Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, much like that pivotal point in a poker game when the chips are piled high in the middle of the table and it’s time to show your cards. All eyes are on the guys and the stakes are high.
Basically, we approach this cupid-crazed holiday from one of three perspectives.
Happy and Hopeful:
For many, anticipation is great and expectations are high.
As the flood of floral arrangements pours into offices, the parade begins, up to the front desk and back again, proudly flaunting those precious petals for all to see. Nobody wants to be left empty-handed. Even those who have spent the past 364 days happily unattached feel a slight urge to connect in the weeks leading up to Feb. 14. Like a preschooler asked to find a partner, everyone anxiously grabs for the closest hand.
Sometimes the flowers, candy and candlelight dinner last longer than the attraction, but on this one day a year, many long to be a two-some.
Harried and Haphazard:
Anyone who has been in a Wal-Mart as the clock creeps close to 6 p.m. on this emotionally-driven holiday understands the idiom “haste makes waste.”
The scene is reminiscent of those game shows where contestants are given three minutes to fill their carts with merchandise. Guys are zig-zagging through the aisles toward the card rack, eyeing the cooler of tissue-wrapped floral arrangements, weeding through the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and then making a beeline for the express lane. Little thought goes in to the purchase. It’s just part of the process, like paying a toll to ensure safe passage on the road to romance.
One Valentine’s Day my father, who typically worked long 10-hour days, in haste, gave my mother a sack containing an unsigned card, an unused envelope and the receipt. She laughed; I would have sulked. But after 40 years of marriage, they understood that love does not come in a box with a bow and that commitment is more than a card and candy.
Heartbroken or Heartless:
If you think it’s all about happiness, count yourself among the lucky ones. It can be a cruel holiday for those who find themselves sitting on the sidelines, watching others being smothered with sweet sentiments.
There’s an ah-ha moment in the award-winning romantic comedy “Broadcast News” where this wildly successful, charismatic guy asks his buddy, “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” And his friend, who is barely hanging on by his fingertips, struggling to get the love of his life to notice him, replies, “Keep it to yourself.” Wise advice on a day when the haves and have-nots are so obvious.
Sometimes we women forget how much pressure accompanies the pageantry.
Ask any second grade-boy who has been forced to trade precious playtime for signing cards to classmates, gushing with affection, some to whom he doesn’t like or worse yet are creepy girls. There’s a moment when he, like many adults, questions the hypocrisy of it all. Sometimes, because of choice or circumstances, we stop making the effort.
For me, the excitement surrounding the date has evolved as I have from single to serious to married to motherhood and beyond. Over the years I’ve been the proud recipient of exquisite floral creations and sparkling surprises by my boyfriend turned husband, as well as hand-crafted construction paper hearts by my sons.
On the flip side, I have also spent a few Valentine’s Days solo, watching sad movies, hugging a box of Kleenex.
I’ve learned that your knight in shining armor doesn’t always arrive with long stemmed roses and a chilled bottle of Chablis. Sometimes he shows up after a long day at work, carrying two small decaf coffees and the last cinnamon swirl on QuickTrip’s self-serve shelf. And it’s at that split second that the need for glitter and gala disappears and you just instinctively know: He loves you.