Kenny Bodanis has a relationship with Valentine’s Day that can best be summed up as “It’s complicated.”
In grade school, I would get physically and emotionally charged for Valentine’s Day. On February 14th, I would anxiously stuff three or four heart-laden cards in my backpack, where they would secretly remain until recess. Once we were released from our desks at 10:20am, for ten minutes of peeing, fresh air, and mayhem, those cards would be slipped under the hinged desktops of the small handful of girls I had crushes on.
Then, I’d wait.
I’d wait for a sly smile and hopefully a crumpled note slipped my way during the late-morning session, confirming the mutual admiration of at least one of the girls targeted during my fishing expedition of love. If my feelings were reciprocated, we would agree to be boyfriend/girlfriend for at least one solid school week. After that period, though I can’t really remember why, the relationship would mutually dissolve during a round of hopscotch or jump-rope.
There were years when I received no response at all, or worse, a note which read: “Kenny, I like you, but not as much as I like Ritchie.”
Shit. That sucks.
I assumed things would be simpler as I grew older. Surely the Valentine’s Day pressure put on guys would lessen as we matured into the idea of gimmickry.
Throughout my teens and twenties it was always a mad dash to the pharmacy to find the right combination of chocolates, hearts, cards and flowers which would a) be unique enough to not look like I had just made a mad dash to the pharmacy (nothing like a basket of condoms and Valentine’s Day chocolates to outline your hopes for the rest of the day to a middle-aged cashier), and b) be inexpensive enough to not have to make a fake twenty dollar deposit to the instabank to pay for the thing, only to feign ignorance when the bank called the next day (Oh, really? There was no money in the envelope? I was sure I had put the check in there. I’ll be by as soon as possible to correct the problem, and be sure to never defraud a financial institution again in the name of love).
I never questioned why, for the first thirty years of my life, I was never treated to flowers, or chocolates, or a card (or a box of condoms) on Valentine’s Day.
The twentieth century custom of material demonstrations of romance was placed on the shoulders of boyfriends and husbands. It’s my guess this will slowly change as we inch into the twenty-first century. Certainly the maturity and progressive role-modeling on display at the Dad 2.0 Summit confirms men have a sensitivity and need for romancing which has been long neglected.
Valentine’s Day gift giving among parents often favored the stay-at-home mom as a way of recognizing the unsung labors of childcare and managing and maintaining a household. I can only assume stay-at-home dads will today be on the receiving end of similar symbols of affection. That custom should trickle over to office dads as well, as the trickery of balancing corporate careers and hands-on parenting becomes recognized.
Valentine’s Day gift-giving among couples without children also favors women. Why is that? If you think men don’t like to be romanced; try it, and see what happens.
My daughter’s birthday is February 14th — she’s 6 today. People have consistently commented how unfortunate she is to have her birthday jumbled on top of Valentine’s Day.
I am grateful, on behalf of her future boyfriends (as well as her current one, whom she likes because he’s cute, and so small she can pick him up) who will not have the stress of trying to figure out how to out-do their out gift-giving from one “important” date to another.
My wife’s birthday was yesterday. With two family birthdays crowded around the “most romantic day of the year”, we give each other a pass on Valentine’s Day.
Romance is best manifested by surprises and unexpected displays of affection, towards both men and women. To be worthy of romance, you certainly don’t need a reminder on a calendar, an emergency trip to a pharmacy, or to have ovaries.****
Photo: karenhorton / flickr