Valentine’s Day. A time hallowed by Hallmark (the TV channel included), teeming with jewelry commercials, and stores littered with giant pink hearts and boxes of chocolate. Retail stores ply our senses with confectionary romance.
All that pink can start to look like Pepto Bismol (or make you feel like you need some to quell the nausea from the retail overload).
There’s nothing wrong with the romantic holiday arriving each 2nd week of February. The tricky part comes when we lose sight of the why behind romantic gestures. According to author Kelly Gonsalves:
“Being romantic is about expressing love and dedication in a way that’s intentional, unmistakable, and deeply affectionate.”
The Hallmark Channel and Kay Jewelers offer the image of romance, all shiny and with a figurative (and often literal) bow on top. But a woman could receive a sparkly jewel and not feel an ounce of romance; she could watch flick after flick of cheesy Hallmark movies about “love” but not experience anything more than the gas she incurs eating too many bowls of popcorn.
Our retail-centered modern world offers ways to say you matter to me. But it’s the why behind those acts that make all the difference. When there’s genuine connection, romance can be found in a thoughtful gesture—something as simple as bringing your loved one a coffee made just the way he likes it. When there’s reciprocal authenticity, romance is no longer an annual event cranked out by American Greetings, it’s a regular occurrence.
But what if I’m single? You may be asking. Romance can occur regularly for a party of one. Take yourself for a manicure. Treat yourself to a good book or a massage. Go for a scenic bike ride. Remember: the most important relationship you will ever have is the one with yourself. And just like a relationship with someone else, even the small gestures can pack a significant punch.
Tina Turner’s famous hit, What’s Love Got to Do with It? is ostensibly about a girl telling herself that the boy she likes is only interested in him physically. Yet at the closing chorus, the lyrics speak a different story:
I’ve been taking on a new direction
But I have to say
I’ve been thinking about my own protection
It scares me to feel this way
What is the girl in the song scared of? What is she trying to protect and why? To love means to experience vulnerability, to accept vulnerability as a way of life, to cozy up to it and break bread with it, to look our fear directly in the eyes, knowing you might get your heart broken. The Hallmark movies, the Jared jewelry commercials—these are fairytale ideas that have nothing to do with watching a loved one go through chemotherapy or losing someone in a car accident. Love takes guts; love means you’re in the ring, knowing there are no guarantees.
What’s love got to do with it? In my opinion, everything.