I know you expect me to moan about Valentine's Day.
Because I hate this stupid excuse to force romance and affection. It's all a ruse, a marketing ploy, and even when I had boyfriends I refused to be a victim. If you're Catholic you get a free pass (yes, it's technically a Catholic holiday, St. Valentine's Day). If you need Valentine's Day to be romantic, instead of flowers and a box of chocolate you might want to invest in some therapy. Romance...affection...showing it, "proving" it, admitting is, professing it...if you need the marketing hype of Valentine's Day to spur you on or as an "excuse," well, I mean, you know, whatever, I'm not going to judge, but you do realize Cupid doesn't actually exist, right?
Call me cynical, but if I had a significant other who only professed his feelings for me one day a year, I'm pretty sure I would have some serious concerns about the status and future emotional health of that relationship. And if that one day happened to be the heavily hyped and marketed Valentine's Day? Well. Emotion - romance, affection, compassion, passion, love - shown, "proved," no, forced by guilt, appearances and jewelry, card and flower delivery companies isn't exactly the genuine, healthy sort of emotional relationship I want or need.
There. There's my annual Valentine's Day moan. Happy?
Yeah, me either.
I don't hate love.
Really, I don't.
And I don't hate marketing. Really, I don't.
Most marketing is based on triggering an emotional response thus creating a need, a deep emotional need, for a good or service.
So marketing all things romance makes sense. Love is the mother of all emotions, the Big Kahuna. If you're going to market something, go for love. No one can resist it, everyone wants it, needs it, craves it, longs for it, hopes for it, dreams of it and gets high on the feeling of it. Powerful stuff, love. And marketeers know that and use it. Can't blame them. If you're going to evoke emotions, go for the big one. Sex sells, but love sells more and brings in repeat customers.
One really fantastic aspect of being unemployed is that you don't have to endure Valentine's Day in the office. Amen to that, right? Other peoples' romances aren't thrown in your face while you're just trying to do your job.
My Valentine's Day Twilight Zone marathon continues. I feel suitably creeped out and philosophical and definitely not in any way longing for romance or love. Rock on, Rod Serling, my Valentine's Day savior.
But here's the thing.
No, I don't have the big kind of romantic love in my life. And that causes a lot of lonely nights.
But. I do have a lot of love in my life.
And as the Mayor of Singleton I feel it's my duty to provide leadership and guidance through one of the worst days of the year for singles. A moan about it is cathartic, but not helpful. What we, Singletonians, need are survival tactics.
Here's the one that works best for me. It's time tested, mother approved and...it works.
It's not the "buy a nice bottle of champagne, light some candles, take a luxuriously long bubble bath and read a good book, be nice to yourself, love yourself, 'be your own Valentine'" kind of tactic. I mean, you know, that's a good tactic, but it can backfire, badly. It can make you feel even more alone, lonely and pathetic. I know because I've tried that one on more than one Valentine's Day.
Here's another idea.
I've had trouble sleeping since I was a wee tot. This perplexed my mother. She knew I needed a lot more sleep than I was getting but nothing eased or sped my nightly journey to Nod. Songs, stories, counting sheep/kittens/turtles, threats...none of it worked. I couldn't turn off my brain, and mostly, at night, alone, in the dark, sentenced to solitary confinement in my room, I worried. (Yes, I still do this.)
Finally, exasperated, frustrated and tired, one night my wise (and weary) mother said, ""We've read three stories. We sang two songs. Daddy did a stuffed animal re-enactment of Act III of King Lear. That's it, young lady, that is it. Just lie there and think about all the people who love you and all the people you love. Okay? Just think about all the love and happiness you have and don't worry about anything else. All that love is a fortress that will keep out all the scary, mean thoughts. Go. To. Sleep."
It's way better than counting sheep. Mum, Daddy, Gran, Grandad, Nana, Papa, Aunt Daphne...the list included far-flung cousins, friends, neighbors, sometimes even my brother and sister and on particularly difficult nights, every member of our church.
This technique tied in nicely with my parents' ongoing lesson of: "Find contentment within yourself, be happy with what you have, count your blessings. Longing for things only leads to sadness, discontent and an empty life." If I had a penny for every time in my life I've heard, "Find happiness with what you have, not sadness about what you don't," I'd be very happy with all the money I'd have.
And of course it's true. Of course they're right. But. They had good jobs that provided a nice home and a few extras, and, oh yeah, a really solid, good, healthy marriage. So, yes, it was easy for them to go around spouting all zen and hippie-love.
They're right, you know.
Of course they're right.
Love is not all you need.
Would that it were, of course. Wouldn't that be a pleasant world? But that place doesn't exist for most of us. Most of us do not live in a clothing optional commune where we grow our own food and make vegan soap and pottery to sell at local craft fairs and support the commune.
The notion that love is all you need is ridiculous, foolish and drug-induced fantasizing.
