on hating valentine’s day

You could print this out and give it to someone special!

One of the best things I ever wrote was a column in my high school paper about hating Valentine’s Day.  Fueled by all the angst of being 17 and never having had a boyfriend, I was downright inspired.  If I may say so myself, the imagery was excellent.  I may have mentioned that every January, pink and red displays pop up like pimples in stores, and stuffed animals “hang like convicts” over cash registers, begging shoppers to “Be Mine.”  I painted a scene of a smoky room in which a conspiracy was born, hashed out between the DeBeers diamond people, the greeting card industry, Victoria’s Secret, Godiva, and an international flower-growers cartel, Valentine’s Day was born.  I railed against a manufactured holiday, I exclaimed that love should be celebrated every day of the year, I complained that people without partners feel left out.  That piece won me an award from the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association.  It was all true.

And yet, a year later I met my true love, and a year after that, I had my first ever Valentine who wasn’t my dad.  And now? Now I kinda like Valentine’s day.  I like homemade cards with heartfelt inscriptions.  One year Jon gave me a glittered drawing of a train that said “I Choo Choo Choose You,” just like the card Lisa received on The Simpsons.  For our first Valentine’s in Charleston, he drew me a picture of Rainbow Row and thanked me for coming here with him.  I like thoughtful gifts, the smaller and sillier the better.  One year, Jon gave me a packet of zinnia seeds, knowing they were my favorite flowers, but unable to find any live ones in stores.  That packet of seeds made me happier than any bouquet could have, and I planted them, and grew many, many bouquets.  I also like excuses to go out to a rare fancy dinner (one of our favorite places here in Charleston is FIG, you should try it).  And really, beyond that, I try to avoid the manufactured-ness of corporate Valentine’s Day.  I want a homemade card, a thoughtful gift, if at all, and maybe a nice dinner, if at all.  I want to wear red and act schmoopy and call my husband my Valentine.  I don’t need any kisses that begin with Kay, thank you very much.

So what about my angsty self who used to rail against Hallmark Holidays? I wish I could tell 17 year old me to stop flipping out.  Valentine’s Day wasn’t really for me, then.  And that’s fine.  But it’s not like my bitterness about the holiday ever helped me land a Valentine of my own.  And it’s not like I was really that unhappy– I’m pretty sure I went and saw a chick flick with my best gal pals, and we laughed our heads off. There’s more than one kind of love worth celebrating on V-Day. This Wednesday I’ll be repeating the chick flick with the chicks tradition and seeing Valentine’s Day with my girlfriends at Cinebarre.

In fact, there are lots of fun things to do if you’ve got no Valentine to call your own.  Here in Charleston, you could see the Vagina Monologues at the College of Charleston, check out the Mellow Mushroom’s F-Cupid party, or go to the Valentine Sock Hop, get dolled up like a pinup and dance to some rockabilly with the Lowcountry High Rollers roller derby team (I secretly wish I could go to this event, but I’m pretty sure it’s not up my Valentine’s alley, and there will be burlesque dancers performing, so, not for us).  As for me and my Valentine, I made him a card and a little surprise, and we’ll probably be staying in.  Downtown restaurants will probably be insane since the big Southeastern Wildlife Exposition is in town, and I’m not in the mood to fight the camo-clad masses for a table.

Updated to Add: Check out this post on Redesigning Valentine’s Day. I agree with this part, to an extent:

Goal No. 1: Clarify expectations

Sorry single people, this day is not for you. Father’s Day isn’t for mothers and Mother’s Day isn’t for fathers… you have Spring Break, what else do you want?

Applies only to romantic love between two people, so if you want to celebrate friendship you will need to find another day.

Responsibility for displays of affection falls on both parties. Men screw up enough throughout the year to put the weight of a holiday on their shoulders.

On January 1st discuss with your partner whether you will celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sign a piece of paper if needed.

date night?

Does taking a walk count as a "date night," or does it count only if you're holding hands?

If there’s one thing that confuses me about the whole discourse of modern marrieds, it’s “date night.”  Particularly in churches, it seems couples are encouraged to have a regular date night, to continue dating their spouse.  And the more I think about it, the more confused I get.

