Guest post by Jake Thurman.
Until recently, my wife and I had an agreement. We had been together for about eight years when, in a feeble attempt to avoid the commercialization of our relationship, we decided we wouldn’t exchange Valentine’s Day presents. \Now, why we decided that we wouldn’t succumb to America’s never-wavering commitment to turning a profit on February 14, while remaining naïve overconsumers (is that a word?) the other 364 days, remains a bit of a mystery. Nonetheless, for years we dutifully let the holiday pass without much fanfare.
On the surface, my readiness to abandon the rites of Valentine’s Day might seem a bit insensitive or lazy. When discussed with friends it often invokes comments like, “Sure your wife doesn’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day (#sarcasm).” While that statement is infuriatingly small-minded in many ways, it also fails to capture the relationship my wife and I have. We have the pleasure of not only enjoying the mushy romantic junk that comes with loving someone, but we are legitimately each other’s best friend. We like the same music, movies, and books (for the most part). We share a common opinion about religion and politics. Even though we have been together since we were sixteen years old, I like being around her more today than I ever have. To suggest that her anti-Valentine’s stance was disingenuous, or that I’m too lazy to annually let her know that I care about her, just isn’t true. Isn’t it far more lazy to rely on Valentine’s Day to check “show my wife she matters” off of my to-do list? Our disdain for Valentine’s Day was most assuredly mutual and real.
All of that being said, I recently realized that our pseudo-political stance against Valentine’s Day was a bit shortsighted. The purpose of the day should be more focused on the ends than the means. The goal is to let someone you like/love know that you care about them. How you do that doesn’t have to conform to any of the canned celebrations associated with the holiday. It was here that we were missing the point. Instead of approaching it with fun and creativity, we allowed Hallmark-defined behaviors to dictate our concept of celebration. So Valentine’s Day wasn’t the bad guy, it was our own inability to step away from the traditions that made the holiday seem so obnoxiously capitalist. Since my enlightenment, I have a newfound appreciation for the endless possibilities before me. This resulted in a reintroduction of Valentines’ Day festivities. Now the day represents sarcastic professions of love, funny cards, and homemade gifts. The ends are achieved because, with every laugh, my wife and I remind each other of why we chose to cohabitate in the first place.
Because I truly enjoy making my wife happy, Valentine’s Day has gone from a holiday we thumbed our noses at, to one of my favorite days of the year. It means being creative, writing stupid poems, making horrible puns, and having fun. The result of this shift in perspective is the creation of an authentic experience between you and someone you care about. The laughs elicited from a well-constructed, creative, silly present are far more sincere and lasting than any response to the tired, “romantic” gifts that are often exchanged and then forgotten. Even though the response may not be stereotypically romantic, it’s genuine, which I think is way more important. So this Valentine’s Day, have fun and, most importantly, keep it real.