Valentine’s Day: What Happened to the Love?
By Wendy Ford
Valentine’s Day. Okay. Soapbox time, guys.
It’s that time of year again. The print media and airwaves are full of reminders about the big day. Posters are everywhere, on the sides of buses, on billboards, plastered in the windows of stores, seemingly every ad on television and radio are being glaringly frontal about the best ideas for gifts (complete with the incentive of being able to put it on a credit card). An idiot could not possibly miss the fact that the big day is just around the corner. Someone commented on the radio this morning the average person would spend over ninety-seven dollars this year for Valentine’s Day. Ninety-seven dollars! Now how many people listening to that are going to be thinking, “He’d better spend that much on me.” Or “God, I’d better do some more shopping.” Or “Valentine’s Day! Man I forgot all about it. I’m going to get creamed if I don’t come up with something good.” But then how many others are thinking, “I don’t take home that much money in a week.” Or “Ninety-seven dollars. Valentine’s Day gift or gas in the car or food on the table?”
How does a piece of jewelry or bouquet of flowers convey esteem or love for another person? Personally it seems just to be another way to get consumers to buy into the idea that if you don’t spend money on someone you don’t care about them and vice versa. It’s become pretty widely accepted that if that special someone doesn’t give you something outlandishly extravagant on Valentines Day then perhaps you do not hold significant value for him or her. Yep. The word value was intentionally used. Our consumerism-based society has managed to actually fool many into accepting the false idea that love has a monetary tie and value.
Don’t misunderstand. It is not being said that Valentine’s Day has no meaning. It can be a day when we just take a moment out of our busy schedules to stop or pause for a moment to honor someone else. The cooking of a special meal requires personal time and effort be put into the planning, shopping, preparation and presentation. Taking someone out to dinner requires the sacrifice of personal time. The making of a card or writing a few corny lines of poetry or writing even the briefest of notes do the same because they are gifts from the heart. Someone had to sacrifice some personal time and energy. Giving someone the gift of something that will pamper them in some way like a massage or trip to the spa or tanning bed allows that person to be gifted with some personal “me” time of their own, time they might not have otherwise spent on themselves.
But how does dashing into a store on the way home from work, grabbing whatever looks nice and throwing it on the seat of the car show how much you care or in how much regard you hold another, never mind that you love them?
When did love start being quantified and equated with amounts of money; the bigger the gift, the flashier the jewelry the greater the love? Two dozen very expensive roses certainly show deeper care more than one dozen. Valentines Day isn’t just for lovers anymore, no indeed. Wee tots in kindergarten and day care exchange valentines with every classmate and teacher. The exchange of endearments among family members makes sense but is it really necessary to feel compelled to give a card to one’s hairdresser? Why is it even considered by some to be the equivalent of some heinous crime to do nothing on this day for a mate or partner? Now combine the idea of the mandatory gifts with the idea that Valentine’s Day is the biggest day for sex in the whole year! Slinky lingerie, fancy nightwear are the thing for the day. Sex means love after all, right?
Marketers have done one heck of a job at brainwashing this society. There are Valentine Day sales on everything from washers and dryers to cars to furniture. The obligatory jewelry, stationary and candy markets have ingrained themselves so deeply that the first picture coming to mind for many when Valentine’s Day is mentioned is a candy filled cardboard heart and bouquet of flowers lying next to the well recognized jewelers box all tied up with a fancy ribbon and lace. Mandatory gifts are not truly gifts. They are merely another way for one to get what one wants by paying another for services rendered. From a different perspective they could be looked at as cleverly disguised forms of blackmail.
In one explanation about the origins of Valentines Day is pointed to being a day lovers wrote notes to each other, not a day that elaborate gifts were exchanged.
No price can be put on that feeling in your heart when a young child places its hand in yours in complete and utter trust. No value can be put on the look on a child’s face as it hands a cracked and squished homemade macaroni heart to its mother. No price can be put on the act of a mate enfolding the other in an embrace that without words says, “Thanks for being there”. No act of true and genuine human kindness comes with a price tag. The gifts of personal time, energy and emotion have no price or value to the recipient.
True unconditional Love cannot be bought and sold. It doesn’t have a monetary price or value placed on it. It costs nothing to receive and costs nothing to give. Humanity was created by the One out of Love. There was no monetary value or cost put to it. True unconditional Love can’t be manufactured or engineered into objects with a price tag. No matter what the marketers want us to believe it can’t be done.
This Valentine’s Day consider giving something from the very symbol of the day: your heart. Spend some time with your family or partner. Make a phone call to someone you haven’t spoken with for too long a time. Maybe you could perform some act of genuine human kindness like really noticing and looking at and smiling at the lady who sells you your morning coffee every day, or taking the time to smile at the clerk who sells you subway tokens, or giving your seat on the bus to a tired mother on her way to her second job. Maybe you could promise, and follow through with, the gift of some time to a soup kitchen, local Red Cross or school.
Those are gifts from the heart, no strings attached — given freely and without expectation of receiving something in return. It has nothing to do with the size of pockets or bank accounts or buildings. The remarkable and amazing thing about all of this is you will get something in return. It just can’t be measured or have a value placed on it. The only thing Love requires is that it be shared. Without being shared, Love withers and dies. Love begets Love. Love is what that funny feeling is in your chest when your heart swells just a little in response to the receipt of Love. It may be an unfamiliar feeling to some. But the really cool thing is you can get really high on it! And the more you give, the more your get, and the more you get the better you feel. In this one instance “acquisition” is not a dirty word. Maybe one day you’ll look in the mirror and you’ll see a little glimmer of it being reflected in your eyes. Don’t turn away. It’s just Love and Life winking back at you.
Happy Valentine’s Day.