Like, what counts as a date? If we regularly go out to eat, does that count as a date every time? Or only if we plan it in advance? Or only if it’s the kind of place with real table cloths? What about cooking a meal together? Does that count as a date?  Do you have to go to a movie, or would renting a movie count as a date? I would have considered renting a movie a date back when Jon and I were dating, but is it no longer a date if we live together?  Or taking a walk– we liked to take walks when we were dating, so is it a date when we walk the dogs together? Is it only a date if we’re holding hands while we walk?

Come to think of it, pondering what a married date night looks like makes me think of nothing so much as a brochure my friends and I received and mocked in college: 101 Ways to Make Love Without Doing It. If those things count as dates, Jon and I have had 31 dates (at least, this doesn’t include repeats of the same activity) in the past month.  Really, though, I’m not clear on what delineates a “date night” from “sharing life together” and couldn’t tell ya the last “date” we had. Because really, we’re married. We’re not dating anymore. Thank God.

Though I must say, sipping spiked Russian Tea while snuggling on the couch wearing PJs and listening to music in the glow of the Christmas tree, which we did last night, is a darn good date, though I’m not sure it would count towards the mysterious but apparently all important “date night.”

getting the thankfulness started

i'd be really REALLY thankful if we got more hammock time...

It was not so many Thanksgivings ago that I told my (biological for those who know both of the women who have mothered me) mother that I never wanted to see her again, and then basically didn’t for several years.  I was in junior high at the time. Not to get into the whole long story, but we had hurt and been hurt by each other, had misunderstood each other, and basically ceased to have a relationship after years of hurt and misunderstanding.  And it seemed that as years went by, hurt and misunderstanding piled upon hurt and misunderstanding, and even talking on the phone became difficult.  At the same time I felt guilty and somehow defective for not being able to have a functional relationship with my own mother, but the guilt just made the hurt and misunderstanding even harder to deal with.  Others who attempted to help heal this broken relationship just added to the burden of guilt and pain, making me feel even more defective.

Tonight my mother is coming to visit me for Thanksgiving.  It will be the first Thanksgiving we have spent together since that horrible Thanksgiving years ago.  I’m actually really looking forward to it.

What changed between then and now?

Jon.

This Thanksgiving, I have to say, I am so thankful for him.  It is thanks to Jon that I have a relationship with my mother today, one in which we can email and talk on the phone and visit and just know and be with each other in a way I couldn’t have imagined not so many years ago.  Rather than making me feel guilty for my broken relationship with my mother, Jon patiently and gently pointed out that while I didn’t have to reconcile, didn’t have to force forgiveness I didn’t feel, I did have to let go of anger and bitterness and hurt, because those things were weighing me down and making me a bitter and unhappy person.  And because I never felt anything but accepted and loved by him, I felt free to let go of those feelings that were holding me back and keeping me from really being myself.  And I also felt comfortable enough to see a counselor and work through my own issues.  And eventually, I felt free enough to forgive. And forgiveness led to reconciliation, and reconciliation to renewed relationship.

How many people can honestly say their partner makes them a better person, helps them have better relationships with others, and shows them what grace and freedom really look like? I can. And this Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful for him.

is technology killing love and trust?

Image via Air America via degreedate.com.

David Brooks is sort of the Andy Rooney of the New York Times, always baffled by modern ways of life and love, and wishing we could return to the good old days, maybe even in Lake Woebegone, where the men don’t have iPhones, the women don’t have Facebook, and all of the relationships are hookup-free until marriage.  Brooks’ latest column is about how cell phones and texting have killed romance.

Brooks’ column is littered with proof of how he just. doesn’t. get. it. (He notes that the daters he quotes make up nicknames for their partners, not catching that “Stage Five Clinger” is a “Wedding Crashers” reference.  He also seems to think Bruce Springsteen is an appropriate cultural reference.) I sort of imagine that Brooks does his phoning on a Jitterbug.  He seems to almost want to return to the days of arranged marriages:

Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the “Happy Days” era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.

Now we have a dating free market, and free market conservative though he is, Brooks DOES NOT WANT!!!  Why? Because “texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination.” Continue reading “is technology killing love and trust?”

on marriage equality and equal marriages

I just read a really excellent piece on marriage by Melissa Harris-Lacewell over at The Nation.  The entire blog entry is wonderful and if you’re interested in marriage, marriage equality, civil rights, and/or feminism, you should read the whole thing.  What particularly stood out for me was this section:

Typically advocates of marriage equality try to reassure the voting public the same-sex marriage will not change the institution itself. “Don’t worry,” we say, “allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will not threaten the established norms; it will simply assimilate new groups into old practices.”

This is a pragmatic, political strategy, but I hope it is not true. I hope same-sex marriage changes marriage itself. I hope it changes marriage the way that no-fault divorce changed it. I hope it changes marriage the way that allowing women to own their own property and seek their own credit changed marriage. I hope it changes marriage the way laws against spousal abuse and child neglect changed marriage. I hope marriage equality results more equal marriages. I also hope it offers more opportunities for building meaningful adult lives outside of marriage.I know from personal experience that a bad marriage is enough to rid you of the fear of death. But this experience allows me suspect that a good marriage must be among the most powerful, life-affirming, emotionally fulfilling experiences available to human beings. I support marriage equality not only because it is unfair, in a legal sense, to deny people the privileges of marriage based on their identity; but also because it also seems immoral to forbid some human beings from opting into this emotional experience.

We must do more than simply integrate new groups into an old system. Let’s use this moment to re-imagine marriage and marriage-free options for building families, rearing children, crafting communities, and distributing public goods.

Here I must first confess that I have been one of those people who has said that gay marriage doesn’t change my straight one. That it doesn’t matter to me what my neighbors are doing in their homes, with their families.  That two people in love committing to each other has no bearing on my love or my commitment.

But the truth is, it does. And it should. And I want it to. Continue reading “on marriage equality and equal marriages”

more married

n86100010_30030954_7356Three years ago today, a crazy 21-year-old still in college walked down an aisle and said “I do.”  She was crazy not because she was unsure of herself but because she was so. darn. sure.  She took a leap without an ounce of fear or hesitation, which is perhaps the craziest thing of all.

That 21-year-old is obviously me, but the third person sounds so much more writerly, doesn’t it?  I had every reason in the world to be scared out of my mind– as the child of divorce, I know all too well the reality of a broken marriage, the odds that things won’t work out, the possibility that something that began in eye-gazing wonder could end in screaming and the crashing of a box of wedding dishes into a driveway.  But after three years of dating, in which we saw each other at our best and our worst, and after a seriously in-depth book I highly recommend called 101 Questions to Ask before you get Engaged, we knew we were ready, that we could face whatever came our way as long as we were facing it together.

In some ways, when we were getting ready for the wedding, I realized that we had already been becoming married.  I know that sounds strange, but if marriage is the merging of two into one, we had slowly been knitted together, heart-string by heart-string, over the three years before.  Married wasn’t something we suddenly became with the incantation of vows in a ceremony on a wedding day, but something we had been and are still becoming, day by day, intimacy upon intimacy.  As someone who grew up in the Presbyterian Church, the wedding itself reminded me of what I had always been told about sacraments.  They are outward signs of inward graces.  They’re our way of acknowledging things that had already been at work within us, just like baptism isn’t a magical act that confers salvation, but a ritual that recognizes salvation which has been freely poured out like water.

About 9 months after we got married, I graduated from college and went on a two-week trip to England with my English class.  It was an absolutely wonderful trip, full of hiking across the Brontes’ moors and up peaks that inspired Wordsworth and around lakes that spoke to Ruskin.  We kept journals throughout the experience, as a way of receiving our grades, and in many ways I used my journal to pour out my heart as I was missing my husband terribly during the longest time we’d spent apart since our wedding.  I remember wondering what my professor would think about these ramblings, because I wrote about this strange feeling of not being able to enjoy the trip to the fullest because the one person I wanted to be sitting next to on double-decker buses, strolling hand in hand through Kensington Gardens, and just talking to about everything was not there with me.  It was on that trip, I wrote, that I started to begin to realize “just how married” I really was.  It was like I was having a wonderful experience while simultaneously feeling like half my heart was across an ocean.  Thankfully, my professor did NOT think me a sad sap, and wrote that she had really enjoyed my journal.

