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Danielle Crittenden Headshot

Why I Dread, Nay Fear, Valentine's Day

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I have come to dread, and even fear, Valentine's Day -- and not just because of Eve Ensler (for the record I am not, and never will be, a "vagina warrior" -- except when it comes to vodka).

The reason I dread and fear it is because, despite being a happily married woman for nearly a quarter-century, my husband has loathed the holiday from the beginning.

Why you ask? Why, if your husband is happily married too (we will make that assumption), would he not wish to express that happiness?

If you are asking this question, you are most likely a woman, as I get the feeling that many men feel the way my husband does but are simply less bold at expressing it. They are all right now nodding silently in agreement.

In the heady courtship period, I was too heady to notice my future husband's dislike of it. In fact, I can't even remember our first Valentine's Day. But I'm sure it went something like this, because this is how it's gone for oh, some 24 years now:

Future husband: Don't you just hate Valentine's Day?! I mean, it's so contrived!! It's been created by the Hallmark company to exploit male guilt!!

Younger Me (feigning agreement): Oh right! Of course! I mean, who really cares about Valentine's Day?!

Future husband (now forcefully): Exactly! I mean, a wedding anniversary -- not Valentine's Day!! -- is the proper time to express your love for your -- (he is suddenly seized by an asthma attack and the thought goes unfinished) --

Younger Me: Er, yes.

For a long time, maybe a decade, I pretended not to care about Valentine's Day. It WAS stupid. It WAS a creation of the Hallmark company! And -- how could I complain? -- my husband always did a lovely wedding anniversary.

But maybe it was the arrival of three children. Maybe it was the fact I was growing older and therefore, potentially (arguably) (certainly) less attractive, I came to sort-of care. All right I'll be frank: I came to really care.

(Ah, now it's the men who are asking why because of course all the women get it.)

You know how a mother always says, "Oh Mother's Day! I could care less! It's really not that important!!! I don't need some stupid contrived 'Hallmark' holiday to validate what I do!!!"

Men (and children old enough to read), if you believe this you are total suckers.

Of course we don't need a contrived "Hallmark" holiday to validate what we do/who we are. BUT WHEN THE WHOLE FRIKKIN WORLD IS DOING IT FOR OTHER MOTHERS YOU BETTER GODDAM WELL STEP UP TO THE PLATE.

Oh wait, sorry, did I lose it there for a second?

You know, it's really -- wonderful, seriously, I mean it -- when a friend of mine emails me that her children woke up unusually early and raced to make her lumpy pancakes on Mother's Day morning, out of the fear they might miss Mother's Day.

Oh yes.

And then another friend phones after that. It was all so adorable! I mean we don't care at all about Mother's Day, right? And yet her husband had booked a surprise brunch at a nice hotel downtown, and the children presented her with gifts they'd made secretly at school...

I'm listening to this as I'm stacking the dishwasher.

I'm not saying we wives/mothers/girlfriends need a royal coronation. But I am saying, yes, these arbitrary holidays impose arbitrary expectations, which then must be met with arbitrary acknowledgment -- especially if the rest of Planet Earth is towing the arbitrary line.

So to get back to V-Day. After I began to feel that my husband's protestations of acknowledging Valentine's Day were -- however well grounded in intellectual theory -- kind of a big let-down, I began pushing back.

I can't say it's been successful. Last year's V-Day -- which was set to go off so splendidly, btw: He'd booked a restaurant! Flowers! -- ended in tears, argument, and a cancellation of the restaurant reservation.

This year he's traveling.

I'm not upset. In fact, the reasons why he protests this culturally forced expression of affection are among the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place -- and continue to love him as fervently now as I did when I met him (don't believe all those wretched stories about love waning with familiarity).

So I have to lower the expectations. Appreciate what I have, not look for some showy display. Accept my husband for who he is and not .... [fingers gripping desk] ... who he is not ... and ...

Happy Valentine's Day, my darling.

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