What we talk about when we talk about love

How’s this for a trip down Memory Lane: It’s Valentine’s Day 1983. Just months earlier I met the man who would become my husband. Maybe not exactly a Tony and Maria West Side Story moment, but close enough. Suffice it to say I spotted him across a room, Tavern on the Green, to be exact, talking to my brother. I had a feeling about this guy. To this day, the mutual friends who had invited us to the party take great pride in a match made, if not in heaven, at their daughter’s christening.

Back to Valentine’s Day. I lived on the West Side of town, he lived on the East Side. The city never sleeps but it slows down during a snowstorm. Not a taxi in sight. I and the lasagna I’d made for that new love of mine would have to make the most of public transportation.

I get to his spiffy apartment building and the doorman tells me I have to wait. WTF? That new boyfriend of mine had to have the lighting just right on the flower arrangement I would see when I walked into his apartment. It’s all in the details—right?—all the more significant when the boyfriend happens to be an interior designer.

We live in cynical times, and no matter how I recast the phrase I can’t help but see/hear Tom Cruise in his humbled Jerry Maguire mode.

More to the point, cynical times demand more of us. For reasons that have as much to do with my mother sending a Valentine’s Day card to me (and sometimes friends of mine) during my single years. I still send a card (usually emblazoned with a puppy) to my daughter. She’s engaged now, and I love the young man she’s going to marry. But . . .

Love is love is love . . .

Speaking of which, Cupid may be the cute little god shooting arrows but the Romans were pretty, pretty nasty during the feast of Lupercalia (February 13-15), sacrificing animals and whipping women. It took a pope to erase all vestiges of the pagan rituals; and it took the likes of Chaucer and Shakespeare to infuse the holiday with romance. Oh that sentiment, not commerce, were the overriding principle!

And even if we don’t need a cheesy Hallmark reminder of it all, it’s as good a distraction as it gets. Not feeling romantic but feeling the need to say it with anything but flowers? There are e-cards galore, from the silly/animated Jacquie Lawson to the over-the-top tongue-in-cheek some cards. All brought to you in a time when La-La Land becomes more than a place or state of mind in a Hollywood love story as bittersweet as it gets.

John Lennon said it simply:

Love is real/real is love

Raymond Carver got to its unfathomable underbelly in a masterful story.

So, while I can’t promise I’ll be concocting something to make America love again, I am planning to cook up something (not lasagna) to share with very close friends who, like us, are still happily married (if not crazy) after all these years.

S.A.D. but True

In the obnoxiously lyrical and catchy “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift sings, “…the players gonna play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate.” She’s probably not referring to the abundance of overly celebrated and commercialized American holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Easter – basically anything you can make a shaped chocolate out of), but the same holds true for them.

single and fabulousDid you know that there is such a thing as “Singles Awareness Day” (intentional or not, the acronym is S.A.D.)?  It’s on February 14th as an anti-Valentine’s Day and celebrations range from public expressions of hate on social media to just a joyful reminder of what it means to be single.  There’s also “Galentine’s Day,” made popular/ invented by the NBC show  “Parks & Recreation,” which is a celebration of women appreciating their women friends, usually involving breakfast and girlie presents.

Don’t get me wrong, I love holidays, but how did a holiday go from being a day designated to a saint who may or may not have “sent the first valentine” or helped soldiers, forced to be single, find their true loves, to being as commercial as Christmas?

I can’t call myself a hater, because I can’t say that I haven’t celebrated Valentine’s Day over the years in different capacities, from cards and chocolates to flowers and fluff and sushi.  It has become pretty obnoxious, thougParks and Recreation - Season 6h, how much it utterly takes over consumer culture in February.  I mean—please, I do not need a holiday to tell me to eat chocolate.  Sure, it comes in cute little heart shapes, but it tastes the same any day of the year.  And you know when it’s best?  On February 15th when it’s usually half off!!  We all know that if a holiday can be used a marketing tool and way to make a lot of money, it will be fully taken advantage of — just what our culture has done to this holiday.

So why do we need Singles Awareness Day and Galentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day?  Truth be told, any day of the year should be spent appreciating all of these things.  Singles should appreciate being single because they’re single, not as an antithesis to their coupled up friends.  Gals should appreciate that their gals will always be there for them even when bros are not.  Couples should be romantic any given day, not just a specific holiday where they feel obligated to indulge in chocolate, champagne and an expensive dinner (why can’t that just be every weekend?).

Champagne-and-chocolates1Sometimes life can get busy and we forget to appreciate these things, whether we’re single or in a relationship.  What if instead of looking at Valentine’s Day as a commercial holiday, we looked at it as a time to stop, maybe do something a little out of the ordinary, and enjoy the moment, whether we’re single, in a relationship or just hanging out with our gals?  A little chocolate and champagne won’t hurt either.


A Valentine’s Day Playlist . . .

. . . for aging rock ‘n’ roll hearts.

Dylan singing Sinatra standards? Clapton swinging to ‘All of Me’?  A witty, sexy ‘Always’, à la Leonard Cohen?

Put away the weed. Pull out the single malt.  It’s going to be a mellow, once-in-a-blue-moon night.