In Defense of V-Day

I love Valentine’s Day. I do not love the rampant commercialization of it. If I see one more “Every kiss begins with Kay!” or “He went to Jared!” commercial, I may vomit. Repeat after me: diamonds do not equal love. Roses do not equal love. In fact, even really good chocolates do not equal love.

I enjoy Valentine’s Day not because of the gifts (though gifts are awfully fun) or the plethora of chocolate or the opportunity to wear red. I just like the idea of celebrating the people I love, taking the time to remind them that I’m grateful to have them in my life.

Ideally, we would take the time to do this often, on random and sundry non-occasions. But — well, life gets busy. In the crazy swirl of work, classes, rehearsals, dinner dates with friends, reading, parties, laundry, sheer life, I forget to be grateful, to take the time, to make the little, thoughtful gestures that I’d like. Valentine’s Day is a good reminder.

And — pay attention, ’cause this is important — I don’t feel that the reminder should be limited to celebrating romantic love. Romantic relationships at their best are wonderful, complicated, sparkly magic. But focusing solely on that one person? Forgetting about all of the other wonderful, complicated relationships in one’s life? That’s inadequate. I have always been passionately averse to the notion that being in love is all you need. I need more than one person in my life. That one person makes me incredibly happy, and I’m blissful and blessed to have him. But my life would be incomplete without a cast of many more, including:

My grandmother. She rocks. When I was a blotchy kid with the chicken pox, she took care of me and fed me apples and cheddar cheese. She took me to bookstores and bought me Sweet Valley High and Baby-sitters Club books if and only if I also chose one classic novel, such as Little Women or The Secret Garden.

As a teenager, we had long weekly phone conversations in which she listened patiently as I regaled her with tales of school and friends. She enlisted me to play Christmas songs on my clarinet at the annual Emanuel family holiday party, and make up word scrambles and name games for everyone to play after dinner. As an adult, she’s supported me emotionally and financially as I followed my dreams. No matter how old I get, entering her house signifies comfort and warmth and total acceptance. To her I attribute my love of extra-sharp cheddar cheeses, good literature, and family traditions. Thank you, Memaw.

My mother. She’s provided a wonderful example of a woman who’s strong and smart and doesn’t fall to pieces at the slightest provocation. At the same time, she loves to cook, garden, and sew. She is constitutionally unable to sit still long enough to watch a movie. When I come home to visit, I try to catch up with her while she’s hanging up laundry, walking the dog, baking cookies. She is brilliant in practical ways that I am not: doing math in her head, hemming pants, remembering to water plants. But from her I get my strong need for independence, my perfectionism, and my chocolate-chip-pumpkin muffin recipe. We are so different, but I love her more than words can say.

My dad. He’s going through a difficult time right now, but he’s taking the high road and conducting himself in a way that makes me proud to be his daughter. In the midst of all this, he still remembers when the play I’ve been working on opens. When I need a ride home to Pennsylvania or help moving into another new apartment, he’s there, generous with his time, uncomplaining. He asks about my boyfriend, my classes, my weekends, and his interest means the world to me. He sends me jokes and word games that he finds on the Internet to cheer up my long, dull workdays. Did you know that a pregnant goldfish is called a twit? I do. Thanks, Daddy.

My best friends, Jenn and Jill. Jenn is the most loyal and dedicated person I know. She dispenses tea and relationship advice with aplomb. She can intelligently discuss the intricacies of Shakespearean deconstruction one minute and be just as passionate about the latest episode of The Amazing Race the next. This, among other things, made her the best roommate ever. Jill is brave. She’s gotten her heart broken and had the strength to step back and say, I deserve better. And she does. She’s clever and impetuous and follows her whims where they take her. I, who am the opposite of spontaneous, admire this. I admire both of these women. They inspire me, love me, listen to me, and drink apple martinis with me. After seven years of this, frankly, I cannot imagine my life without them.

My friend Liz. Liz is in London, studying Jane Austen. I miss her. She was my roommate in college and life seems strange now with her so far away. Once, when a clueless boy had made me cry, she threw candy out the window with me. Somehow that helped. Later, even after we were no longer roommates, she continued to provide fabulous wardrobe assistance and a safe haven from the bad kind of drama. Speaking of drama, she was the stage manager for the play I directed for my senior thesis, and I will always be thankful for that. I can’t wait ’til she’s back in the country, but I respect her so much for studying abroad, like she swore she would our freshman year.

Mulder, my cat. Technically, he belongs to my boyfriend, who cleans out his litter box and remembers to feed him regularly, but now that we’re living together, he’s become ours. I’ve never had such an affectionate pet. When I’m reading, he curls up against me on the couch, shuffles ever closer, and stares at me accusingly until I cuddle up with him like he’s a very warm stuffed animal. When I come home from work, he meows and paws at the air until I pick him up and give him a hug. He’s such a diva kitty, and I totally adore that. He makes me sneeze, he gets hair over absolutely everything, but he’s so lovey that most of the time, I couldn’t care less.

These people (and creature): This year they all get my love, my gratitude, and some painstakingly hand-crafted valentines. Despite the Hallmark invasion, the hype, the godawful diamond commercials, they’re the reason I still love Valentine’s Day.

[sweetvalley]: http://www.randomhouse.com/sweetvalley/
[babysitter]: http://www.scholastic.com/annmartin/bsc/

Article © 2005 by Jessica Emanuel