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Hearts and Minds

Valentine’s Day is like a pair of hip-huggers, I’ve decided. Not because it makes my butt look huge, necessarily, but because it doesn’t fit me the way it’s supposed to. I’ve tried it on a few times over the years, but it just wasn’t comfortable. I am just not a traditionally romantic girl.

I’ve also decided that people such as myself should find alternative reasons to celebrate the day—not unlike acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, we’re ready for an elastic waistband.

There really is no mystery here, either. I know why I’ve never been a fan of Feb. 14, starting with my favorite theory of its origin. In said theory, Emperor Claudius beheaded the future St. Valentine for performing marriages in secret after they’d been banned. How a beheading inspired candy and flowers is outside even my realm of imagination.

I also don’t like it because, until I got married, I was rarely actually involved with someone on Valentine’s Day. I don’t know whether my relationships ended on Feb. 13 or began on the 15th; I just know I spent an inordinate number of Feb. 14s with my girlfriends, or simply alone. Even if it was my choice, the commercialism of the holiday made me uncomfortable to be single.

Now that I’m married, it makes me uncomfortable in other ways—for example, the expectation that I should now enjoy candy and flowers and jewelry. Well, guess what? I still don’t. I did get a vacuum once, which I liked a lot.

There’s also the notion that we should be romantic because we’re married—and again, we’re still not. Ask my husband what my dream romantic gift is, and he’ll tell you: an uninterrupted nap. We tried the traditional route; he dutifully handed me flowers and said through a wooden smile, “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.” My response was equally forced, “Why, thank you, sweetheart.” Then we both burst out laughing and called it a day.

There are die-hard fans, of course. Grammar school kids are not a traditionally romantic bunch; at that age, members of the opposite sex have cooties, the closest any of them have ever come to a relationship is eye contact, and their valentines are in the image of SpongeBob and Darth Vader. Yet those kids rank it as one of their favorite holidays.

They love Valentine’s Day for what it is—or, rather, what it was originally supposed to be. They love the pure excitement of acknowledging their classmates with a special note, which incidentally was the original valentine. When the famed saint was counting down to his date with the guillotine, he was not sending roses and chocolates in the shape of big red hearts.

What began as an exchange of notes has evolved into an annual holiday generating unnatural expectations and even more unnatural attempts to fill those expectations. There. I said it. It is a day when people with no special love interests are made to feel like outcasts and people with relationships are expected to be romantic simply because they’re in a relationship.

If you are part of the lucky few who are both romantic and in a relationship, then you, my friends, get to wear hip-huggers. This is the perfect day for you to celebrate a side that you may not always get to show. My guess, however, is that romantics are romantic the other 364 days of the year as well.

If you’re not, then maybe you’re a Quirkyalone, defined by Wikipedia as “someone who generally prefers to be alone rather than dating for the sake of being in a couple.” The Web site Quirkyalone.net lists Katharine Hepburn, Oscar Wilde and George Clooney as honorary members. They forgot to list me, but I’m sure it was just an oversight. I belong right there next to George.

We should celebrate what fits us best. For some of us, it’s Valentine’s Day. For others it might be International Quirkyalone Day, a day to celebrate your love for your friends, your family, your pets and yourself. Still others might find comfort in Read To Your Child Day, Singles Awareness Day, Jimmy Hoffa’s birthday and Ferris Wheel Day—all on Feb. 14.

No beheadings required, elastic waist optional.

Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at msimone@twcny.rr.com.

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York