They say that Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday. Created and perpetuated by the evil card company Hallmark and aided and abetted by those corrupters of souls, Russell Stover & FTD Florists. It’s a holiday fashioned by retail companies solely for the purpose of capitalizing on the fact that humans are hungry for romance. But you can’t really blame them; it’s just business, and the fact is that we need Valentine’s Day. Made up or real, it is a very important day for couples and wannabe-couples.
Valentine’s Day is all about the “romance.” This is why it has lasted so long and, I suspect, will never fade away. However, there are two distinct definitions of “romance,” and this causes a disconnect for just about every couple at one time or another. You see, “romance” means a very different thing to the inhabitants of Venus than it means to us Martians. To the fairer sex, “romance” means the validation of their value to their mate; the proof that their men love them and cherish them and want to dote on them and protect them and honor them forever and always – with gifts and treats and (horrors) conversation! To the male of the species, “romance” means sex. Period. All the machinations that we go through to prove our undying love on Valentine’s Day (or any other day for that matter) are just a bunch of peacock feathers spread out in a display to attract the female; just a puffed out throat to impress her into saying yes; just a hopeful set of abracadabras and magical flourishes in our too-thinly veiled attempts to make her objections disappear.
Unless, of course, you’ve been faithfully married for 36 years and really DO want to show nothing more than your undying love and reaffirm your promise to “love, honor and cherish till death do us part.” Then, “romance” means the same to both of you. Really! Honest! No, really – I’m not just saying that! This year will be the 37th Valentine’s Day that I’ve shared with my best friend, Marcia. 37 times I’ve picked out a card – usually 3 of them: a funny one, a romantic (to her) one and a romantic (to me) one. 37 times I’ve wondered if dinner and togetherness says enough or if I should buy her something special. 37 times she’s said she doesn’t want “anything.” 36 times I’ve not been fooled by that line. (There was that one year when I was young and naïve and thought that “don’t get me anything” meant she didn’t want anything. What I found out it meant was that if I wanted “anything,” then I better get her something, no matter what she says!)
You’d think that love and romance would get old after that much time, but this is not the case for me and my Baby-cakes. We still hold hands when we take a walk or a drive. She still blows me kisses from the couch to my barca-lounger and I still catch them. We still watch romantic movies together and are still touched by the stories. We can talk about anything or we can talk about nothing and still feel comfortable. We enjoy sports together; we watch American Idol together; we do housework together; if I cook, she cleans and visa versa; we go on hikes together; we sit around like couch potatoes together. I play love songs on the guitar for her while she does her needlepoint. We so often finish each other’s sentences and have the same idea for dinner that it’s actually a bit spooky. Before long, we’ll probably even start looking alike. Yes, folks, I’m a lucky man indeed to have married my best friend and found a mate for life. So many couples we’ve known don’t stay together for so long – with or without a ring.
I once told Marcia that I thought the reason we’d been together so long was that I had no ego. After the swelling went down from the roundhouse slap I got when I didn’t clarify my remark soon enough, I explained myself – slowly and carefully. What I meant is that I think that with a soul-mate/wife/lover/partner, happiness and harmony come from not letting your ego require you to be right all the time. This goes beyond just simple compromise which is certainly important in relationships; this thought process actually requires you to acknowledge that someone else is smarter, more logical, better informed and more reasonable than you are – at least part of the time. Our natural inclination, even when it goes against someone we love, is to desire to not be in the wrong. Following this natural inclination is a recipe for marital disaster or frequent dust-ups at the very least. At its worst, it kills “romance,” no matter what definition you adhere to.
You must realize that two people living in close proximity to each other (and desiring to keep up said living arrangement) cannot both be right all the time. Therefore, my advice to my kids and any other couple who asks about the secret of our longevity is to stop being a baby and give in and give up – more often than you think you should. What can it possibly hurt to let your loved one be right more often than you? This is especially good advice to the men out there who wish there was more “romance” in their life, but don’t quite seem to comprehend that their egocentric arguments cause a direct INVERSE relationship to the amount of “romance” that they enjoy. An equally true state of affairs is that a woman who must always be right is a woman destined to have her man rarely show her the kind of “romance” that she desires – unless of course, he is accommodating her desires solely to get the kind of “romance” he desires.
Oh, it’s a vicious circle boys and girls and this is where Valentine’s Day comes in handy. The giving of the cards and candy and flowers and jewelry and pajama-grams takes the focus off our egos and puts it squarely onto the shoulders of Hallmark and Russell Stover and the Vermont Teddy Bear company where it belongs.
That way we can all get what we want for Valentine’s Day: ROMANCE!
For Marcia – I love you babe!