Wanderings – Love for love not for Valentine’s Day

There was a rather indignant tone from one of my co-workers the other day. “You mean you’re not writing a column about Valentine’s Day Phil?” My initial reply was no, followed by a comment on the commercialism that has permeated into many holidays all in the hopes of sucking money from our wallets. But I reconsidered thanks to an impending deadline.

I’ve never been a fan of this day. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. February 14 should just be a day. However, the aforementioned commercialism has seeped into this day. My first run-in with the day was in elementary school – when I thought Valentine’s Day was weird.

As a kid I read a lot – which won’t surprise too many readers out there. I also wasn’t too social – introverted is the word for it nowadays but in the 80s it was far less kind. I also watched a lot of movies – including Sunday Afternoon movies on PBS. My first introduction to Valentine’s Day was the 1967 film The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Going to school after watching that movie, I wondered why we were celebrating this?

Of course, I soon learned that it was not about Al Capone ordered mobster hits, but about love, and friendship, and oddly shaped cardboard cutouts that you had to give to everyone so that no one felt left out. You quickly learned to give the really cool cards to the people you liked or were friends with, and left the crappy cards in the package to the people who were deemed to be obligatory deliveries. Nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day like giving a card to the kid who often pushed you on the ground onto the basketball court, or stole your Fruit Roll-Up a card.

High school was different, but similar. There were no obligations or expectations to treat everyone the same, but it was very apparent the social hierarchy of school life. You knew quickly where you stood. But at least I didn’t have to give people I didn’t like cards “to be nice.” The high road no longer had to be taken.

As you can clearly see my formative years have skewed me towards not being particularly receptive to this day. Eventually love happened, and marriage, and kids. The role of parent changed my views. Now I was the one telling my kids to make sure to give everyone in their class a Valentine card, and my kids have never seen that cheesy B-Movie

My views on the “holiday” haven’t changed much though and it is largely due to the commercialism.

Each year, retailers try to get you to out-do your efforts the year before. “Show your wife you care, with diamonds.” “This Valentine’s Day, treat your loved one to a new car.” Flowers, jewelry, vacations, and much more. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed but journalists are exactly aren’t financial high-rollers. Robin Leech isn’t featuring my home anytime soon. The constant commercial drone of outdoing yourself or others to show your love could easily bankrupt you.

The real reason I don’t put effort into Valentine’s Day is that why should I only put effort to show my loved one that I love them on just one day. Shouldn’t that be 365 days a year?

My wife will likely strongly suggest that my effort could be more consistent at times – I will concede that point. You have to put effort into your relationships. Saying your wedding vows is not just a check box to mark on the bucket list of life. Many of the divorcees I know have said their marriages broke down because of a lack of effort by one or both parties.

I do make that effort – some of the time – and as aforementioned acknowledge that I need to improve that effort. It’s one of those goals though that you should always try to improve on. It doesn’t mean you have to go broke or even spend any money on.

I notice that things are changing too. As more of our kids leave home, or are in the position to leave home, and others have their driver’s licences, the parent taxi is used less. There is more time for us to go do things just for us, and not have to figure out which kid has what sports practice or work that day. In a way, it’s almost like marriage 2.0.

Do not worry fair readers, I am not taking up ballroom dancing lessons with my wife, even though some of my co-workers would likely encourage me if they were allowed to bring their cellphones for funny highlight reel footage. I dance with two left feet – there would be lots of material.

That said, we do have lots of opportunities to go and do things together that we’ve never gotten to do before – like a vacation without kids. There will be more time for our hobbies, and day trips, and all sorts of other activities – together. With all the things we’ve already talked about doing, there is no way to cram all that into one day a year. Lucky for us. Enjoy the commercialized faux-holiday, or not.

This column was originally published in the February 14, 2024 print edition of the Morrisburg Leader.