"Mama what is Valentines' day?" asks my eleven-year-old son. As the go-to parent who deals with all sorts of awkward questions, I should be used to this by now. But still, I panic. My son is a bit of a late bloomer compared to his peers. He has been eavesdropping on the aiyas in the school van. So as of late, I have been bombarded with questions such as this. The last question he asked me was "what do they mean by the guy gets the girl?"
But me being the mom who promised myself to tell the truth as much as possible to my kids, I decided to be a realist. To be honest, in this case, it was easier being realistic and narrating the story of Saint Valentine to him than explaining the whole Valentine's day saga created by the media and advertising agencies. So I told him about poor old Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in 3rd century Rome. The sympathetic priest helped Christian guys and girls get married during a time when it was prohibited by the Pagan emperor Claudius II to do so. And since it was against the law and he committed a grave crime, the brave priest was sentenced to die. Then he asks me "Is Saint Valentine the fat baby angel flying around with a bow and arrow?" I answered by promptly reminding him about his homework and chores. Because I know next he will ask me why is cupid trying to kill people with his bow and arrow if he wants them to get together!
But this whole episode got me thinking. What really is Valentine's Day to the average Jane? What do we expect on the International day of love?
So I shoot some emails and get on WhatsApp to message friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Because who needs human interaction anyway. The focus group I chose was a diverse group of females from different stages of life. Those who are just experiencing the joys of couplehood and those who've been there, done that for many many moons. And as expected I got mixed reviews on the whole Valentine's Day debacle. The older and wiser crowd seem to think that It's all a waste of money. Basically, they were going along the "it's trap, don't fall for it" school of thought. "Valentine's day is just another ordinary day, there is no point in being the perfect couple in order to capture perfect photographs on that day and then being at each other's throats the rest of the year", was the philosophical answer of one. "If you understand each other and become each other's best friend, you can have so many valentine's days the whole year. Why get caught to commercializing your love for each other?" Said another. But a truly wise oracle of a lady said, "it's no secret Valentine's day is one big marketing campaign. But there are so many great offers available. Make hay while the sun shines child. Grab them and have a jolly good time!"
The young and the restless of my focus group were going ga ga over the whole fiasco. Ordering matching clothes for each other, hunting for personalized or monogrammed gifts and thanks to the day before being a holiday this year, they are going one step further and planning the perfect getaway. A bit of stalking online made me realize just how much of it is being driven thanks to social media. Sellers are peddling their wares bombing every buy and sell group with valentine's day offers. I saw VDay offers for televisions for god sake!! So that you can stare at the TV without talking to each other? Couples of both genders are frantically clicking links trying to surprise each other, getting advice from their peers and taking selfies and posting them online every step of the way. I can safely say it will only intensify as the day of reckoning approaches.
My age is such that I am hovering somewhere in no man's land when it comes to age. I am old enough to understand why the older generation seems to think what they think of Vday. I understand why they think it's all a waste of money. I know that all this declaring your love for the whole world to see and matching this and branded that are all quite artificial. I do know that when push comes to shove and you are living together for better or worse, any girl will take kindness over candlelight and living with understanding over dining under the stars. I understand why the older generation cast disapproving looks and shake their heads with sadness over the whole commercial aspect of the day.
But I also am young enough to remember the thrill of young love. The joy of looking at your significant other with rosy-hued glasses. That animal instinct of marking your territory by wearing matching clothing. I remember the anticipation when opening that gift that you so impatiently waited for. That adrenaline rush of dressing up to the nines. The feeling of such joy and contentment as the waiter seats you in your favourite restaurant and you see the sparkle in the eyes of the love of your life while soft romantic music plays in the background. When every experience is new and fresh and exciting. I am getting quite nostalgic here. Oh to be young again!
Now that I have done thorough research on the whole valentine's day syndrome, I have come to my own conclusions. Valentine's day is a journey. You need the whole roses, gifts, candlelight, dinners, matching stuff, the laughter, the tears, the heart bursting with love, the heartbreaking because of love, the whole works to get where you want to go as a couple. These are all sideshows in the journey together. You need all of it to discover and stick to each other. Understanding, kindness, generosity, care, protectiveness, tolerance are all things you have to learn about each other. And days like Valentine's day provide the perfect setting.
So this Valentine's day let us enjoy it the way we prefer. If red roses, chocolates and teddy bears are your thing, go for it. Or if you would like to snuggle up, order dinner and watch a movie together, so be it. Just make sure you spend time together and learn to appreciate, enjoy and understand each other. Warts and all.