Are you part of a couple, or a 'developing' couple? Well, with Valentine's Day coming, how do you feel about it? Are you excited? Stressed out? Worried about disappointment or jealousy? Do you get caught up in comparing what your honey got you for Valentine's Day with what your friends' sweeties got them? Or are you hoping for some really special and romantic time together?
Valentine's Day is the idealization of love, just like Christmas is the idealization of family togetherness, happiness and joy. Sometimes, when I'm cynical, I think about the fact that in our commercial society, almost every holiday is used as an excuse to sell things. Apparently, according to the National Retail Federation, Valentine's Day purchasers are expected to shell out about $17.6 billion dollars on romantic goodies: cards, flowers, expensive weekends away, et cetera.
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As in most aspects of life, my family-of-origin socialization around Valentine's Day was pretty weird, when compared with the average bear. I don't remember my mom ever being disappointed in what my dad did for her. I honestly don't remember what he gave her, but she was always happy. And it's a day with nice associations for me, because when I was a child, I got Valentine's Day gifts from them.
Such thoughtful and quirky gifts. One time, in my teens, my mom gave me three clear, plastic shoe boxes. She filled one with many packages of very, very sheer stockings, because I was just getting to the point where she let me wear them. One box was filled with dried apricot halves. Trust me, that's a lot of apricots.
I can't remember what the third box held, but I never forgot the contents of the other two boxes, because they were so on-target, with who I was and what I liked at the time. She got me. They loved me.
My mom, an unbelievable cook, showed her love through cooking something—a favorite meal, or a favorite dish—for me and for my dad. So, a typical Valentine's Day might manifest in lamb chops and this insane concoction that took all day to make, Black Bottom Pie. (Check it out—you'll dirty every dish in your kitchen and it will take an hour to clean up from making it.)
Valentine's Day wasn't just about erotic romance. It was about love and thoughtfulness in all their manifestations, not just the romantic ones. I still sometimes send my friends Valentine's Day cards. And I'm not the only strange one, because I have a friend who (when she was alive) used to send me Valentine's Day cards as well.
I think the most amazing Valentine's Day gift I have ever gotten was a tender and expressive love letter. I wish Valentine's Day were more like Thanksgiving. Less pressure for expensive gifts and completely out-of-this-world, knock your sox off sex. More cuddling and kissing and love poems offered to each other. Special romantic time that involves talking about something that isn't about logistics, work, the kids' upcoming activities. More emphasis on being grateful for the love two people have together.
Aline Zoldbrod, Ph.D. is a Boston based sex and couples therapist. You can find her at www.SexSmart.com
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