My instructions to my husband regarding Valentine’s Day were simple:
“At some point I want chocolate. It doesn’t have to be on Valentine’s Day; I just want chocolate. Oh, and if you spend $100 on flowers, I’m going to kill you.”
We were standing in the floral section of our local supermarket, and I was fingering the petals of a single cream rose sticking up out of a $90 arrangement. From afar, I looked like any other woman admiring the flowers, dreaming of the grand gestures my husband might make to prove his love for me come February 14th. But, up close, I was inspecting the petal for gold dust, or a diamond inlay, or whatever the hell it was that might make a few roses worth $90.
I’m what you might call The Anti-Cupid. Every year Valentine’s Day rolls around, and every year I am baffled by the pink streamers and boxes of candy decorating the aisles of WalMart in January, entranced by the hideous jewelry on chain store commercials, and riveted by the hoards of people scrambling to make reservations at almost any restaurant that will take one. 1-800-FLOWERS comes on TV with a $300 bouquet and a teddy bear, imploring us to “give her a gift she’ll never forget,” and I sit there on my couch thinking, “Yeah, spend $300 on some flowers that will be dead by Sunday and another stuffed bear to add to the bookshelf.”
I don’t understand spending as much on flowers as we spend on groceries. I also don’t understand supposedly “romantic” dinners that take place in over-crowded, over-priced restaurants with a 30-minute delay on orders because they’re so backed up with customers. I don’t understand Kay’s Open Hearts collection–mostly because it makes me think of open heart surgery–or those hideous wanna-be charm bracelets, and don’t even get me started on Zales and their “chocolate diamonds.” That sounds like something that came out of my diaper genie.
I just don’t get what’s romantic or remotely thoughtful about any of it. Thoughtful is when I didn’t get enough sleep and my husband surprises me with a caffeinated beverage. $90 flowers? Those aren’t thoughtful. They’re actually kind of thoughtLESS. We could have used that $90 to put food on the table, or buy something for the house, or buy something for our daughter, who will still be alive in 5 days, unlike those roses.
It occurs to me that my attitude towards “romance” probably has a lot to do with my socioeconomic status. I am someone for whom $90 is a lot of money, so the idea of treating it like disposable income is ludicrous to me. And it’s not that my husband has never bought me flowers or made any sort of grand romantic gestures towards me because he has. He’s even done them on Valentine’s Day (the horror!). But, we’re simple people. We’re realistic in our wants, and subtle in our expressions of love and affection. And, well, who says romance has to cost a lot?
In the age of $40,000 weddings and diamonds as a requirement, I find it sort of refreshing sometimes to just say no. No pressure, no over-expenditure, no useless teddy bears or heart-shaped antacids. In fact, my favorite thing about Valentine’s Day since I met Zach is that it reminds me how lucky we are to NOT feel obligated to give into the commercialization of February 14th. We enjoy each other every day, we show each other love and consideration regularly, and we don’t have unreasonable expectations for how our relationship should be. Romance, for us, happens when no one is looking, and I think that’s how it should be.
Today, whether you’re single or taken, love the flowers or think they’re a total waste, I hope you remember what’s really important: that tomorrow, all of the chocolate will be half off.