Valentine’s Day Massacre

(photo source)

This year, I revealed to my husband that I actually kind of like Valentine’s Day.  This is despite all the times I told him that I hated it, it’s lame and stupid, and a made-up, over-commercialized saccharine-fest invented by Hallmark and Big Floral.   For fourteen years, the poor man has been wondering why, every February 14, I would say I wasn’t mad at him, while I was clearly mad at him.

I was mad, you see, because everyone else was getting flowers and riding in heart-shaped hot air balloons and– I don’t know, eating hot fudge sundaes that turned out to have a tiny violin player at the bottom.  And here I was getting nothing, which is what I repeatedly told him I wanted.  Pray for me:  I’m married to a monster.

Anyway, I finally realized that it doesn’t make me defective to enjoy flowers — and that if it’s artificial to suddenly act romantic on a nationally-specified day — well, we need all the help we can get.  Alarm clocks are artificial, too, but if they didn’t automatically remind us of what we ought to do, we’d be in big trouble.   So, yeah, I asked him to get me flowers, and take the plastic wrap off, and he will, and I’m going to like them.  Whew, that wasn’t so hard!

Having taken this huge leap forward in our communication skills, I decided to hunt around to see what normal human beings do on Valentine’s Day.

If you want to feel like you’ve got your act together, just ask the internet a question.  Okay, maybe not in all circumstances.  If you’re rewiring your living room, for instance, or trying to remove the Spaghetti-o decoupage from an angry cat, you may very well have lots to learn.

But if you need help with your relationships?  A quick trip down Google lane will have you feeling like an expert, a champion, a genius, a hero of common sense and decency.  For instance, if you Google “What do guys want for Valentine’s Day?” you will come across this depressing paen to modern love, written by a man:

One of my favorite presents was a trip to the grocery store.

I remember the clear, cloudless day, sun shining down on me proudly pushing my cart into Central Market. Rachel was with me, and some friends who came along.

I picked up a steak and set it in the cart. Rachel said, “That’s great, Doug!”

I grabbed some chips. Rachel said, “That’s really great, Doug!”

I picked up some really expensive jam. Rachel said, “Yum, that will be really great, Doug!”

In fact everything I picked up got the same response from her (or very close to it), and that was my present: I could choose anything I wanted, and she could only say how great everything was. What an awesome gift that was, a trip to the grocery store.

So what did I get, besides some red AND yellow peppers?

I got what most men want. I was accepted.

I weep for America.  I weep for mankind.  I weep for myself, because this is the saddest, stupidest thing I’ve ever read, and I read it three times to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  What is Doug going to get for Christmas from the gracious lady Rachel?  A coupon for Not Getting Kicked In the Nuts?

You know, I probably treat my husband this way sometimes.  But the difference is, neither one of us is okay with it.  We don’t assume that relentless criticism and belittling is part of a normal relationship — we try to get past it.  And please note, Doug and Rachel’s travesty of a relationship is just as much Doug’s fault as it is Rachel’s:   women can’t demean their husbands and boyfriends without the man allowing, even wanting it to happen.  It takes two to be this dysfunctional.

This reminds me of the story of the man who had invented a brilliant method for saving money on the farm.  “On the first week,” he says, “I fed my  horse a bale of hay.  On the second week, I fed him half a bale of hay.  On the third week, I fed him a quarter of a bale.  I was damn near to teaching the horse to live on nothing at all, but on the fourth week, the ungrateful s.o.b. died on me!”

Happy stupid Valentine’s Day, folks.  I hope you get something nice.  Or if you get nothing, I hope at least it doesn’t feel like a gift!

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  • http://proulxhome.com Mariel Proulx

    HA- love this! I used to say that I hated the expectation of Valentine’s day… and anniversaries… and even dates. How silly they were, I thought. The best way to NOT get some lovin’ is to pressurize each other for it. But you know what? I DO like the cheesiness of this forced coupleness… because it inspires moments of pure hilarity, which gives us opportunities to re-recognize how much we love each other’s sense of humor.

