I think I started hating Valentines Day in grade school. I would count the number of cards received, analyze the sappy sentiments inside and ruthlessly grade myself in terms of popularity. As I got into high school, the lack of a boyfriend really turned me off of the day for lovers – tacky commercialism and a stampede at chocolate shops and florists was just not for sensitive flautists like me. When I finally did get a boyfriend, I assessed his love for me on his wallet’s ability to show how much he loved me. Red roses or pink carnations? McDonalds or Umbertos? A box of Smarties or Godiva? Sweet nothings didn’t count. I didn’t love myself, so I relied on material proof to navigate love’s math, and that way I never gave more than I got. That is how I kept in control of the love game, while my ‘bad-at-math’ girlfriends were loving and losing all around me. It’s not hard to believe that the weekend before Valentines Day is the busiest time of the year for psychiatrists.
What I didn’t realize until I was late into my 20’s is that love is not a game that can be won. Love, I realized, is the little things. Sweet nothings do count. You can make love out of nothing at all and it feels good. I learned that I really like Happy Meals. The blue box from Tiffany’s is great, but you get way more mileage out of a smile, eating dinner together, laughing over old photos, and sharing memories. I learned to recognize that feeling of my heart blooming right past the physical limits of my rib cage as love, and that feeling often brings me to tears. Happy ones. Love is friendship, sharing a box of popcorn, and facing the future together. And as you look at the state of the world around us, maybe a yearly reminder isn’t such a bad idea after all.