St. Valentine’s Day 2008

I hate Valentines’ Day. 

I’m sure that I’m not the only one. Undoubtedly, the web is replete with articles and blog posts by people who are, to varying degrees, in agreement with me: Valentine’s Day is one of the worst holidays on the calendar. Perhaps there are many who feel the same way that I do for the same reason: Valentine’s Day is a yearly reminder of various inadequacies on my part. 

First I have a poor memory. Despite obscene amounts of marketing and its annual appearance, Valentine’s Day invariably sneaks up on me unawares. Of course, one excuse I could (legitimately?) make is that I live outside of the US in a Muslim country where it is unseemly, at best, to celebrate a holiday named for a Christian saint and extols the virtues of romantic love. And after making this excuse, my wife would be stricken mute and immobile, unable to chose between guffawing and bawling at the at the absurdity of it. It’s not like she doesn’t do all the shopping for the family and hasn’t noticed the abundance of heart-shaped candies, trinkets and teddy bear feet. No, local retailers may not assail us with circulars emblazoned with “St. Valentine’s Day is February 14th!”, but they know all of the gift-giving occasions of all of the cultures represented here and they make sure to have the appropriate gifts prominently displayed at the appropriate time. In short, my poor memory is no excuse for not getting J. something on Valentine’s Day. 

Second, I’m selfish, which is probably the underlying cause of my poor memory. Again, it’s not like remembering the holiday is all that difficult. There are numerous reminders available. The date is noted on our calendars. Hearts adorn our preferred search engine website during the month of February. Holiday related spam floods our e-mail accounts. And, even here, there are plenty of retailers pushing holiday-themed merchandise without invoking the name of the departed saint. With all of these reminders, the only excuse for “forgetting” the wretched event is that I’m just too self-absorbed to notice. My mind is preoccupied with the important events on my calendar. I am practically blind to superfluous decoration both on and offline. I never ever read anything that ends up in my bulk mail folder on my e-mail account and I block out all attempts to sell me anything that I don’t already want. The whole point of Valentine’s Day is to shower someone other than myself with attention and gifts and that is not easy for me to do. 

Third, I’m financially constrained. I’m not poor and I’m not in debt. (Seriously, absolutely no debt at all!) However, all of our money is spoken for. Our budget at this stage includes nearly no frills so we can save up for our repatriation to the states in the coming year. Consequently, the gift options for my wife are simply pathetic. Jewelry is too expensive. Candy doesn’t move her. Flowers do, but they’re expensive and often are not in very good condition when they’re available. I refuse to add to the grotesque amount of plastic baubles that have followed our children into the house simply because it’s Valentine’s Day. (If he wants plastic knick-knacks inscribed with his name, he’s welcomed to them!)  

Apparently, I am not only lacking in disposable income, but also in romantic sentiment and creativity. Great! Even more defects. Yet, for all of my inadequacies (and this is such a small sample) I have a really good woman who loves me. She accepts me where I am but not as I am. At first that may sound like a bad thing, but think about it. She knows that I have a bad memory, but instead of leaving me to flounder, she reminds me of things, and not just those things that are important to her. She reminds me to call my mom, write my brother, give special attention to one or all of our children and other things which are important to other people. She knows that I’m selfish, but instead of punishing me in various ways for it, she draws me out of myself and makes me aware of how I affect other people by what I say and do. She knows that money is tight but instead of nagging me about climbing the corporate ladder or badgering me to make more money; she respects the budget and looks for ways to maximize what we have. All of this requires some sort of sacrifice on her part, not the least of which is the sacrifice of her ideal husband. Don’t sell that sacrifice short. We all cherish our dreams, whether they are of perfect careers, perfect children or perfect mates. Letting those things go in order to genuinely love someone who is so obviously and painfully imperfect is a great sacrifice worthy of admiration.  

I really hate Valentine’s Day, but I really, really love my wife.

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