The Valentine’s Day Conundrum: Is it only about romance or also deep, loving friendships?

Valentine’s Day is upon us, bringing glee, insecurities and sadness, along with a slew of romantic images on social media and television, and in every retail store. Look around and there are frilly nightgowns, ties, candy, red wine, flowers and cards everywhere you turn. And hopefully you like the color red for it takes over.

For those with a significant other, it’s a time to let the person know how you feel with hearts sent by Cupid with arrows, messages with lots of exclamation points and a special gift or two. For those who are perfectly comfortable with singlehood the rest of the year, it can be a day to feel left out, however.

But it doesn’t have to be an either or situation, even if Valentine’s Day was originally meant to be all about romantic love, according to Wikipedia. “Valentine's Day, also called Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. Originating as a Western Christianfeast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus, Valentine's Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.”

Being in love is enthralling; one of the most potent experiences possible. It makes your Adrenalin rush, gives you unabashed energy and sends your hormones raging. Through the years, Valentine’s Day has become a commercial day of idealized romance that subjects us to hundreds of images of others’ love rituals. Every post competes to be a more captivating love story than the next. Smart marketers have capitalized on this romantic rush.

For starters, there’s “Share the Love Today,” a Today Show segment encouraging viewers to submit their stories of love. The New York Times newspaper is deluged with submissions for its “Modern Love” columns year-round and recently its newer shorter version called “Tiny Love” stories of only 100 words. But around Valentine’s Day these take on greater importance as do news stories about very old couples who’ve been married 60, and 70 years. Hallmark’s TV station also features love stories around the clock starting at Christmas and New Years and up to Valentine’s Day, or so it seems.

Simply put; you can’t get away from this gushing love fest. Coupons and deals pop up on screens for candy or prix fixe Valentine’s Day menus with items like puff pastry shaped like a heart and filled with mushrooms for a first course and maybe profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. Your Valentine’s idea is to reach your heart, not cause heart trouble.

Retailers also regale shoppers with an array of Valentine’s Day products from underwear with hearts to outerwear in bright red. It’s capitalism in its boldest form which says please spend, spend and spend. Book hotel rooms with big tubs for two that will set you back an entire paycheck. Send exotic flowers, fragrant perfume, an imported Cabernet or real Champagne and profess your love! It’s a great time to get engaged, too.

Barbara, who has a significant other, views Valentine’s Day as a time to have fun and be inclusive but not go overboard with dollars spent. She expresses her affection for Mr. Fixup with several cards—funny and mushy--and suggestions for a home-cooked meal they can prepare together. They uncork a good bottle of wine rather than eat out as they see prices doubled at several of their favorite restaurants. She also considers it equally important to acknowledge her love and appreciation of others—her daughters, grandsons, son-in-law and mother (whom she also usually sends a bouquet to).

And because she knows what it’s like to be single after her divorce, she remembers to send cards—both romantic, sweet and funny--to her closest circle of female friends and some cousins who are single, either by choice or because they’re divorced or widowed. She likes the sentiment of the holiday just not how expensive it can become.

As a single woman, a widow for the last seven-plus years, Margaret could view the holiday as super-exclusive. In celebrating the day of hearts and arrows, none of which have come her way recently, Valentine’s Day commercialism might rub in her face the fact that she’s single and on the outside looking in. But she doesn’t and has developed some coping mechanisms, including distraction and self-love. She believes it’s not a day to wallow in pity and feel lonely as a single. Instead, she’ll do what many of those who have a significant other and other loved ones might do. First, she’ll email a special message to her nearest and dearest and then drive to her favorite chocolate shop and indulge. Once home, she plans to open the box of chocolates and pour herself a glass of a yummy pinot noir while toasting the fact that she has a rich and wonderful life. 

And she advises others to do the same--take a bike ride in a park or a long hike (weather permitting); sled down a big hill if there’s snow; go to the opera or a concert; sign up for a cooking course; buy favorite flowers to freshen up your living room; sit at a bar and order a fancy cocktail while you schmooze with the bartender; sit by a fire and read a book you’ve had little time to do so; take a warm bubble bath; put out pictures of your loved ones that you might have tucked away; or get a group of single women together, go to happy hour and toast each other on your love of each other and life in general. 

The most important thing both women know is that Valentine’s Day represents just one day. Special friendships and romantic love should be celebrated daily by kind deeds and words. For those who like to celebrate this one day and post the moments on social media, they think that others should keep in mind that what’s recorded within the heart and brain last forever. It is not Instagrammable and gone in a flash.

Happy Valentine’s Day to our readers—all of whom we appreciate greatly!


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