    So tonight- we’ll be going to a fancy schmancy dinner at a comedy club with long rounds of stand-up following. And we’ll laugh as we eat chocolate-covered strawberries, fancy courses, raspberry shortcake “macerated with thyme” and drink champagne… and will NOT be getting the fancy hotel room right after, even though it would only be an extra $30 to the special “package rate”, because we’re hoping to DO IT tonight… and being in such a place is exactly where it will NOT happen. lol

  • http://www.thecottagechild.blogspot.com the cottage child

    *snort*, you said “nuts”…

    I love this, because I always love what you write, but especially this time because my name is Rach(a)el and I shop at Central Market, and my husband (who is not Doug) would never be dumb enough to 1) go to CM with me, and 2)try to put anything in the basket. Really, Doug, you shmo, that’s the best you’ve got? No wonder all Rachel ever says is “that’s great”. It’s not about accepting you, it’s about her failure to accept the grim reality of the rest of her “great” life with a self-absorbed potato-chip crumb mouth-ed you. Good thing Central Market has a terrific wine selection, better go ahead and get the six bottles for the discount. Was that mean?

    I love the flowers, I love my husband, I love that our relationship is more than grocery store deep. We went out over the weekend, we had so much fun we’ve already hired the babysitter for next weekend. I love that he’s no amateur and made it Valentine’s week. You gotta love a guy who’s smart enough to take you out to dinner a couple of times so he won’t have to go to the grocery store with you (me.)

  • http://www.jessnoel.tumblr.com Jessicah

    Ha, I know what blog that is from–and SmallNotebook is one of my favorite blogs ever!

    The excerpt admittedly sounds a little banal, but in general I love Rachel’s tips on life and simplification, and I think Doug’s point was that even simple things like going to the grocery store with your husband and letting him buy whatever he wants, can be a great gift–albeit one that you might not normally think of.

    I know that if I go to the store the bill is always a lot lower than when my husband offers to stop by the store for me, because he always ends up buying something that wasn’t on the list. I don’t think I belittle him about it, but I definitely am not encouraging about the random things he brings home, so he would probably also enjoy a gift of getting to fill up a shopping cart with whatever he wants!

    • http://www.thecottagechild.blogspot.com the cottage child

      I had to chime in to agree with you, Jessicah, I LOVE Small Notebook – and I never in a million years would have though it was them if the names hadn’t been there. It just seemed like such a sad poem from such an otherwise inspirational couple – they really do an awful lot for each other, from all appearances, which is why this seemed so odd, I think.

      • http://www.jessnoel.tumblr.com Jessicah

        I had to come back to add that I think Rachel and Doug have an amazing relationship based on this:

        http://smallnotebook.org/2010/10/13/dougs-year-off/

        I don’t think I’d ever in a million years be brave enough for that.

  • http://melissadiskin.com MDiskin

    Surely it’s important to read around that story (I went back and kept reading)…. the excerpt sounds like the saddest verse of a country song that got kicked off of the curb entirely.

    I like making the token holidays special. I try to make the daily slog special, or at least less sloglike. My question would be: what do you get for a man who simply Is Not A Consumer? (except of itunes gift cards). A dorky jar of valentine coupons? I left a handmade valentine on his razor last night but I’d really like to do better than have “no nagging” on my valentine list.

    • Karen

      My husband isn’t a consumer either. Exceptions: movies of his favorite childhood TV shows/sci fi movies. I usually make his favorite dinner, get the kids to help me make it, and tell him over and over how happy I am to be married to him. The usual mush.

      • Karen

        All right, DH came home for lunch, and I confessed that I had been to the maternity store and splurged (with his blessing) on some maternity clothes I desperately needed, and he said, “Oh, I was thinking we could all go to the mall tonight and you could shop and we could eat there, if that’s okay. And you can get some more clothes, I don’t mind.”

        The man knows the key to my heart. I’m not cooking? And….I get to shop? And you’ll watch the kids? Score!

    • Robin

      Food, the ultimate consumable. We will be having, at my children’s suggestion, and because I never make it: Sausage Gravy with Heart-Shaped Biscuits. All from scratch. And the dessert I came up with, because I don’t have any cocoa: Cherry Pie with Homemade Crust and Canned Pie Filling. Because he loves it.

  • Karen

    Oh my. I remembe reading that a long time ago, when I was still reading organizing blogs in the faint hope that they would make my house look like the ones in the pictures. It didn’t occur to me how incredibly condescending that woman was to her husband, or how little he expected.

    It did seem faintly ridiculous to me, but then maybe that’s because my husband and I have always shared grocery shopping. I split the list into perishable/nonperishable, he takes the latter, I take the former, and we head off and meet up half an hour later at the checkout. I never have had to dun him on his choices, or his selection. He gets whatever is on the list, and whatever else he damn well wants, and I don’t fuss about it. It has never occurred to me to fuss about it.

    My favorite line from your post? “What is Doug going to get from Rachel for Christmas? A coupon for Not Getting Kicked in the Nuts?” Snort.

