Valentine’s Day, our official “Be Romantic or Else!” day, is over. Many of us have a hangover from the desperate once-a-year antics of people who simply don’t get romance, but are doing their best to be socially responsible. Men who do not understand why we want flowers. Men who do not understand why we want heart-shaped gifts. So they buy us gifts on Valentine’s Day, and then feel they don’t have to do it again until next year. They bring us whatever red items they find in stores, whatever presents the marketing media push into their consciousness.
We who believe in romance are not entirely amused by unimaginative and overpriced red roses that wilt in a day, by chocolates of dubious origin that taste more like wax than the cacao bean, or by sappy greeting cards that speak words of love our man hasn’t the courage to say out loud. Yet we graciously accept these gifts as our due on February 14, in the spirit in which they are tendered. We even, some of us, feel just a little sorry for our partners who haven’t the courage to be romantic without the moral force of a greeting cards holiday behind them–and an express checkout lane at the supermarket just for their purchases. (Yes, stores really do that.) We wonder if these men would be this shy about expressing their feelings if Valentine’s Day were the Super Bowl.
Some men step up their game on Valentine’s Day and proffer gifts of jewelry. Diamonds, even. That’s nice. For most of us, it’s unnecessary. What we want is proof of love in spoken words, in loving gestures that are not pre-choreographed by society and full of “I ought to buy her this” or “I should take her here,” or the like. Although “actions speak louder than words” is a popular adage in our culture, we have long since graduated from admiring men who use silence to bottle up their emotions. We have learned that not only is that kind of behavior frustrating for us, it’s bad for their emotional health.
So what should we do about this “only one day a year” nonsense? The day is over. Done. Should we just go with the flow, having put cliché expectations on our men and then declared them fulfilled for another year? No. We must rebel. We must gently show our loved ones our belief that romance is appropriate every day of the year. And, if we are wise, we will initiate romance ourselves.
I am not talking about nudity and a bed (although I am not ruling it out, either). I’m talking about initiating romance, not sex. Even if men are confused about the two, we are not, and there is a difference.
We don’t need the entire marketing powerhouse of our nation, or heart-shaped candies in pastel colors, to show us how to express love. We have all the clues necessary in the romances that we read. In romances we find a world in which men and women make romantic gestures without shame, and declare their love openly (having overcome some obstacles, of course). Because the men and women in romances today are everyman figures, we also believe we can be like them. And we believe we can turn our everyday real lives as romantic as the lives we read about in books.
We can do this. We can be openly loving, and say the words, and give gifts when they aren’t a social expectation, and make magic in a moment. We can spread joy, and we can do this every day. Let’s have 364 more days of romance.