I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day.
For various reasons.
When I was younger, and less secure, I hated it more for the fact that it highlighted my singleness. I didn’t date anyone on Valentine’s Day until I was 29. I wore black every single Valentine’s Day as a silent expression of protest. (I have a flair for the dramatic.)
But funnily, even after I had a “Valentine,” I never liked the holiday. It felt like an over-commercialized, over-priced, over-forced, over-done way to pressure people into doing something one day of the year they probably never do any other time.
So Bray and I don’t go out on Valentine’s Day. Even before we had kids I remember making a meal at home. We don’t buy presents or flowers. We swap a card, but we do that year round. Now, for the kids, especially at this young age, I enjoy it. We say I love you every day, but it’s nice to get them a stuffed frog with a heart and some red candies just for fun. Plus, they learn to value each child in their classroom as a friend as they walk around and give everyone a card. At this age, it has this feel of friendship and belonging, and I’m softening on that aspect of the Valentines hoopla.
But on the romantic side, ole St. Valentine has a tendency to make women feel lonely or disappointed or sad. That’s why I don’t go in for the big bouquets of red roses and heart balloons.
However, this Valentine’s week, I realized it had been a month or more since Bray and I had a date (we try to go out once a month), so we made plans to see a movie (before Valentine’s Day – we wouldn’t brave the crowds on the 14th!). V-day gave us an excuse to head out for a few hours and pretend we were just a couple instead of parents of three wonderful, but boundary-testing, four year olds.
As we were sitting in the theatre watching Monuments Men, I received a reminder about what love really looks like. Matt Damon plays one solider in a rag-tag group of soldiers in Europe during World War II trying to save the world’s greatest art from being decimated during Germany’s retreat. Eventually, he partnered with a French woman to find where the Germans stashed some of the finest French works. He was married with two kids back at home. Halfway through the film, he visits her apartment to get all of her notes on the missing pieces. After they have dinner, she looks at him and invites him to stay, saying “It’s Paris, no?”
He had a lot of reasons to say yes. He’d been away from home a long time. That meant a long time with no sex. He was a handsome man in his prime. He was in Paris. No one would know. And the propositioning woman was lovely and French.
But he said no. I love that he didn’t jump up and say no like he’d been offended. He looked at her. You could tell he considered the proposition. He was tempted. Heck, he’d agreed to come to her apartment! It’s just he said no despite all that. He said no because he had a wife at home to whom he had promised to stay faithful. He never promised not to be tempted. He’d just promised to look the temptation in the eye, pause, wonder, but still say no.
We did not go to a Valentine’s mushy romantic movie. We went a movie about art and World War II. But in that moment, it had a big Valentine’s Day message.
That’s what love is really about. It’s not about overdone floral arrangements. It’s not about overpriced four course dinners over candlelight. It’s about the action instead of the expressions. The decision instead of the displays.