    • Eileen

      I enjoy the HGTV househunting programs. I often see those couples and wonder how they could possibly stay married. I understand a couple looking for a house that fits their wants but far too often, they’ll walk into a perfectly good kitchen that’s not exactly their taste or up to their standards and they’ll say things like, “Well, this ALL NEEDS TO BE REDONE. THIS IS AWFUL. I COULDN’T POSSIBLY LIVE WITH THIS.” Seems to me people who are that intolerant just shouldn’t get married. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 it seems to be the woman with the unreasonable expectations.

  • http://sarahboylewebber.blogspot.com/ Sarah Webber

    This is our 15th Valentine’s Day together (although #13 as a married couple) but since we had to take our 4 year old daughter to the ER yesterday morning (difficulty breathing, now much better after good care and application of good medicine) I’m not really in a celebrating mood. More like, recovery. And, you know what, that’s going to be okay for us. I’ll ask for flowers next week or something.

  • Eileen

    Happy Valentine’s Day! I love your writing and perspective.

    My 13 y.o. son was telling me what a Hallmark Holiday Valentine’s Day is. I told him that it’s the day society’s all agreed upon to honor the ones we love in a special way. (I think his future wife will thank me one day).

    I’m not a girly girl, but I love flowers. My husband gets them for me and our lone daughter every Valentine’s Day. Actually, we got them yesterday because he got 20 bucks off the price if he got them delivered over the weekend. And our little boys got mylar balloons.

    Every year I make heart shaped baked goods. I used to just have two heart shaped cake pans to make one layer cake, but more recently I’ve gotten heart shaped cupcake pans which are great for heart shaped brownies and cookies. Now when my kids open their lunchboxes today they’ll have sweet little heart shaped reminders of how much their mom loves them. I know it’s corny, but it’s the kind of thing nobody ever did for me growing up, and I always wished they would’ve, even though I would’ve said otherwise.

  • Harvey

    After he suggested that we watch a documentary on the Valentine’s Day massacre, I told my husband that we’re married now and we don’t have to be cynical about Valentine’s Day. I think he wasn’t being so cynical about Valentine’s day but the day in general – we woke up to no heat for the second time this week and he didn’t sleep because his hip hurt, and he got hit in the eye with a bath towel this morning (I wasn’t slinging it, either), and he has to go to work at a job that he hates. :-( I hope we get something really great for Valentines Day – like a tax refund!

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

    Simmcha- good for you for getting flowers and taming that wild jerk- it is funny that he was making you mad every valentine’s day even while doing what you asked.

    At a certain mega-Catholic-blog, a few commenters stated that it is artificial to do anything special on this day- ‘if I need a special day to show my love, I’m not treating her right every day’ etc, etc- BUT BUT BUT we Catholics like days and cycles and etc. Pretty soon (!) we’ll be getting ready for Lent- so if I have extra devotions during Lent, I’m a bad Catholic on the other days?

    I’m not gunning for commercialism- just thoughtfulness

  • Julie

    I claimed to hate Valentine’s Day too, and waxed sternly and convincingly on the subject in the early stages of my relationship (in spite of my claims of being so very laid back, I had a lot of dating and gift giving rules). But when our first Valentine’s Day arrived, he bought me the softest, fluffiest, white bathrobe and I just kind of shut up about it.

  • Jen

    haha! Great writing, Simcha! And the funny thing is, my husband and I *both* claim to hate Valentines Day & *both* have sworn we want nothing to remind us of the season of sap.

    But recently I secretly began to think both of us secretly wouldn’t mind a little Valentine’s Day in our lives. So I broke with our long-standing tradition (even though my husband reminded me last night how very much he hated V-day & all its trappings) & made my husband a little card. Nothing fancy, mind you — just a note on an index card with little red hearts drawn all over it. (I didn’t want to send the guy into shock from being over-lovey-doved, afterall.)

    But you know what? When we crossed paths at 7AM this morning (me with an I-got-up-three-times-with-the-baby-last-night-and-am-exhausted look on my face; him with an I-am-going-to-be-late-for-work-do-not-delay-me look on his)… I could tell he liked the Valentine I’d left by his cereal bowl. And he even said Happy Valentines Day to me. And he was smiling when he said it. And you know what? Somehow it didn’t feel sappy or junior-high. I didn’t feel like I’d bought into a consumer-driven ploy. My husband didn’t look at me with eyes that said, “Nice… but you just did that because everyone is *supposed* to do romantic stuff today.” In fact, it was kind-of nice. Neither of us wanted to like it… but we did. Maybe we’ll even celebrate V-day again next year.

