In 2008, one of my favorite authors, Jeffrey Eugenides (“Middlesex”) edited a compendium of love stories entitled “My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead.”
In promoting the then-upcoming book, Eugenides sat down with NPR’s Michelle Norris. I was on my way home at the time and tuned in. A snippet:
Norris: Wait a minute — an author who puts together a collection of love stories has total antipathy for Valentine’s Day?
Eugenides: Oh yeah. Don’t you think it’s the cheapening and commodification of something rare that we’d all like to celebrate in private and on our own time?
Norris: I personally like flowers and chocolate.
Eugenides: Well, your special person, I hope, is listening.
…Did I mention Eugenides is one of my favorite writers?
Last year on Valentine’s Day I was standing in line behind three work-weary men, each wielding tragically sad heart-shaped boxes of chocolate marked 20% off. (I was there for the aisle of more romantic cough syrups and Kleenexes.)
Why, oh why, February 14, you masochistic Hallmark holiday that all the consuming-loving masses hungrily devour?
What is it that makes normally intelligent people purchase a box of crappy chocolates that may or may not have a picture of the men from “Duck Dynasty” on the heart-shaped box? (I saw that one the other day.)
Why heart-shaped jewelry?
Why red roses with sprigs of trash flowers named after someone’s breath?
Why the tacky teddies slumped over warped hangers in the lingerie section of Sears?
Or ugly stuffed animals holding crushed red velvet heart pillows with horrific slogans like “Can’t Keep My Paws Off You.”
Why the need to tell the world—or just all your “friends”—via a Facebook wall how much your significant other means to you? And why on February 14?
Because we all know that nothing says love like telling your spouse who, I’m sure is available by phone, text or likely sitting right next to you, that you love him for all 550 of your friends to see … right? Who are you trying to persuade? But I digress.
Instead of overt calorie-laden or monetary gestures, here are the things I’d appreciate from my spouse on February 14 … or any other day:
The dishes get done.
- Reading to the kids.
- Having an actual conversation that doesn’t involve diapers or finances.
- A trip to the bathroom without kids banging on the door.
- A long, hot bath by myself.
- Clothes folded.
- Floors mopped.
- Dinner cooked.
- Diapers changed.
Something small but significant. I’m lucky. These are things he helps out with on a daily basis—things I desperately need and still appreciate. Chocolates may be sticky and delicious, but they don’t hold a relationship together. Neither do ambiguous-shaped pendants that Jane Seymour hawks at Kay Jewelers.
To the sad sack men in Rite Aid—and any guy over the age of 18—listen up: Heart-shaped anything is ugly. If you plan to go the jewelry route, might I suggest a more tasteful princess cut or oval?
And if you want to celebrate on a different day—you know, a day where flowers aren’t marked up 400%—February 9 is a nice day (nevermind that it’s my birthday).
And maybe, just maybe, if you want to send flowers, pick peonies.
Trust me on this.