quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior. – Catullus
It’s that time of year again, or close enough – Valentine’s Day, little horror show that it is. I hate and I love.
I hate: the emphasis on ‘coupledom’ and the farce of romantic love to the exclusion of all other types of love; the pressure to have a date – any date- for Valentines Day; the impossible expectations; the inescapable hype – in the grocery stores and drugstores, in your email account, everywhere you turn, it’s hearts and cupids and flowers and *gak*! If you’re single, the world seems to be conspiring to make sure sure sure you know what a dismal failure as a human being you truly are; if you’re part of a couple, nothing you do can ever live up to the hype.
I love: Valentines Day as it was in early grade school, where everyone made Valentines, lopsided and covered in glue and glitter; where romantic love – or our early fumbling understandings of such – was only one very minor aspect of the holiday while friendships and familial love got top billings. We all got and gave Valentines, homemade or cheaply bought; there was a decided emphasis from the Powers That Be on making sure everyone was included; and we all got cupcakes. There were tears and frustrations, there was delight and joy, and there was sugar.
It was messy and sweet and sticky, misshapen and imperfect and lumpen, it was just like love. Love isn’t all flowers and chocolates and little birds going ‘tweet tweet tweet‘ – it’s a big sticky mess, fierce and tender and bloody, as full of frustrations and misunderstandings as it is of delight and joy, and we ignore that complexity to our peril.
In the spirit of our grade school days, I make Valentines every year… though not *quite* the sort we made in grade school. Pretty much everyone gets one (I confess to editing the list slightly – it’s a touchy thing, and I certainly don’t want to upset or offend anyone. Not all of my friends have the same dark bent as I do, and whereas I find these cards – at best – wickedly funny, they’ve been known to keep people up at night. Hardly the desired effect.).
You can see what I mean.
I’m in the midst of preparing this year’s offering; it takes hours and hours, it’s a true labor of love. I do believe every beloved friend and relative should get a Valentine and I do my bit to bring that ideal closer to reality – I also understand not everyone wants one of *my* Valentines, and it can be hard to predict exactly *who* falls into which category. If I’ve erred on either side, forgive me, and speak up!
I’m not a bloody mind reader, y’know.
Remember when Valentine’s Day was actually fun? Way back when, sometime in the distant mists of grade school, when everyone got cheap and cheesy little Valentines and red frosted cupcakes and we all made Valentines with construction paper and too much glitter and glue and brought them proudly home? Everyone got more sugar than we needed; everyone got Valentine’s; and it was good.
Then we got older. No one makes Valentines anymore, no one gives you cupcakes for free. It’s all about romantic love (widely seen as a medieval invention – thanks, you guys!), and Peep help you if you don’t have a Valentine, and Peep help you if you do. Either way you can feel the pressure, and there are no more red frosted cupcakes, just aisles and aisles of heart shaped boxes of chocolates, and red roses on sale, and the marketing starts early and everywhere there are red banners and hearts and cupids and flowers until just going to the market is like running a gauntlet. If you’re single, the world seems to be conspiring to make you feel like shit; if you’re not, you know you’re never going to be able to match the hype, and still the pressure is on. Now even my hotmail account is on my back about finding a Valentine, and getting them the right present – what? In the next twelve days? That’s a good reason to start a relationship, and you know it’s gonna last.
I say enough already. Let’s go back to grade school – everyone deserves Valentines, and everyone we love should get one. And that being said, let’s look at what we’re actually celebrating: Martyrdom. Well, love is a many splintered thing, as most of us know from personal experience. Cut through all the sugar and saccharine; look below that pretty candy coating to the beating heart that drives the world.
Not so pretty now, is it? A bit too bloody for your tastes, perhaps?
Don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger.