It’s not the rampant commercialism of a weird holiday with its roots in pagan rituals and Catholicism, or the glittery sap of Hallmark cards, or even the waxy chocolate candies in heart-shaped boxes that makes me dislike Valentine’s Day. It’s not because mid-February is like December-minor for single people, or because I feel sorry for kids who are crushed on holidays like this, which end up being grade-school popularity contests. It’s not even because my favorite blogs become filled with sappy stories examining the meaning, the culture, the history, and the power of love.
That’s all true, and enough of a reason to feel a little queasy on February 14th, but my complaint about Valentine’s Day is that it’s not more like the 4th of July.
There are no great expectations on July 4th. You can have a picnic, fire up the BBQ, or stay at home. You can eat off paper plates, have desert or skip it, and no one thinks you’re doing it all wrong or missing the point.
You can take some wine up to the roof, or go lay out on a blanket under the stars to watch the fireworks — you can even go to bed early, hoping to fall asleep before the thunderous claps hit the sky– and no one wonders what your choice really means. No one feels compelled to have a deep, meaningful talk about where this relationship is heading, or asks whether you’d be open to adopting babies from a third-world country sometime in the near future like, say, this time next year. The green-eyed monster of insecurity is less likely to bite on the 4th of July than on a day that’s all wrapped up in lace, lingerie, and love.
And if you start dating someone on July 1st, it’s unlikely that you’ll hurt their feelings if you say you already have plans for the 4th. You can even say you’re just not into the 4th of July without provoking a silent warning flag, which will come out waving on the next date, when you’re hit with all sorts of questions meant to determine your romantic proclivities. Do you like long walks on the beach? In the rain? How do you feel about cats? Tiffany’s? Cuddling? Would you get a tattoo of my name if we were together a year? Bring me breakfast in bed?
Valentine’s Day is romantic hell for daters. It’s sitting by candlelight and being waylaid by questions like, “What’s the longest you’ve ever dated someone, and why did you break up?” It’s hearing stories about boundaries and broken hearts, or (and this really did happen to me once) getting a mini-lecture on why tiger lilies were a bad choice, because they were living things with feelings and didn’t deserve to be killed. It’s having someone try to decipher what you meant by signing your card “fondly”, when what you really meant was “fondly”.
A day about love — in fact any beautiful day – should be more like the 4th of July. No heady expectations, no heart shaped boxes, no long-winded declarations, but a picnic basket under a warm summer sky. A chain of wildflowers placed around a naked neck. A barefoot slow dance in the grass. A long kiss, bare legs entwined, under the the moon and fireworks. Or a casual night at home, with a roaring fireplace, or with all the windows open and a slight breeze blowing, soft blues tunes filling the house as a favorite meal is made or a warm bath is run.
Lovers shouldn’t need a special holiday to be loving, romantic, or particularly good to one other, especially a day that isn’t spontaneous, but dictated by tradition. Personally, I don’t find Valentine’s Day to be all that romantic, but a barefoot, casual, starlit 4th of July? That’s just beautiful any day of the year.