  • http://www.clan-donaldson.com Cari

    I spent 45 seconds cutting out a paper heart from some computer paper, writing “I love you” on it, and gleefully taping it to my husband’s lunchbox.

    My kids spent 45 *minutes* in bed with us this morning, wishing everyone “HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!” (this was roughly 5:30 am) then they scurried to their rooms, digging around for treasures to give their parents and siblings. My daughter gave her beloved Wonder Woman costume to her 3 year old brother, who steals it from her all the time. (I got a My Little Pony, a cardboard Batman mask, and two matchbox cars)

    There were so many displays of selfless, love-motivated giving by my children today that I will never ever dismiss Valentine’s Day as something frivolous ever again.

    • Diane

      Oh, Cari, that makes my heart melt.

  • Whimsy

    Mother’s Day is contrived and ad-driven, too. I’m okay with that. Gimmee my dinner out! (Saturday or Monday is fine, too)

  • http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/ Young Mom

    I love your alarm clock analogy! That’s what holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are for, yes you love them all year round, but you get the kick in the pants to celebrate in a more special way.

  • Pingback: Of Valentines and Valor « purpuraria

  • http://themoleshollow.blogspot.com/ Becca

    I loved this article! I actually really get a kick out of Valentine’s Day, but for some reason it took me 9 years of marriage before I was willing to admit it. The day is much better now that we give each other cards and drink a bottle of wine with dinner. My 11 year old daughter overheard us being a little bit mushy yesterday and said, “I can tell you are married people on Valentine’s Day.” As a child of divorce myself, it made me so happy that her default assumption was that the happiest people on Valentine’s Day would be the married ones! Sometimes it’s good to let down my pseudo-intellectual guard and just be silly and cheesy.

    • Jen

      That’s sweet, Becca!

  • A Girl

    My real husband sent me flowers. I gave him a money clip, which he asked I return, because I guess he likes the one he has.

    My work husband gave me books. I gave him a book too. And two coupons.

    I got the kiddos got a new Wii game, and some real cool little metal wind-up cars.

    • Harvey

      This is just too weird. Is one of your marriages sacramental?

      • A Girl

        Yep. My husband and I got married in the Church.

        ‘Work husband’ is a figure of speech for any guy who you work with, day in and out, and after a bunch of years, it almost seems like you’re married to ‘em. Happens esp in professions where there are organizational partnerships as part of the job, like, for example, advertising.

        Didn’t mean it to be weird, sincerely.

        • http://proulxhome.com Mariel Proulx

          lol – I’m a stay at home mom and my husband has work wiveS. They call themselves the Proulx Harem… it’s hilarious and quite the honor. Most of his co-workers are men but all the women love *him.* Why? Because he can explain something without being condescending and chit chat (with knowledge to back it up) about pregnancy, birth, babies and breastfeeding without any shred of disgust or being uncomfortable. After all, that’s what he does at home. ;) I love his work wives… and they love us too. :P

  • http://levitersalsalis70.blogspot.com/ Peter

    Long time reader Simcha and I have to say you hit the nail on the head with this one. I still rant (or mutter) against the commercialisation of Valantines Day but my chidlren recently caught me out refusing to throw away a Valantines balloon my wife had given me seven years ago!

    If Valantines Day is my love alarm clock (along with Mothers day, Birthday, Christmas and so on) then so be it. My wife is not one for cards and soppy sentiments, but she DOES like to be remembered. I find a HUGE bag of chocolate usually does the trick. :)

  • http://www.piadesolenni.com Pia

    Brava, Simcha. I’ll go even further and say that couples, especially married couples, should celebrate Valentine’s Day. Actually, that was the rant for a column of mine last year: http://www.headlinebistro.com/hb/en/columnists/desolenni/021610.html

    Catholics who take seriously the sacramental nature of marriage, need to keep front and center that the sacrament is b/w the spouses, not b/w the spouses and the children. Sure, children are an intrinsic part of marriage. But kids like it when Mom & Dad like each other and are “in love.”

  • http://deleted Rosie

    heh heh. This is a CRAZY post, Simmy! But that’s exactly what happened with us! I realized really early on that I would like to be the kind of person who just appreciates all the love my husband shows me in everyday life and doesn’t feel upset over lack of flowers and chocolate, but I’m not. So until then, it’s much better to tell him that I will be disappointed if I don’t get a preseny on such occasions, because it’s the truth, even if I fight against the disappointment. That way we all come out happy.

  • http://deleted Rosie

    I mean present. Typing with 1 finger while nursing.


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