As a review of my nightly list of people who love me and who I love will attest, I have a whole freaking lot of love in my life. But it's not getting me a job, paying my mortgage, or even fulfilling all my emotional needs, and it's especially not fulfilling the biological/hormonal needs. Love is clearly not all I need.
Night after night, when the anxiety, stress, worry and fear are making their nightly rounds in my head and bed, invoking my mother's plan to list off all the people who love me and the people I love as a fortress against the hate and loneliness and fear in life does, you, know, help.
No, you can't roll over and cuddle up to thoughts of people who love you. And most of those people, even though they love you, would probably not want you to roll over and cuddle up to them.
Though. I will openly admit, that after my dad died and there was a house full of relatives, one of my cousins, who I see only at family weddings and funerals, came down to the living room where I was "sleeping" on an air mattress. She couldn't sleep, either. So she sat down next to me on the air mattress and we talked. It was like when we were kids and had to sleep on the floor at our aunt and uncles house. Their den was full of scary stuff and two little girls with overactive and vivid imaginations had a hard time sleeping in there. We surrounded ourselves with the couch cushions and our stuffed animals and hunkered down together. That night, after my dad died, we cried, and eventually we did cuddle up to each other. No, it wasn't some incestuous back-woods lesbian thing. Though we did get a few laughs about it giving new, modern meaning to "sleeping with my cousin."
And at night, when I count her in my list of people who love me, I chuckle at that shared laugh.
Ahhh, love. 'Tis naught more than a shared laugh, n'est-ce pas?
I don't need anyone to prove they love me. I know the people who love me really love me. They don't even need to say it. It's just...obvious. Shared laughs. Shared tears. Shared insights. Shared burdens.
One of the more complex love relationships is the one we have with siblings. For me, it's the most complex. My brother and sister...oh, man, I mean, sigh. It's complicated. We're adults and it bugs the crap out of me that either one of them can reduce me to a 5-year-old in seconds flat. Three adults. Who, by all outward appearances, are mature, reasonable, somewhat sane individuals. But get us together and we're three kids threatening to "tell" on each other. I dunno. I'm not proud of this. But the more I fight it, the more I try to rise above it, the more they push my buttons to invoke the, "I'm telling" response.
But most of the time one of my siblings is capable of doing the very thing I want/need without me even asking or mentioning it.
Today I got the best "Valentine's Day" gift I've ever received.
My brother sent me a whole range of his gently used camera gear. My "good" cameras are film, my digital cameras are either a) crap or b) no longer functioning. My brother's kind of anal, I mean fastidious, and takes impeccable care of his belongings. He could have sold the gear for several thousand dollars. At least. But for some reason, love, perhaps, he instead gave it to me. And yes, I'm telling on him.
It's not about the expense of the camera equipment. It's that he wanted me to have it instead of selling it for a decent amount of cash. The box showed up, completely unexpected, a surprise, for me, on Valentine's Day.
And, that wasn't the only delivery the UPS guy had for me. My parent's neighbors used to do a lot of SCUBA diving, in exotic locations. When they returned from a diving trip they'd invite me over to show me what they found under the sea - exotic shells, coral fragments, sunken treasures from shipwrecks, but mostly photos. Mr. Williams got so he was pretty handy with the underwater camera. They'd pull out a Jacques Cousteau book to correlate their dive to the scientific relevance of the region. That was before Mr. Williams' back and hip started acting up and Mrs. Williams' problems with Lupus prevented them from diving. Lupus, combined with some other health problems, claimed Mrs. Williams a few years ago. Mr. Williams sold their house for a pittance of its value and moved into a retirement condo village. Last Summer I helped him sort through his storage locker, a ton of books and odds and ends their kids didn't want. And hundreds of VHS tapes. I helped him find a place that transfers VHS to DVD. It will come as no surprise that I was one of those nerdy kids who loved Jacques Cousteau documentaries. And of course the Williams' had every Cousteau VHS ever released. Well, yadda yadda yadda my UPS guy brought me a box from Mr. Williams. Every Jacques Cousteau special ever made, transferred to dvd.
Oh. And. A couple books signed by Jacques himself. Oh yes. He did.
It might not be "love" but it's certainly genuine affection. Mr. Williams or his kids could have sold those books for, oh, I dunno, some money. But instead he gave them to me.
And, my mother sent me a care package. Twizzlers and a Snoopy card. I love a Snoopy card. And $20 with a Post-it Note affixed to it saying, "For wine."
I ♥ my mother. Twizzlers, Snoopy and booze. Rock on. Who needs a man with a mother like that?
Do I have a big, romantic Valentine's Day? Not in the usual sense.
But. Do I have lots of love? Yes. I have people who know me, care about me and bother to do nice things for me.
After the UPS guy made his surprise visit I went to the grocery to procure wine, as instructed by my mother.
The desperation in the air was palpable. It was late afternoon, normally the first few after-work shoppers would be trickling in. But today, Valentine's Day, the place was thronged with men. Frantic men.
