Thursday, February 14, 2013

Debates of the Heart

Last Valentine's Day, two of our writers at Critics at Large, one married and the other single, decided to air their views on its very merits. The results weren't what you might expect.

Being single when February 14th rolls around usually grants you fair ground for eye rolling, moping, or even resorting to the fetal position. More so, like many single or otherwise, you may even take it to the next level: smugness. Of course, that leaves you easily feeling morally above the entire notion of a day noted for celebrating romantic love. But even if you are happily attached, you don’t need a day to express your gratitude –  especially when this once commemorative occasion has been molested and taken over by greeting card outfits. I, however, would like to take a moment and defend this occasion. Not only as a pleasant distraction from the otherwise perilous struggles of everyday life, but also as a symbol of hope for the most painful, beautiful, and powerful human experience. 

Before I come off as a lofty fool, let me assure you: I’m as dysfunctionally single as I possibly could be without a hope in the world. For starters, I come equipped with young child, an interesting living arrangement, and an excess amount of checked baggage. I refuse to Internet date and I work in a profession that’s almost eighty per cent women. (Good luck with the organic encounters.) If that’s not hopeless enough, as I sit in a cozy neighbourhood coffee shop writing this, my mannerism here mirrors that of when I’m on a date. I take a sip of my cappuccino, along with a mouth full of my hair. I take a bite of my banana bread, half of which ends up in my lap. Then I just start unconsciously muttering to myself to the point where the gentlemen next to me feels the need to leave...quickly. It’s just not happening.

While I am tempted to be bitter, I also find those who savagely attack the day to be absolutely hilarious. Yes, I agree that Valentine’s Day, like Hallowe’en, Christmas, and Easter, has become over-commercialized. Every front window of every store we walk by is decked out in an orgy of pink and red. (Seriously, even the hardware store.) Yet to all those cynics who are disgusted by this, my advice, just don’t buy into it. Any consumer with any shred of common sense has the power and the right to forgo over-consumption. So I’m not letting you off the hook that easy.

If you are with someone, romantically, a day to invest in your relationship, should be the very least. We have several allotted holidays throughout the year dedicated to our families, our extended families, and to our children. Valentine’s Day is an excellent excuse to give your partner what they need. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything of a material nature. You need not spend a penny, especially if what they need is attention, a compliment, or any recognition. While I feel lucky to live in a time and place where we can choose the one we are with (er, provided that choice is mutual!), we sometimes completely take them for granted. We live in a world now where we are more and more distracted, unfocused, and stretched too thin. Our most intimate conversations during our most important relationships typically take place in electronic format rather than face to face. Valentine’s Day should serve as an example to stop, remember, appreciate, and try to carry that feeling on throughout the rest of the year. 

If you’re flying solo, I also encourage the acknowledgement of the day. To stop and appreciate those people around you, even the platonic liaisons. Valentine’s Day allows us to celebrate those who are in our lives because we choose to have them in our lives. For those of us who live in societies that are progressive enough to recognize all kinds of “modern love” in its various combinations, we can take this moment to be grateful. That is, grateful that we have the freedom to choose how we live and who becomes a part of our life along the way. If we meet someone, someone incredible, there is nothing stopping the sparks from flying. We also have full freedom to become pathetic, insecure idiots. We have the freedom to be confused, betrayed, and even broken-hearted, i.e. to be human. 

Whether you be single or attached, let today be the day when you remember how wonderful it is to – sometimes – act like a complete moron. 

– Laura Warner is a librarian, researcher and aspiring writer living in Toronto. She is currently based in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre’s Music Library.


Hold the Chocolates: Mixed Feelings about February 14th

Most women either love Valentine’s Day (if in a relationship) or curse it (if single). I’m pretty much indifferent. Although I am in a relationship, none but the usual passing affections get showered upon me come February 14th. In fact, my husband and I have a pathetic track record of even spending Valentine’s Day together. This year, my book club is meeting. Last year, I was at French class. Two years ago, we actually did travel to romantic Montreal for the weekend, but while my husband spent the night sipping Aztec hot cocoa with his brilliant pianist guy friend (they regularly get mistaken for a couple), I stayed in the hotel room and applied for a job that was closing the following day. Who says romance is dead? 

It’s not exactly that I am anti-Valentine’s Day, although there are plenty of reasons to purposefully boycott the consumer cornucopia of corny hallmark greetings, stale cinnamon hearts, and chalky foil-wrapped chocolate. By the time mid-February rolls around I’m already bloated from stuffing myself through both Christmas and cold weather-induced hibernation; the last thing I want to do is slip into a lacy negligĂ©e and drink sparkling wine while reclining on a bed of rose petals.

I’m an extremely practical person and the idea of wasting money on flowers that wilt, candy that makes me fat, and cards that end up in the landfill just doesn’t appeal. I know my husband loves me when he takes out the garbage in subzero temperatures, picks me up from work in a blizzard, and tells me I’m beautiful when my mid-winter muffin tops droops over my yoga pants. Having a particular day to express this love just seems to cheapen the real expressions of love that come the other 364 days of the year. I don’t need reassurance through an expensive dinner on Valentine’s Day. I just need love to be there in practical ways when I need it. True loves grows out of respect, respect that is earned gradually, not purchased in a heart-shaped Russell Stover box. 

I will appreciate opportunities to show love this February 14th. In fact I couldn’t resist buying Valentine cookie cutters (justification: they were only a dollar and I’ll use them again and again). So I will make heart-shaped ginger cookies with love and share them with my husband, family, friends, co-workers, and maybe even strangers on the street if I get the nerve. It’s not that we can’t use the reminder to show our love, just that I’m ashamed we often need one.

– Mari-Beth Slade is a marketer for an accounting firm in Halifax. She enjoys hearing new ideas and challenging assumptions. When not hard at work, she appreciates sharing food, wine and conversations with her family and friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment