Valentine Musings

Exactly 1,792 years ago, in the Central Italian town of Terni, a little boy was born who would grow up to be the subject of over 150 million greeting cards a year, second only to those sent at Christmas. His name was Valentinus of Terni. As an adult he was quite good at converting the Romans to Christianity. This didn’t sit too well with the Roman Emperor Claudius. When the 43 year-old Valentinus politely refused the Emperor’s suggestion to stop converting Romans, Claudius had him beheaded on February 14th, 269.  Ahhh. Good times.

And that’s why on February 14th of every year we celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving flowers, candy, jewelry, and greeting cards to those we love.  Yeah, I’m sorry. I just don’t see the connection.  It actually wasn’t until the Middle Ages that people started celebrating Valentine’s Day.  Now, here we are, centuries later, with the notion of gifting our loved ones with chocolates and over-sized bears a part of our cultural fabric, except for that brief, yet fun, period when insults were all the rage.

It starts in kindergarten. First, making a little construction-paper and doily covered mailbox to hold all our valentines – that was my favorite part, I’ll have to admit. Then exchanging little cards with each other, the teacher making sure that everyone got one. In grade school, we’d make construction-paper red and white hearts for our parents and a select few of our more crush-worthy classmates. In junior high (this was in the years before “middle school” became a thing), we became much more selective, and secretive, when acknowledging Valentine’s Day with classmates.  With high school (at least, my high school) came the single roses or carnations sold by the PTA for $2 a piece…flowers that would be delivered to the classrooms at some point in the day for all our fellow students to behold and admire.

As adults, we moved on to more serious gift giving. Last year, Americans spent $19.7 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts. I’m pretty sure that the majority of that money was spent on gifts to soothe ruffled feathers, hold on to troubled relationships, or for relationship “prospecting.” But hey, whatever moves the economy along and provides for 50% off candy the day after, I’m all for it. At least, the 50% off candy part.

As for me, I’m spending Valentine’s Day as a single person this year. Believe or not, I find it quite liberating.  Single adults have been emancipated from what I call “The Great Valentine’s Day Duty Dash.” You’ve all probably witnessed this great phenomenon. It is a double tidal wave of frantic people flooding CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and 7-11 stores across the country, desperately looking for something (preferably not too expensive) that they can give a significant other to celebrate a holiday that somehow was able to sneak up on them.

The first wave arrives on the evening of February 13th. They look like a horde of locusts stripping a Kansas wheat field. Candy, cards, cheap perfume, wine, flowers, teddy bears, candles, Gillette Venus shaving kits.

The second wave arrives around 5:00 PM on February 14th. Rush hour. The stores have desperately tried to restock the shelves, but not much is left.  People begin to realize that if they don’t come home with a Valentine’s Day gift, they might as well just not go home. When they discover that the last of the Snickers bars and My Little Pony Lip Gloss are gone, they fall to the floor and begin flipping about like tuna on the deck of a fishing boat.

As a single person, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. The angst of buying the “right gift,” or any gift, is gone. The decisions about the appropriateness or cost of a gift are non-issues. After spending more years than I would like to admit stressing out over being faulted on my gift choices – as well as my reaction to gifts given to me, I’m glad to have a break in the routine. When I was younger, I didn’t think it would ever be possible, but my experiences have dimmed the shine of cupids and hearts and hastily thrown together reservations at that candlelit Italian restaurant. And that’s okay too. That life was not all it was cracked up to be, trust me, and no amount of Valentine’s Day pageantry would’ve fixed it. I’ve since found that what I want in a relationship is something deeper, something real, something that doesn’t need to be glossed over with decorative red and pink trappings to keep it afloat.  Now, I have different romantic goals.

When my soulmate and I do connect on Valentine’s Day? It won’t be with heart-shaped boxes of candy and cards and cute stuffed animals or a reservation at that exclusive, yet somehow still overly crowded, restaurant with a fixed holiday menu. It will be with whiskey and action movies and dancing in the living room. And ice cream. Or cheesecake. I’m good either way.

The Adventure Continues

My parents’ 57th wedding anniversary is tomorrow – June 15th. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! I think this might be the first year that I haven’t confused the date. It fell on Father’s Day one year, ages ago, and for me, I’ve equated the two ever since, making me perpetually late in wishing them a Happy Anniversary. Father’s Day changes every year, you say? No matter. You underestimate my ability to be wrong about something.

Hey, did you know there are traditional gift themes for each year of wedded bliss? First year is paper. Fifth year is wood. Twentieth year is china. Well, as far as I can tell, by year 57 all the ideas have been used up. By that time only the anniversaries ending in 0s or 5s get a themed gift. Seriously. On the list of “traditional gifts” the years skip from 55 right to 60.

My guess as to why that is: maybe whoever made the list felt that people grinding out 55 to 60 years of holy matrimony are too busy trying to not kill each other to really celebrate the honored day. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Maybe by that point, not trying to choke each other is a gift in and of itself. “I didn’t suffocate you with a pillow this morning sweetie, Happy Anniversary! Want some breakfast?” Personally, I think 57 years of marriage—murderous thoughts notwithstanding—is one hell of an accomplishment.

The lists of traditional gifts often give an alternative modern gift for the couple who want to stay hip and with the times. For example, the first-year anniversary’s “modern” take on the traditional paper theme is clocks. How the two are related completely escapes me. Now while there isn’t a traditional gift for 57 years of wedded bliss, a modern alternative my parents have for celebrating their anniversary is a glass or a mirror. A glass, particularly of the decanter variety, I can understand. Giving each other something to hold the sweet nectar of alcohol or caffeine I can see as being invaluable to such a lengthy marriage. Sadly, my parents can have neither. So that’s a firm no on the glass option.

Mirror, it is. But really? A mirror? All I can really see my parents doing with a mirror is holding it up within an inch of the other’s face and saying, “SEE! I told you there was a smudge on your face! You just couldn’t believe me, could you? Noooo…of course not.” I’m not sure I want to be the purveyor of such a contentious gift.

Despite their individual secret schemes on how to plan what can only be described as the perfect murder, in real life my parents do what they can to keep each other out of the ground for as long as possible. Which is particularly good news for my dad. If anyone was going to kill an old man and get away with it, it would be my mother. That woman is nothing if not thorough.

I’ve often wondered what the secret is to a long marriage such as theirs. In an age when a marriage that makes it five years can be seen as “a good run,” there’s got to be something special to keep two people together for close to SIX decades. I believe that my brother and I were maybe that special ingredient in the glue that has bound them. No, not because their love for us created an unbreakable bond.  It was more than that. I think they decided years ago that whichever one of them asked for a divorce, they had to be the one to take the children.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, my parents loved us…still do for some crazy reason. It’s impressive really, given what we put them through. It’s just that together, they were strong enough to counter my and my brother’s daily foolish antics. They could commiserate late at night and bolster each other’s mental stability – “Did you SEE what that boy did? Just look!” “Oh well, that’s nothing on what the girl tried to get away with today…let me tell you!”  Ahh, there’s nothing like having a common enemy to keep people together.

At its essence, having each other’s back is their mainstay – their rock. Sure, they may squabble and they may pick at each other, but my dad still makes my mom her coffee (decaf these days) every single morning before heading out to the backyard to feed her feathered friends – I mean, hey, she needs company while she sits on the deck, having her morning cup of joe. In return, she makes sure his meds are always in order and that he has his fishing hat when he goes out on the water so his shiny bald head doesn’t burn.  And god help the outsider who speaks ill of either one of them.



So. My parents celebrate their 56th year anniversary today.  I’ll repeat.  That’s 5 – 6.  Fifty Six.  In an age of disposable marriages as easy to come by as disposable spoons, my parents have racked up fifty-six years. Perhaps that’s because in “their day” commitment meant something other than the asylum (although really, if you ever went to their house, especially when my brother and I were young, you’d think they were already in one) and true to their word, my parents have lived up to the definition.

Personally, I think this staying power is in large part due to infinite patience…my mother hasn’t killed my father yet and strangely, seemingly has no plans on doing so. Although in all likelihood, no-one would be surprised if she ever were to snap.

Instead, once a week, she takes an hour to count out all of the medicine he needs for the week and puts them in a sectional pill holder (and this, in addition to monitoring his diet) in a never-ending attempt to keep him around even longer. For his part, my father still opens doors, holds my mother’s hand across the parking lot to keep her footing steady, and buys her little unexpected culinary treats when he ventures to the store alone. I sincerely admire the fortitude and dedication they each extend to the relationship and the love that has endured despite the struggles they’ve shared throughout the years.

They are my rock. My sun. No matter what is going on in my world, they are the one thing I can count on as being solid, even if they are having a “nit-picking” day.

Happy Anniversary to you both!

old couple


While I wait patiently for my true love, I’ll do my duty and share this very important public service announcement.  I knew you wouldn’t want to miss the real meaning of happiness associated with Valentine’s Day. Candy. On sale. Just so long as it’s not those dreaded candy hearts.  Yuck.


valentine candy sale

Wedded Bliss Redux

This is a repost (a revisit more like) from last year around this time and I was late then as I’m late now. I will once again apologize to my parents because it seems like every year I equate their anniversary with Father’s Day. So this year, I was expecting it to be this coming weekend and it’s not.  It was yesterday.  So I missed it. Again. I don’t know why I can’t keep the two days straight and separate. Every year since the dawn of time I’m reminded (after the fact) that I’m indeed wrong — it may fall on Father’s Day once in a blue moon, but not always.

And I don’t think being the favorite child is going to get me out of continually forgetting this fact (considering just how long it has been now).  But I will beg for mercy and just remind my folks once again that out of all their children (all 2 of us), I am their most beautiful, favorite, loving, smartest, (and above all) modest, and least high maintenance, least annoying child…and that should count for something, right?  Right!?

And oh yeah, I love you guys — more than anything.


Here’s to Wedded Bliss:

It’s unfortunate that this is a not-very-odd conversation these days:

Friend 1: Did you hear? Sue and Jeff are getting divorced?

Friend 2: Wow, how long have they been married?

Friend 1: Five years!

Friend 2: Well, at least they gave it all they had.

Yes, friends, sadly people these days hold on to cars and computers longer than they do marriage licenses. In the days when so-called role models treat “commitment” with less respect than a pinky swear (Britney Spears’ marriage, 55 hours. Kim Kardashian’s second marriage, 72 days) what couple can be expected to last long enough to see if the seven-year itch actually exists?

My parents, that’s who. Yesterday (which was not Father’s Day) was my parents’ 55th wedding anniversary.  That’s right.  55 years.  If you’ve never read the “The Lockhorns” comic strip before, do yourself a huge favor and Google it (or click on the picture below). You’ll quickly get the premise:  an old married couple that does nothing but complain about each other, but in their insults is a special kind of love (you have to look deep, but it’s there, I swear). My parents, they’re my live action version of The Lockhorns; the sort of couple that practices the Old School style of marriage. The kind where they may bicker and nag and nit-pick and groan through each and every day, but when one of them holds out their hand, the other is still there to grab it. They’re like those cute salt and pepper shaker sets that fit together. My Dad makes my Mom’s daily coffee.  My Mom makes my Dad’s fishing trip lunches. They just go together. Not to mention they’ve developed a sort of non-verbal, thought-reading kind of communication that is amazing to witness.

Over half a century with one person is definitely something to admire but it’s made even more so given the throwaway society we seem to live in. Whatever their secret, be it love or simply tolerance or a smooth balance of both, my parents are an inspiration. Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!


Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Eternal Love

Everyone knows I’m a bit strange when it comes to love stories.  I’m drawn to the “odd” ones you find in horror movies or action flicks…yet I also feel a kinship to those told through tales like Pride & Prejudice and The Notebook.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to like every chick flick out there though…there aren’t too many chick flicks I do like actually.  For a while now I’ve been seriously crushing on Ava and Boyd from Justified and hoping their relationship survives the season finale. If you don’t watch the show, suffice it to say they’re not your average couple. They’re more along the lines of a criminally hardcore Bonnie and Clyde. As I said, I’m a bit off. That’s okay. I embrace my weirdness.

But back here in the real world, who doesn’t want eternal love? It does exist. I’ve seen it. My parents for one. They’ve been married just shy of forever and while they bicker, they still hold hands to cross the parking lot. I’ve also seen it with my grandparents who met later in life (it was a second marriage for my Grandmother whose first husband, my Mom’s father, died in the mines), but most definitely married for love. My Grandfather had his hands full with my Grandmother (she was a spitfire and then some) and he loved her all the more for it. I don’t think there’s anything he wouldn’t have done for her.

And then I came across this article today, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  I’m sure the newspaper planned it that way on purpose. A feel good story for Valentine’s.  But truly, it is indeed inspiring.  For here are the stories of individuals whose love is so strong that it withstands all odds – for even when their better half is lost within themselves so deeply that they cannot remember the shared love, the lives intertwined, or even their own names – the devotion never wavers. Alzheimer’s Disease is a horrendous illness.  It invades your mind; it steals your memories. But the men profiled in this editorial are not willing to let go of their wives to the likes of Alzheimer’s, because while their spouses may not remember, they do.  If that’s not eternal love, I don’t know what is.

True Love

The infamous “they” claim that romance novels have destroyed any sense of realistic views of love for women. They say guys don’t really stand a chance because they could never live up to the hype of the romantic characters in books and movies. I can understand that. But the problem for me is I hate romance novels and there are very few “chick flicks” that maintain my interest.

I’m a Marvel Comics, Red, Sin City, No one Lives, action/thriller/horror kind of a gal. I want the kind of love you see in those kinds of movies…for example, when the hero or anti-hero’s girl gets kidnapped, everyone in the audience (AND eventually the person who did the kidnapping) all say “Oh shit, he’s gonna pay for that when so and so finds out.”  And they’re right.

Well then. You can imagine how disappointing it can be to live and love in the “real world.”

It’s not that I hate the idea of my man showing up with a bouquet of field-picked flowers or learning origami just so he can fold me a paper figurine of my favorite bird. That’s all well and good, but what really spoils my idea of love and romance are the love stories shown in the action films, even when they don’t mean to be love stories.

Dance of the Dead (Masters of Horror series, not the movie): When anti-hero Jak and heroine Peggy are face-to-face with the bad guy in a dismal and dangerous post-apocalyptic world, Jak steps in front of Peggy to protect her from getting shot. The great thing is that it wasn’t one of those dramatic thrusts where he flies through the air, arms flailing, to intercept the bullet. It’s the ease in which he does it. There’s no fanfare but also no hesitation. He just smoothly steps in front of her and into the line of fire as soon as he sees the gun come out. Slick as anything. And better than flowers and romance any day.

Dance of the Dead

Dance of the Dead — Jak and Peggy

Iron Man 3: (Potential minor spoiler) Tony Stark’s house is getting blown into confetti by a flurry of missiles. Yet even with so much chaos and panic and fire and noise, his first thought is to protect Pepper. As he’s being blown through the air by the explosion, Stark immediately sends the very cool Iron Man suit to cover her and protect her from the debris while he bears the brunt of the attack himself. It’s not so much the act, but rather that it was his first, involuntary thought. He didn’t think, “I could use the suit, but nah, I’ll give it to Pepper. That’s what a good boyfriend does.” The choice didn’t exist in his mind. His thought process went immediately from “Danger” to “Protect Pepper” without any steps in between. That’s love.

Iron Man 3 — love in the Marvel Universe

The Crazies: Timothy Olyphant’s character couldn’t flee the infected zombie like people because his wife was somewhere in the town.  Oh, he could’ve saved himself, sure, the opportunity was there.  But he had to find her.  Another guy was leaving and was incredulous that Timothy Olyphant was staying.  Timothy Olyphant’s character said to the guy: “Don’t ask me why I can’t leave without my wife, and I won’t ask you why you can.” Who wouldn’t swoon at such devotion?

The Crazies -- the wife he couldn't leave behind

The Crazies —  he couldn’t leave her behind

No-one Lives:  Don’t even get me started on this one.  Suffice it to say the title is an apt description of what happens after the seriously anti-hero’s love interest is killed.  The fact that the anti-hero was a bit of a whack job himself does not lessen my admiration of his dedication whatsoever.  Not sure what that says about me.

No One Lives -- a whack job, but dedicated

No One Lives — a whack job, but dedicated

The Notebook: “Well, if you’re a bird, I’m definitely a bird.” Oh, Ryan Gosling. That one just kind of speaks for itself. He says it like a math equation. A statement of fact. Nothing to question. Hey, what can I say?  The Notebook was an amazing movie even for someone like me.

If you're a bird, I'm a bird.

If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.

So the movies I like to watch have shaped my expectations.

Unfortunately the movies I like the best are not always your typical romances. Flowers, candy, all that is easy.  I want the kind of love that drives the guy to fight an army of the undead or break into the Russian Consulate to regain what was taken from him.

I doubt I’ll ever have the need to be encased in special armor during an attack and somehow I don’t think I’ll ever get snatched by the CIA in a convoluted plot or even chased by zombies. But the specifics aren’t what I pine for. It’s the intensity. That, I believe, can exist in this world. If not and it’s just generic love stories like you find in Cameron Diaz movies then I’m screwed.