It’s the night before Valentine’s Day.  Since it’s a Friday, I’m at the grocery store doing our weekly stock-up.  The supermarket is clogged with people, partly with people stocking up before the bitter cold strikes later tonight, but overwhelmingly with stressed-out guys scouring the store for the obligatory gift to take home to their lady.

Valentine's Day: Gifts Do Not Equal Romance

Valentine’s Day: Gifts Do Not Equal Romance

One man pushes a cart containing a sad little plant through the women’s fitness accessories aisle, probably hoping to spot something — anything — his wife might like. Hopefully she is into fitness, because otherwise…that’s just a landmine.  Several men stare at the racks of Valentine’s Day candy (40% off!), searching for the one that will not only make their partner happy, but that they will enjoy eating after she politely eats just one piece.  Because seriously…Valentine’s Day Industry?  How many women think they’re fat? Ponder the logic for a second.

On my drive home, I see men emerging from gas stations…gas stations!…into the cold darkness, clutching bouquets of those random flowers that always look a little bit like a spring funeral arrangement.

It hits me — These men are not standing in long lines at 6:30 on the night before Valentine’s Day, grocery-store roses in hand, because they want to.  They’re doing it because they feel they have to.  They don’t dare let tonight turn into tomorrow without something to show they remembered.  If they were bestowing something wonderful and romantic upon their special someone, they would have had it planned and in hand long before tonight, and it definitely would not have included a trip to the gas station.

In the many, many years I have worked in the tech industry, and therefore around a lot of guys, I can honestly say I have heard very few that look forward to Valentine’s Day with any degree of excitement.  Many of them don’t dread it, because they’ve got a mutual understanding with their wife/girlfriend of what that day means to them and how they will celebrate it (or not).  But most of them find it more of a pain than anything.  They’re not really into the “holiday” and the only reason they’re doing anything at all is because their lady will make their lives miserable if they don’t.  These guys have this passive-aggressive pressure put on them to “don’t you dare forget” and “it better be something romantic.”  Those words sometimes are spoken, most of the time implied. There is always a half-hearted laugh, followed by “I better get her something, or else!”

Come on, girls!  Valentine’s Day is not a love-me, love-me-not situation.

What are you really looking for from these obligatory gifts?  Bragging rights?  The ability to save face when all your friends compare notes the next day?  Because, let me repeat…gas station flowers. Need I say more?

Please, let’s take a step back and look at this logically.  Is it really reasonable and fair to expect, to demand, that our significant other scrape together a romantic gift simply to avoid us being mad at them?  Christmas was less than 2 months ago!  We don’t need more stuff.  We don’t need or want candy.  We definitely do not need jewelry every time the Hallmark calendar says we should have it. We need to turn off the diamond commercials, tell our husband/boyfriend to forego the Walmart flowers, and come up with something that we both can enjoy.  Requiring a special gift — that is not romance.

It really is okay to make Valentine’s Day not that big of a deal.

Valentine's Day:  Spending time together — that is romance.

Valentine’s Day: Spending time together — that is romance.

Cook heart-shaped eggs; laugh together when they don’t turn out quite heart-shaped.  Snuggle up with a bottle of nice wine and a movie.  Put the kids to bed early and throw together a special meal that you can eat together in peace.  Crack some beers and play video games together.  Whatever you enjoy.  Spending time together — that is romance.

At the supermarket, I did see a few couples who were shopping together for Valentine’s weekend meals.  Steaks, strawberries, bubbly – no flowers, candy or jewelry in sight.  They looked relaxed and happy, very much unlike the guys waiting 15 minutes to buy a dozen roses because they were out of time and options.  I had lamb, cheesecake, and a nice bottle of red wine in my cart, along with my regular groceries.  Easy as you please.  K will get popcorn and a movie in her room; my husband and I will have dinner and queue up Netflix. It will be our time of togetherness, which is really what is truly at the heart of romance.

The point is, if you want to Valentine’s Day to be special, partner with your partner and come up with a plan where you can just enjoy each other’s company and celebrate your love.

It is possible to make Valentine’s Day something you can both look forward to.  Just stop making it an obligation.  Then your poor guy can get out of the grocery store and I can check out a lot more quickly.


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