A cynic rediscovers Valentine’s Day

For the better part of my adulthood I’ve vacillated between extremes when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

On one hand I’ve often decried the overt commercialism of the day, to dismiss the day as a wholesale invention of the greeting card industry. I’ve often been ‘that guy’ who refuses to go along with the consumerist bacchanalia to vain sentiment and maudlin displays of trite affection.

On the other hand, I’m a shameless old-school Romantic of the “sentiment by impulsive theatrics” variety. The stories of my exploits are legion. Don’t believe me?

I once pedaled my bike to visit a girl who lived miles away in another city, only to find that she was out of town for the weekend. I said to her mother: “Just tell her I came by.”

I once took a girl out on a date and, instead of the usual “dinner and movie” routine, drove her out to abandoned field where we talked for nearly three hours.

I once stood on the hood of my ’75 Chevy Malibu and sang Boys II Men‘s “I’ll Make Love To You” to a girl at her house… while her boyfriend was there.

I once climbed a tree and gathered a bucket full of Wisteria blossoms and anonymously spread them from her front porch all the way down her sidewalk.

So…  yeah.

Romance, I am told, is a cultural heavyweight who is staggering against the ropes of our disposable and transient zeitgeist. In short: romance is dead. For someone like me, this makes about as much sense as saying Saint Valentine was afraid of commitment. Or roses are passé. Or chocolate is overrated.

No my friends, romance is not dead. Not even close. The failure of individuals to prize something highly enough does not necessarily mean it has lost any value.

My wife and I may grow older, our youthful blush may pale and smooth complexions whither and wrinkle, but there is nothing that can damper the fires we stoke in each other.

Style and cultural trends can be proclaimed by the tastemakers of our day and, provided they allow us our liberty, people are free to ignore them in their own lives. Be that as it may, I don’t think romance will die…  if for no other reason than because the alternatives are ugly and sterile.

However, for me, Valentine’s Day is all too often a rather harried affair, involving multiple crisscrossing across Rusk County for reasons that have nothing to do with flowers or candy but everything to do with my present occupation. Valentine’s Day is firmly situated in the early quatrain of the week, which is a white-knuckle time of tasks and obligations for me.

By the time I arrive home, long after the sun has set, it’s all I can manage to present my beloved with a bouquet before helping bathe the children and tuck them all into bed, then collapsing exhausted into unconsciousness.

My story is like many of my brothers of the working world, and sisters too.

Thus, a great obstacle to romance is our workaholic culture. No time is wasted and, for successful people, every minute is measured carefully against the gain. Far more than mere coinage, romance requires that precious currency known as time. No romantic weekend will work if the workweek has swallowed up all touching and conversations.

Sure, we must work. Work is good for us and for our civilization, but must not live for work.

People will have many different jobs, but all of us are called to be good lovers. If not the romance of sexual union between a man and woman, then there is the romance of true friendship.

A romantic man works so he can love the beloved. He builds a heritage for his children or his community. He loves his nation and so he serves. Every moment is motivated by love so when he turns from the world to his personal life love continues.

Too many workplaces are transformed into soul traps because we make them the purpose of our life instead of a means to higher ends. Because I love my job (which is good) and I am helping people I care about (even better!) it is tempting to make work and companionship the only great romances of my life.

Which, I suppose, would be just fine if I had chosen singleness and celibacy. But I did not. I chose to love and to marry…  so I must set aside work for romance with my beloved at home.

My own model for this was cultivated in the household from which I was raised. My own parents both worked, and worked long hours, but they always made time for each other amidst the wild tangle of my siblings and the whirl of our daily lives.

I have a love, a woman whom I love and who loves me, and so I must win her daily. Not because I can ever lose her but because I value her highly enough to do so.

Candace is easily worth whatever “trouble” I can take to show her how much I adore her.

So too is romance, like love itself, a gift that gives in the offering.

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