When I think of Valentine's Day, sometimes I think of beauty and roses and loving feelings sprawled out in their nakedness like a half-eaten box of chocolates. Within these thoughts, Valentine's Day is an idyllic occasion in a classically romantic film, preferably in French.
when my dreams wander into Valentine-induced Candyland,
I discover that I'm a florist or the proprietor of a widely successful,
high-end greeting card company or that I've mastered the long-lost art of making balloon animals. I see dollar signs line up in my eyes like
the winning jackpot...at the nickel slots. Then, I wake up- my heart pounding with the thoughts of further commercializing Valentine's Day for my own selfish, money-making contentment.
The truth is (the real truth): I hate Valentine's Day. If you are single in February of any given year, the world will not let you forget. Everywhere you turn, there are constant reminders of your pathetic singledom. If you are married or you are in a relationship of some kind, Valentine's Day easily becomes an obligatory annoyance, and an overly irritating one at that.
Valentine's Day also has a habit of making my mind wander to nagging reminders of my past and the ridiculousness of dating, especially in a place like Los Angeles. The memories float by in my head like some sort of surrealistic montage of romantic doom. Take the former naval officer that brought his incontinent canine with him on our first date. After thankfully dropping the diarrhea-scented dog off at his house, we went to dinner. There, over Spanish tapas, he accused me of being a lesbian. It turns out that his ego couldn't wrap itself around the fact that I was not falling head over heels for him. In his mind, there could only be one explanation for that. In turn, my brain couldn't wrap itself around his ego. It was so big and bulbous and throbbing, I thought it might explode.
Then, there was the time that I went to lunch with this director at a dinky corner cafe at the base of the Hollywood Hills. I was young, new
to Los Angeles, and relatively naïve. Evidently my aura screamed "fresh
blood" for anyone even remotely paying attention. He was the type that
would discard the entire Los Angeles Times except for the Calendar section, which he would then study intently-- as though it were the text of the Rosetta Stone. I know this
for a fact. After we'd entered the café, that was the very first thing
By the time we'd placed our order and the Calendar section had lost all its usefulness, he proceeded to go on a thirty-minute monologue describing his latest film project while I sipped lemon water and secretly hoped my food would make this whole ordeal worthwhile. After I'd endured the most insidiously boring premise of a film, described shot-by-shot, he paused and took a deep breath. I almost had a chance to say something, to do him a favor and offer my honest comments on the film I hoped never truly germinated into full-fledged existence. However, after the passage of that one breath, he'd already gone on to describe the experiences of his recent trek through Malaysia and Cambodia. I almost didn't need to be there.
These are the thoughts and memories that cross my mind as I stand in line witnessing customers agonizing over boxes of chocolate. (Russell Stover or Whitman?) I can see this all-important decision weighing in on their brain cells as their annoying children push buttons that activate the horrendous, singing Elvis teddy bear for the umpteenth time.
Again, the truth is, I hate Valentine's Day. Every February, I look with dread as the candy hearts and teddy bears and flowers start parading down the aisles of every drugstore and card shop in town. Take a perfectly good cupcake and lop as much sugar-laden, trans fat-saturated frosting onto it as possible and there you have it: Valentine's Day.
Are we truly supposed to feel that chocolate equals love?
Do we say, "With this foil-wrapped chocolate, I thee wed?"
NO. To me, Valentine's Day is like a forced sentimental feeling in an
otherwise good movie.
Is it possible to salvage a gruesomely commercialized and sugary holiday and actually have fun? What's a cynic to do? In candy heart moment of curiosity, I turn to Julie Ferman of Cupid's Coach (www.cupidscoach.com,) an online dating and matchmaking service. Julie lives and breathes Valentine's Day. It's her biggest and busiest time of the year to target the lonely hearts club of Angelenos.So I ask her: How can I change my opinions of Valentine's Day--opinions that are so firmly ingrained in my mind that I cannot remember ever being anything but a Valentine's cynic? Is there hope for someone like me? Can Valentine's Day actually be, God forbid, enjoyable?
"Valentine's Day is about giving and showing love," says Cupid Coach's Julie Ferman. "If we take the time to pause on that day (or any day) to drink in gratitude for those in our lives whom we love-- loved ones of all kinds -- it can only be a wonderful day.
Working with Cupid's Coach in the Los Angeles area, Julie knows that there are Valentine cynics out there, even romantic cynics. Julie says that people who hate Valentine's Day are "usually men who are afraid they'll get the wrong thing for her, they won't be able to 'win' with her....the best way for him to win with her is to ask her to provide some hints as to what would make her happy. And women should make it easy for a man to make her happy.
I agree with the concept of Valentine's Day, but it's still all a little lovey-dovey, schmaltzy to me ~ and I'm a girl, which apparently makes me an exception in this Candyland of love.
Even though I'm not looking at her, I can visualize Julie just shaking her head at me. In response, she tells me that "anyone who's become cynical about love has stopped exercising the love muscle."
Guess I better start working out...
It should not have to be complicated or overly forced though. To Julie, the easiest way to make this schmaltzy romanticism palatable for someone like me is to extend it beyond just the romantic and make it more about love and gratitude. The easiest way to do this, according to Julie, is to practice giving love, showing sincere appreciation, and offering thanks to those who have contributed to us.
One of her suggestions is to call three people who've enriched your life in some way and give them a sincere Thank You on Valentine's Day. She says that little gestures like that will enlarge even the cynic's heart. All in all, Julie advises all of us to make Valentine's Day low maintenance, throw in a few surprises, and even if it's just you (and yourself), plan something fun to do and open your heart to the possibility of love in all its many forms.
Maybe there is hope for someone like me...
*Heart photo by Labels_30/flickr*