Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

When I was in middle school and high school I used to love it when Valentine's Day came around. The school administration and the student council organized the sale of carnations as a fundraising opportunity. We would bring our money, buy single flowers, fill cards with the name of our friends, and leave it to the various student messengers to deliver the flowers to the intended recipients. It was fun when they would barge in right in the middle of class to deliver red blooms to everybody. Everybody wanted to see who gave a flower to whom, and who had the most flowers.

I wasn't one of the popular kids, and I did not have a boyfriend, so I could not compete with the girls that had armloads of flowers, but I had enough friends (boys and girls) in school that I always received flowers. When I changed schools my junior year of high school, I missed this greatly. I can't remember what we did for Valentine's Day at my new school, which probably means that nothing was done, or nothing that was memorable to me.

My last year of college, in a pathetic attempt to get my best friend/unrequited crush to pay attention to me, I gave myself a bouquet of yellow marigolds for Valentine's Day. What's more, I did not even pretend they were from someone else. I dialed up the pathos by letting everyone know I had bought them from a vendor at the Río Piedras market.

I don't know what I was trying to accomplish with this stunt, tantamount to yelling "love me, damn it" at the top of my lungs. My friend ignored me. Try as I might, he would not have been responsive. He was gay, still in the closet at the time. In the back of my mind I knew this from the first time I met him, yet chose to ignore it as we became close friends and he pulled me into his orbit. He revelled in the ambiguity of our relationship, he loved it when people wondered if we were together. For two years we were inseparable. He was my best friend. I was his sidekick. We wrote each other letters, handwritten on paper. Well, I wrote mostly, and he would say he was saving my letters to publish them when I became a famous writer.

The marigold fiasco happened about a month after my father died, and after that I started to pull away emotionally. Shortly after that, the man who would become my ex-husband saw me at the plaza by the University clock tower, burning my copies of the letters I had written to my friend. I had quite a flair for drama in my youth. We had been introduced by a mutual friend, but I did not remember him. He remembered me, though. But that's another story for another time.

To get back to the topic of Valentine's Day and flowers, I could write that I am jaded and appalled by what the holiday has been reduced to thanks to the dictates of our consumerist culture. But I would be lying if I did. The truth is, I like to get flowers. I like outward gestures of affection. But they have to be sincere. Buying flowers and candy for Valentine's Day can either be an opportunity to give a gift to someone you love, or something that you do only because it is expected of you. If it's the latter, it rings hollow.

As much as I like flowers, pragmatism wins in the end. Instead of spending on gifts, Gabe and I are going out for good meal at a nice restaurant tonight. Valentine's Day is an excuse for us to go out by ourselves. Most of the time we are either at work or at home with the girls. Dinner for two is a much needed a respite.


  1. I love this post! :)

    My own feelings on the subject are pretty ambivalent but this year's Valentine has been exceptionally good, and I wish the same to you!

  2. Happy Valentine's Day.

    If Gabe is reading this (Ingrid cover your eyes) then, your life in the coming months will be made so much simpler if you just ignore everything Ingrid just said and go out and get her some flowers. A single red rose would work.

    Men and women have been trained very differently concerning this holiday. For a man, the holiday is a bit redundant.

    Man: "What you don't believe me? Only merchandise will convince you?" Um, yeah. Pretty much. But it isn't that she doesn't believe you.

    At a certain age, if a man hasn't yet killed off most of his brain cells, he'll concede that he doesn't get it, and just go through the motions. This is where I take issue with the "it rings hollow" comment. When you ask a guy what is he thinking (especially after sex), and he answers nothing, well, he's most likely telling the truth. We have a supernatural ability to clear our mind of all thought (especially after sex).

    Love isn't an expression of a day. Love is an expression of a lifetime. If you wake up in the morning and he isn't trying to suffle you out the door, that's where substance begins. If he's asking you to lock up when you pick up your clothes and leave, then you can talk about hollowness.

    Men are perfectly willing to (on occasion) go through the motions that make you happy. To all women, please give us a break and don't judge us when we do. If you get a flower, then accept the flower, don't qualify it. Believe me, most guys can tell you without hesitation what else the money could have bought, that doesn't mean that he cares for you any less.

    And stop with the whole "you don't have to get me anything." You're killing the young men of society with this. It is only by the grace of the older generation of men to tell them that you are lying that they make it to our generation. So make it easier on both of our lives by just telling men exactly what you want, then we'll do the best we can.

  3. Hi, Greg! Gabe would likely agree with you if he read this. He asked, but I am still convinced I do not want flowers. I just want him to take me out to a nice restaurant. But being with him I have learned to ask clearly for what I want, so if I end up having flower envy I will speak up.

    I don't necessarily disagree with what you said about men going through the motions. But, and I can't believe I am about to descend to chick territory by saying this, to me there is a big difference between a guy who wants to get you flowers and a guy who does it just because. Am I splitting hairs maybe and there isn't that big of a difference? Maybe, but I'd like to think not.

    I like to think that a guy who loves someone goes through the motions willingly because he wants to make the other person happy. He may think it's silly, he may not be overly enthusiastic about the gesture, but he does it because he knows it will make his spouse/lover/whatever happy.

    When the guy really doesn't care about the other person's happiness, and is doing it because the date is on the calendar and he knows the significant other is expecting it (and will probably get upset if she doesn't get anything), that's when it feels hollow to me.