You might be thinking, "Hey, there you go, Trill! What a great time to meet men!"
You would be wrong. Because these men already have someone special. How do I know this? Because they were not flocking to the frozen pizza section.
They were frantically buzzing around the floral/bakery/Valentine's Day candy display section. And the greeting card section. And the "seasonal" aisle. And the booze aisle.
The "good" heart shaped balloons were gone. The ones that remained were already losing helium and buoyancy. Instead of plump mylar hearts with arms jauntily charging in the air, straining on their tethers proclaiming, "I ♥ you THIS much!" there were a few limp, dull mounds of wrinkled plastic, tether strings sagging, mumbling through folds of wrinkled mylar, "♥ yo ch" But these men, these last minute Valentine's Day shoppers, were desperate enough to grab them, snatching them before someone else could. One inventive guy went for a fully inflated SpongeBob balloon. I later saw him in the "seasonal" aisle buying a bag of candy conversation hearts and a garland of red hearts. I could see his plan. Adorn the room with SpongeBob holding the heart garland and litter the pillow with the most romantic candy hearts. I like that guy. I'd date that guy.
The roses, oh swut, the roses. I mean, if you're buying Valentine's Day flowers at a grocery store it's a given that you're not looking to impress and bedazzle someone with gorgeous flowers. On the other hand, props to some groceries for carrying a half-way decent selection of flowers. Mine grocery store generally stocks some nice looking flowers. The roses are usually "meh" but some of the other flowers are quite lovely. They obviously anticipated the Valentine's Day rush and had loads of rose bouquets displayed in various areas around the floral, bakery, booze and check-out areas. They're not stupid, these grocery floral people. But even with the extra floral supply, the choices were getting thin. The red were almost gone, the pink and white were going fast. That leaves orange, yellow and that odd shade of purple-pink no one ever buys because it looks like Pepto-bismol. And the wilty, half-dead red ones. Desperation does funny things to a man. Desperation will convince him to buy the wilty, half-dead red roses from the grocery store, arguing that some flowers are better than no flowers. That SpongeBob balloon and heart garland are sounding better to you now, aren't they?
The bakery department was a hive of activity. The cupcakes were long gone, even the ones with the frosting smooshed on the plastic container lid. The small heart-shaped cakes were going fast and the full-sized heart decorated sheet cakes were moving quickly. These last minute Valentine's Day guys, though, they're creative. You gotta give 'em that. The ones who couldn't get near the remaining heart shaped cakes were swarming around the brownie and cookie displays. Hey, nothing says I love you like oatmeal raisin cookies.
I was on a mission from my mother. I had $20 wine money. I was going to get a bottle of wine. Dammit. The problem, of course, was that all those last-minute-Valentine's Day shopping men were stacked three-deep in the booze aisles. And yes, yes, there were some special displays of booze for Valentine's Day, but there was no getting near them, either. So I waited my "turn" and grabbed the last bottle of Cabernet I could find that fit my under $20 wine budget. I noticed a lot of guys were opting for vodka or beer.
The card section was, of course, a pathetic vignette of desperation and procrastination. Valentine's Day cards hit the shelves around December 28th. If you wait until February 14th to buy a Valentine's Day card...well...how deep is your love? And, when you can't find that "perfect card" at 4:30 PM on February 14th at your local grocery, are you really surprised? Is it not glaringly obvious to you that you might want to consider putting just a tad more effort and planning into your show of affection to the love of your life?
I know I'm cynical about Valentine's Day, but with guys like this, can you blame me? They're obviously just going through the motion, grabbing whatever they can find at the last minute in the easiest place possible because they know they have to show up with something.
I know. I know. Plenty of men, and women, spend a lot of time, money and effort on Valentine's Day and that can be just as desperate and pathetic and feeble as the last minute grocery store Valentine's Day dash. Lavish isn't better, but at least it shows some amount of dedication and thought. (The last minute SpongeBob guy gets a free pass for his originality.)
But, and this is just my skewed perspective, if the choices are: a) a last-minute impertinent grocery-store card/limp balloon or cookie or b) nothing, I'd prefer b, nothing. I don't want anyone to feel they have to "go through the motions." I don't want a "present" procured only because of marketing guilt. I want something like my brother sending me camera equipment or my parents' neighbor sending me Jacques Cousteau dvds and books or my mother sending me a Snoopy card and Twizzlers. Heartfelt, genuine, relevant gifts.
Today the grocery store bakery, floral and booze aisles were filled with men fueled desperation and hope. Tomorrow the same store's ice cream and Tater Tot aisles will be filled with women fueled by broken dreams. And that, my friends, is the definition of Valentine's Day.
Singletonians, instead of counting sheep, go to bed tonight and count the people who love you and the people you love. I'm pretty sure you'll be surprised at how much love you have in your life and you'll feel a lot less alone.
Labels: Mayor of Singleton, Single, Valentine's Day