I think, for the majority of my life, that I have intensely disliked Valentine’s Day. This dislike began early—in grade school—when the entire class would go around the room delivering Valentine’s Day cards and sweets to each other. When my classmates and I were still quite young, it was sweet. It made you feel warm and gooey inside like a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven. As we grew older, however, the cooties were discovered among us. Valentine’s Day suddenly and irrevocably changed. You had to analyze every card in your Valentine’s Day mailbox for double meanings, hidden messages—because that’s how the cooties were spread—through the simple act of caring about someone.
Eventually, the cooties evolved into the “cool factor” and by Middle School, we had abandoned cute, cartoony Valentine’s Day cards. Your best friend might give you a bag full of candy, but that was the extent of our celebrations—unless you had a boyfriend or girlfriend to buy you a carnation from whichever one of the school clubs was selling them. In essence, the holiday went from being a gooey chocolate chip cookie to something burnt on the bottom of a baking sheet. It became the day that you dreaded, because if you weren’t cool, if you didn’t have many friends, you were going to be reminded of it from 7:30am when the school bus arrived at your doorstep to 4:30pm when it dropped you back off. It was the day you feared because, if your much-cooler-than-you crush found out that you liked him, it was over. You were going to be ridiculed, sometimes openly and sometimes with hushed giggles and sideways glances. It wasn’t safe to be a nerd, to be uncoordinated in gym class, to be different.
This is how I have spent most of my Valentine’s Days—in dread of my own cooties, acutely aware of my nonexistent cool factor, and worried that I might be unlovable.
Fast forward to the present year, and Valentine’s Day looks and feels considerably different. There are cards again. My best friend, who also happens to be my “crush”, gave me sweets—fresh fruit and chocolate fondue. I don’t have to worry about him finding out that I like him; he already knows. He also loves me for the very eccentricities that I used to fear so much.
Some of the holiday’s magic has been restored for me—but I know so many genuinely good-hearted people that absolutely abhor Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s the gross commercialization of love. Maybe it’s the way the day creates a dichotomy—those with partners and those without. Or, maybe, it’s because as friends and family, we’re failing each other.
While dunking the last of our Valentine’s Day sugar cookies in my coffee (Note: you must leave them out at night so they get a bit stale. It gives them a little more of a crunch the next morning), I couldn’t help but wonder why we only go out of our way one day a year to show those we care about that we do, in fact, care about them.
Why aren’t we sending ‘thinking about you’ cards in the mail?
Why aren’t we having ‘just because’ bouquets randomly delivered to loved one’s homes or workplaces?
Why aren’t we showing up on a friends’ doorstep with a plate filled with sweet treats?
I am guilty of it, too, Dear Readers—becoming so busy, so absorbed with my own personal rat race that I forget to make time for those I care about. I forget to reply to messages. I don’t make time to visit. I miss birthdays and plays and poetry readings. Even after everything I have experienced, I forget sometimes that life is short. I forget that tomorrow is never guaranteed. But in those moments when I do remember, I question, what am I waiting for? Why am I so silent? Why am I not letting my friends and family know that I care?
I am proposing another experiment, Dear Readers. It goes like this:
Each week, I am going to reach out to someone I care about. Maybe I will send a card to them via snail mail. Maybe instead of hitting the “like” button on a social media post, I’ll take a few seconds and add a comment. Maybe I will schedule a coffee date or an ice cream run. Maybe telephone calls and road trips to Target are in order. Whatever the method or medium, I am going to be more present, more involved. I am going to make certain that the people in my life know just how grateful I am for them.
It’s taken me many years (and a lot of disappointment and self-doubt) to realize that Valentine’s Day is so much more than glittery hearts and chocolate roses. It can be a celebration of so much more than just romantic love. Valentine’s Day can be any day, Dear Readers, so why not every day?