Rethinking Valentine’s Day

Yesterday, while my dental hygienists hands were in my mouth, scraping away, she told me she was leaving at 2 to attend her 1st grade daughters “Friendship Party,” aka Valentine’s Day party.

Amy distracted me from the drool accumulating in my mouth by telling me about the school’s tradition of Friendship week. Monday the kids got friendship bracelets. Tuesday they wore their pajamas. Wednesday was special hat day, or something like that. I forget what Thursday was, but Friendship week ended with the Friendship party. Ann was responsible for suppling the game prizes.

I was getting the picture. The school was trying to reconsider Valentine’s Day. With no way to engage the conversation, I scrolled back to my elementary school Valentine’s day memories. I saw the Valentine’s boxes each of us so painstakingly created, cutting and pasting, using that white tacky glue that we dug out in lumps. We designed collages of love, friendship and desperation. I feared that my box would not be full of cartoon puppies and kittens with X’s and O’s covering pink and red hearts, asking for, and declaring friendship. Will you be my Valentine?

School Valentine parties highlighted my class status. My sense of self was based on the number of Valentine’s in my box at the end of the party, as well as, who the cards were from. I paid attention to whether the kids deemed popular graced me with their perforated, penny cards. I also noted how my stash compared to that of my neighbors. More than her, I was loved. Less than her, I was ashamed.

Last night my daughter and daughter in law came over after attending a Mary Kay Galentine’s party at Alex and Ani’s. Valentine’s day for gals only. No one attending needed a romantic relationship to be included. You just needed to be a woman.

Truth be told, isn’t it women who really subscribe to Valentine’s Day, anyway? It is a day where we, hopefully, will be told by our love that we are the most special, most loved and most appreciated person in his or her life. Problem is if you don’t have a “love” you miss out.

Sometimes, you miss out even if you have a love. He or she forgets, doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day or is just a dud. As it stands Valentine’s Day can be painful at worst, stressful at best.

Today as I scooped ground sage into a bag at the Co-op, a young woman stood next to me. “I can use the same spoon,” she said, “I need sage too.” She asked me if I knew the measurement conversion from whole sage to ground sage. I confessed I didn’t; that I was a dump and taste kind of cook. I asked her what she was making.

It sounded difficult. Gnocchi with a filling and sauce. She explained she was making it for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. Her gift to him. Then she said, “I hope he likes it.”

“Well,” I said as I handed her the spoon and leveled my eyes to meet hers, “if he doesn’t…” She finished, “He’s not worth it.”

“Exactly,” I smiled, feeling very maternal.

All this got me thinking. What if we spent some portion of Valentine’s day considering our relationship to ourselves? What we love about ourselves. What we admire. How we crack ourselves up.

A day that you take yourself out. Or stay in, whatever your pink and red heart desires. Where you feed yourself, by candle light, food you love. Surrounding yourself with people you love, hugging them because it feels good to you. If you like flowers buy some or pick some.


Patricia Boswell

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