 6 year old Michael gave 6 year old Patrick a valentine saying "Be Mine", but as he and Patrick gave such valentines to all the other boys, and the girls gave valentines to boys and girls alike, it didn't seem weird. It's just what we all did. It's what we were supposed to do. I liked getting valentines, which were cute, and I recall kids counting theirs to see who got the most--though technically we were all supposed to get the same. They were expressions of good-will, enforced by our parents. The cupcakes, the chocolates and the candies were more exciting.
At six the children in my class could be fond of each other without the confusion and aggression that seem to mar relations between human beings ever after, particularly in relationships charged with sexual feelings. Once we started being rudimentary sexual beings, i.e. about the age of ten, that was the end of valentines for all and the beginning of valentines for the chosen favourites. And that is when some children started feeling excluded or oppressed by valentines, whereas others started getting more of a thrill from them than from the candy teachers kindly handed out.
My annual proposal is that Valentine's Day be celebrated by Singles by expressing affection for their other Single friends, without expecting anything in return. Expect nothing on Valentine's Day, but express affection for someone you really love, and you are guaranteed a better day.
This won't make much sense for Polish and other Continental readers, but Valentine's Day is really a big deal in the English-speaking world, especially in Canada and the USA, where it is a HUGE commercial deal. Many women--including married women--make themselves very unhappy about it. I used to build whole fantasies around it when I was a teenager. Maybe today I'll meet a boy who falls madly in love with me. Maybe today I'll get a valentine from a Secret Admirer. Et cetera.
I am as romantic as the next woman. In fact, in some ways I am incredibly romantic---in the 19th century sense of the term. I love wild gardens, Gothic castles, tortured artistic geniuses, heightened bursts of feeling (all the more dramatic for their rarity), Chopin, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Latin Mass, Sienkiewicz, atmospheric cafés and the almost impossibility of learning Polish. But all this needs to be reigned in by God-given reason, and God-given reason tells me that a life of romance is like a diet of chocolate pudding and whipped cream. It's a nice treat, but a lousy diet. A good diet needs homely old vegetables, grains and proteins. A life well lives needs dear old affection.
Affection is what you feel for your nearest and dearest, even your spouses, quite apart from any sexual tie. You can feel strongly attracted sexually to someone while completely despising them. But you cannot feel genuine affection and disgust for someone at the same time. The love that is stronger than death is not sexual infatuation--which so often passes away like a head-cold--but genuine affection.
I am deeply sorry if there is no genuine affection in your life, for this means that you yourself are not fond of anyone, not even the funny server from whom you buy your morning cappuccino. (I once got a thank you not from a morning-coffee regular, who had apparently been going through a tough time in his marriage--and that thank-you note has stuck with me all my life. Apparently the fact that there was one woman in the world who was happy to see him and remembered what he drank was of enormous comfort.) Whether or not it would be wise to give your favourite server a valentine on Valentine's day I leave up to your prudential judgement. Maybe offering everyone behind the counter an individually wrapped chocolate would be a better idea.
On the run-up to Valentine's Day, there are three universal memes: one in which people complain about how lousy Valentine's Day is for the Single; one in which couples are sold a lot of crap; and one in which the media once again talks about sexual stuff, only with cartoons of Cupid. Well, I offer a fourth: Valentine's Day as a day in which you express affection, in card and/or chocolate form, for those people you sincerely like.
Naturally you will have to be prudent, as most of the rest of North American (for example) society has been seduced into thinking Valentines Day = Sex Day. However I think women are on safe ground sending cards and chocolate to their dearest female friends and their relations. Meanwhile, I beg married women or women with fiancés not to build up expectations. If you REALLY REALLY want a romantic restaurant supper and your husband or fiancé never ever takes you out for a romantic restaurant supper on Valentine's Day, make the reservations yourself. When you tell your h/f, tell him without exasperation. "Say, hey, I hope you don't mind, but I've reserved a table at the MOST EXPENSIVE JOINT IN TOWN! Just kidding. It's just [Such-and-such]."
And now some tough talk for the not-100%-Single:
Anglosphere women who are dating men who give them absolutely nothing for Valentine's Day (that means, not even a card) should break up with them. You have been wasting your time on a guy who just isn't that into you. Men in love, love giving stuff, no matter how small, and they do so without resentment. (Men not in love resent it like hell.)
How small is small? Well, one cash-strapped V-Day, my husband went into the woods and picked me a bunch of snowdrops. It was the most romantic present ever---until last year when he sent a valentine to me in Canada with one bedraggled snowdrop taped to it. That small bedraggled snowdrop is now my favourite present ever.
(Yes he is awesome and was worth the thirty-seven year wait. Thirty-seven YEARS, people. And yet here I will be on Valentine's Day away from him because, honestly, we don't need to be together that day. Usually I have a pedicure with my pal Lily and meet up with Trish and readers afterwards.)
Posted by Mrs McLean at 14:04