Saturday, February 15, 2014

Trying New Things #3: Valentine's Day Special

I want the preface this post by assuring any and all readers that I am not the least bit bitter about Valentine’s Day. I did not take comfort in wearing black instead of oh-so-festive red, I did not post/reblog/laugh at internet memes boycotting the holidays, and I did not spend my day at home with a bottle of wine and a sappy movie.

My friends and I celebrated Gal-entines day with the best of them, beginning with brunch and ending out on the town in our fanciest party dresses, and I really enjoyed a day of celebrating love between friends. New to this city, Valentine’s Day this year was a wonderful reminder of how lucky I’ve been in the people I’ve met. As we sipped our drinks at Red Lobster, (because what says love better than cheese biscuits), I realized I haven’t felt this content with life in a long time. I’m very glad that we as a culture designate a day to celebrate human relationships.

That said, especially as women, we put much too much pressure on the holiday to confirm things about our lives that we already know. My roommate (who is engaged, by the way) spent the entire day obsessing over a package sent from her fiancé, even though we were snowed in and no mail was being delivered. By the end of the evening, she had been reduced to a puddle of insecurity on the couch, wondering if he’d forgotten her and sent her gift late. Close friends of mine, both here and far away, waited impatiently for their partner to call or text, his/her level of commitment gauged by how early in the morning the message was received. My Facebook news feed became a competition of whose bouquet of flowers was the largest, or sent from the greatest distance. A woman I know actually took a picture of her flowers next to a reference object, so that there could be no possible doubt that hers was actually the biggest possible bouquet of flowers posted on the internet. Her man had done her proud, affirming their love in the most ostentatious way he could.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why has Valentine’s Day become such a competitive, hetero-normative, and materialistic status symbol of a holiday? Is this really about relationships anymore, or is it about proving how much we’re worth, both to each other and ourselves?  

I want to remind everyone that love is not a competition. At its best, this holiday is about celebrating the happiness that is the realization that we are not alone. It is the blessing that comes from reminding those special to us how much we care about them. It is joy that comes from dressing up and going out to a fancy dinner with your partner, or just snuggling on the couch with friends. There is no need to gauge your place in the grand scheme of life based by how far someone else has gotten; that would only work if we were all the same. Everyone’s story is different, and we all find love in different ways.

In the spirit of trying new things in the New Year, (a resolution made between friends), I’m not going to let perceived inadequacy detract from all the beautiful things in life. I’m not going to acknowledge the imagined standards set by a culture that gauges all things by competition, where true happiness is only possible if I’m on the most expensive date with the most expensive dress and the most gorgeous mate. I’m not going to let expectations detract from the happiness I’ve gained in the past year.

I’m instead going to revel in the beauty that is my life, happy that yesterday I had the chance to remind people how truly special they are to me. Or at least, I'm going to try.

Happy Valentine’s Day, world.

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