Strawberries and champagne, candlelight and negligees, love and romance, that’s what this Saturday is all about. A Hallmark Holiday, brought to you by the good people in the marketing department.
Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that is designed to make some of us brutally aware of just how alone we are, and others of us are crafting as romantic a night as possible, no matter how forced it is, and unloving we actually feel.
As a divorce attorney I see the results of forced romance all too often. My partner and I are in court on a regular basis working out the details of a love, or just as likely these days, a night of passion gone wrong. We regularly have to negotiate the child support and the visitation by dad, with a woman that he doesn’t have any real relationship with, and never did.
Not that either person is bad or wrong, they were impulsive, and that resulted in another life, a life for which they are equally responsible, and in which they are equally entitled to participate in the growth and education of.
Valentine’s Day is all about the dream of a perfect love, an enduring romance, finding one’s soul-mate and living conflict free and in ecstasy forever.
That’s not going to happen so much.
The expectations for all that Valentine’s Day represents are unreasonable. We all have them because they start in grammar school. I can remember how I was judged, along with everyone else, by how many little hearts I got. It was a popularity contest for being loved and adored by my grammar school peers. Talk about a rough crowd. Everyone was vying for popularity, and to find their “true love,” but the reality is that pre-teens have no idea about love and romance, but those feelings are what get attached to Valentine’s Day and programmed into us.
In grammar school it was little red paper hearts, and those horrible candies with printed sayings like “Be Mine” and “Love Me Forever.” The underlying message was one of possession of another human being, locked in a romantic love obsession, forever.
Along comes high school with the joys of puberty and hormones raging, and what do the teachers have us read? “Romeo and Juliet,” “Wuthering Heights,” and love sonnets. We spend this most impressionable period in our life, that time of rebellion and angst, when everything our parents did was wrong, when we weren’t going to be like them, when we were better and smarter than they were — we spent this time, learning all about romantic love, from poets and dreamers.
It’s wonderful. We fall in love with the idea of love. We crave that enduring love of Heathcliff, and the burning lust of Pan. This schoolhouse idealism is what most of us take into the world as we enter our 20s.
And then along comes Hallmark, the Wedding Channel, and “Pretty Woman.” The myth of perfect love continues and meanwhile, no one teaches us what love really is, or how to make it last.
Men are told that if they give a woman a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, and buy her a diamond ring, they have fulfilled their duty for the night. Together they will go to a restaurant for a romantic, candlelit dinner, and so long as she is wearing a negligee and passion erupts by the end of the night, she has fulfilled her role.
When the morning comes, and they are brought back to their lives, the fog of forced romance will lift. That’s where the problems come in.
By forcing the romance, by trying to create the “perfect” night, we set ourselves up for the fall back to reality. By never having a real education on what true love and relationships are, we settle for the false, and then get unhappy when that disappears.
I’m all for romance. When I fell in love, I fell in love with a man who I responded to as a person, not as a cotton candy figment of some ad writer’s imagination who complied with the shopping list of roses, candy and diamonds.
Let’s enjoy Valentine’s Day. Let’s love as much, and as hard, as we possibly can. Throw your heart into it. But let’s do it with our eyes open, and be aware of what real love is, not just the Hallmark, hard candy with pre-printed inane messages kind.
Have the kind of love that doesn’t disappear with the sunrise, but gets warmer as the day brightens.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.