Valentine’s Day 2016

A YOUNG LADY recently wrote something on Facebook about Valentine’s Day being dreaded and loathed by those who are single. I’ve been single every Valentine’s Day since I was born, so I understand her feelings. Who wants to be alone on a day dedicated to Love? Who doesn’t want the hugs and caresses that say ‘I love you, you’re my world!’ I note, though, that whenever she posts, lots of people respond positively to her, so perhaps she isn’t quite so alone or unappreciated.

Valentine’s Day is partially about focus. We tend to focus on a particular aspect—the ‘romantic’ requirements for a successful Valentine’s Day—and develop target blindness, the inability to see anything but our deepest desires. There are many kinds of loving relationships, and not all of them involve smooches and diamond rings. We have to be open to possibilities, and willing to be patient. There’s nothing wrong with smooches and diamond rings, but there are other things too.

I am happy for people who have such a fantastic relationship that they can celebrate la grande histoire d’amour (French for ‘the great romance’; in Armenian, it’s ‘mets siravep’, which doesn’t have the same romantic ring to it). I don’t believe Valentine’s Day was meant to be a day for measuring your interpersonal success. If you do not have a sweetheart or spouse, if there is no component of ‘siravep’ in your life, have you failed?

Many people say yes. They don’t have a special someone, or they’ve had unhappy experiences, so they think they must be unlovable. Valentine’s Day is just another day (perhaps to disguise their own disappointments). Chocs and blooms are nice, but sometimes these convey casually and thoughtlessly that which should be expressed ardently and deliberately. If the best you rate is a Hershey’s Kiss and an odourless rose, where are you?

Perhaps the time and the conditions for ‘siravep’ aren’t right just now. Valentine’s Day is also a celebration of timing. In all our lives, there are people we love and who love us, but it isn’t always right. One or the other of us may not be ready. Our dreams of love may clash with one another. When the timing is off—disaster! When the timing is right—bliss! When you’re fortunate enough to have a close and loving relationship—when two paths have miraculously and happily intertwined at just this moment—you’re silly to wait until 14 February to celebrate it. Every day should be Valentine’s Day for you both!

Perhaps we could relax our definition of ‘relationship’ as it applies to Valentine’s Day. Recently I was at lunch with a couple of friends, each of whom has a young daughter. The daughters were oblivious to the adults around them, and spent their time giggling, joking, being silly, and having a grand time. They obviously and innocently love each other. This is something to celebrate! How many of us do that? As we age, it becomes harder to be silly, and it becomes more difficult to find new loves—both require vulnerability.

I came across a quotation I’ll paraphrase here, because the original is rather long: She has no one else to whom she can turn. Everyone she relied on has left her, and only you remain. Don’t give up on her, because if your situations were reversed, she would never give up on you. That seems to describe real friendship, and some of us are fortunate enough to actually have that in our lives. Shall we celebrate it? How about to-day, the 14th of February?

The world is becoming both bigger (because of Social Media) and smaller (because of the Global Village), and friendships spring up in the oddest ways and places. Some of our closest friends are people we’ve never met. Love, like life, finds a way, and this ‘breath and bones’ sort of relationship is something to celebrate indeed! But it’s not for people who see only their desire, and nothing else.

They may miss opportunities to be silly, to let themselves be vulnerable, and to be happy because ‘it’ doesn’t fall within the guidelines for smooches and rings. They want so much for ‘love’ to be about smooches and diamond rings (and that would be very nice) that they don’t recognize what they already have, just begging to be feted!

In the absence of the hearts and flowers of Valentine relationships, we can revel in the messages of affection, the giggles of silly people, the hand on your shoulder or the whisper in your ear when most needed. These are the breath and bones of beautiful relationships. Those seem to be the really lasting sort, don’t they?

And the funny thing is—I know you’ll laugh—those breath and bones relationships often lead to the other kind.

Happy Valentine’s Day! This is my Valentine Card for you!

Paul TN Chapman
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