Old-Fashioned Romance Revolution

Old-Fashioned Romance Revolution February 14, 2013

Today on Public Discourse, in her piece “Our National Sex Day“, Caitlin Seery aptly describes how our national day set aside for thoughtful romance has been degraded:

 Valentine’s Day is here again, as stores have been telling us for the past month, with piles of red-cellophane-wrapped chocolate and heart-shaped doilies in every window. This holiday–once an opportunity for husbands and wives to show their love and affection for each other, to bring back some of the romance that so easily disappears between diapers, bills, and driving lessons–has been transformed into a national day of sex.

Or at least that’s what the Victoria’s Secret ads and the local card shop’s red-tinted stock seem to indicate. I’m told to “indulge” myself in erotic lingerie, experience the world’s sexiest chocolate, make Valentine’s Day all about me by buying myself (of course) more unmentionables. It’s hard to find a Valentine’s Day card whose purchase could be recounted to your mother without embarrassment. But it’s all too easy to stock up on the day’s essentials–like fuzzy handcuffs–at the local CVS.

Caitlin is  a recent Princeton graduate who now directs programs for the Love and Fidelity Network, an organization formed at Princeton just after we graduated. The Love and Fidelity Network is a positive response to the hook-up culture that is pervasive on college campuses, and its mission is to support students in understanding and living the virtue of chastity. Our own Texas Mommy is involved with the board of directors. Caitlin describes the LFN’s methods:

Our message is one that asks challenging questions, exposing the harsh realities of the hook-up culture and highlighting the fact that students who have concerns about it are not alone in having such doubts. We want to help students realize that there isn’t something wrong with them, but rather something wrong with a culture that glorifies cheap sex. By highlighting certain paradoxes and posing key questions, the campaign respects the dignity of each viewer, encouraging him or her to reflect on his or her own experiences instead of telling them one thing or another. “Is this really all there is?” “Why do I want more?” “Is this what it means to be a man?” “Is there something wrong with me that this doesn’t make me happy?”

What a dignified approach, appealing first and foremost to the heart. And it is not only charitable, but also modest–I’m never particularly persuaded by chastity speakers who reach down to the “nitty-gritty” in an effort to sell their message to young people. A reverence and holy bashfulness is appropriate and attractive when we approach the mystery of our sexuality.

Children know instinctively that they are not made for fuzzy handcuffs. They long to belong to someone and to be beloved. My children sparkled this morning when they came downstairs to find simple, construction paper Valentines (my sub-par eleventh hour effort) that read “Be my Valentine?” I doubt any seven-year-old girl daydreams about a man who would rather hook-up or cohabit than have her “until death do us part”, who gives her gross lingerie instead of a diamond ring.

For now, my husband and I are living our own revolution of love and fidelity. What’s more romantic than rediscovering romance amid the daily rigors of supporting and forming our five little embodiments-of-our love? And it’s a little thrilling that a married couple’s date night has now become a counter-cultural statement!

Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy romancing!

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  • Texas Mommy

    I love how you are always so adamant about true romance, JM! So beautiful to be reminded of the beautiful nature of love, romance and a reverence of each person’s true value.

  • Thanks, JM, for this great reflection!

  • V

    Ironically, even when I was embedded in said rank culture (I will admit it wasn’t an easy fit) I did not like Valentines Day. I even lived in a Catholic area (80%+, even the white people!) but had no idea why hearts and flowers were used to celebrate the martyrdom of a saint.

    Part of the problem is that my birthday is too near the date– and the whole thing was drastically out of whack even when I was a kid. I knew it was about relationships, and what most people did did not seem to relate. However, now that I’m much much older , the idea of old fashioned romance in one day does appeal. Just no lingerie, or hookups, please.

    If there is a date that’s to blame– kill Sweetest Day. There is no pretense for real relationship, may as well call it “hookup day”. In my more cynical moments I think that it was invented to leach the relational teeth out of Valentine’s Day.

  • Kellie “Red”

    Beautiful thoughts JM!