Now, three years after my wedding day, I can see how these passing years have made us even more married, ever more tightly bound together.  These past three years have been some of the hardest of our lives, living far away from all of our family and friends, suffering the stresses and indignities of residency, and the emotions and frustrations that come with sleep deprivation and schedules that don’t always line up and the difficulties of loneliness.  And yet, more than anything, these three difficult years have shown us that we can face anything that comes our way so long as we face it hand in hand.  In a few months we’ll get an email or an envelope informing us where we’ll be spending the next three years of our lives as Jon does a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine, and it may be here, it may be one of our homes (Little Rock or Denver), it may be a completely new city altogether where we have to start fresh all over again (Nashville, Birmingham, Salt Lake City).  But instead of being afraid of that challenge, as I was at the beginning of residency, I’m excited for it.  I even welcome it.  It’s completely out of our control, but I know that we will thrive and be closer and better for whatever the next chapter holds.  Because we’re doing that now, and we’re going to keep on keepin’ on.  I’m excited to see how much more married I feel after the next 3 years, and the next 30…

mawwiage, mad-dog, and fairness

Mr. Rogers taught me that no one knows what youre thinking and feeling unless you tell them.
Mr. Rogers taught me that "no one knows what you're thinking and feeling unless you tell them."

I write a lot about marriage equality and believe very strongly in marriage equality largely because I’m so happily married.  Though it seems some straight people see their marriages as somehow under attack from a threat of gay marriage, experiencing marriage has only more firmly convinced me how wrong it is to deny anyone a chance at this kind of happiness– spending every day with their best friend.

And today I am especially thankful for my husband and “dearest friend” (as Abigail Adams often referred to her husband John).  Yesterday I got home and was just feeling sort of mad-doggish (shout out to my English prof Dr. Robbins, who taught me this term from J.M. Barrie: “to be mad-dog is to kick out at everything, and there is some satisfaction in that” from “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens”).  It didn’t help that I had thought Jon would be home around 7:30 and didn’t arrive until about 20 minutes later than that, meaning the dinner I had made was overcooked and soggy by the time he got in the door.

So he arrived to be greeted by a wife who was seemingly annoyed at everything he said.  WHY ARE YOU TALKING SO WEIRD? WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHAT KIND OF VEGGIE IS THIS, IT’S AN ENDIVE, GAH!  YEAH, DINNER WOULD BE TASTIER IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE 20 MINUTES AGO!  The poor guy would have been very justified to get snippy back at me, but instead, in his typically patient manner, he just asked me why I was so annoyed with him.  But the truth was, I really had no idea.  I was just irritated at the world and I had no idea why.  And if that was frustrating for HIM, it’s also super frustrating to me.  It’s totally unfair when my feelings are a mystery even to me.  Continue reading “mawwiage, mad-dog, and fairness”

summer lovin’

Image by okapisafari via Flickr.
Image by okapisafari via Flickr.

Today campers are arriving at the summer camp where I was a camper and where I spent one very memorable summer as a camp counselor.  It has me reminiscing.

6 summers ago, I had just graduated from high school, and I got a job I didn’t even apply for.  On the day before I was supposed to leave with my family for a Disney World vacation, I got a phone call from the camp, asking me if I had plans for the summer and could I please consider working as a counselor?  Yes, I was a year too young according to the rules, but they were short on staff, and I was an experienced camper.  Not looking forward to spending the summer at home with my parents, I said, of course, but I can’t be there until I get back from Florida, which would cause me to miss the first week of staff training.

On the day I arrived, one other counselor was also arriving a week late, because his sister had just gotten married and he couldn’t make it to camp until after the wedding.  We were introduced in the dining room and I immediately thought he was the cutest boy I’d ever seen.  I schemed to sit next to him for CPR training, during which time we got into trouble with the instructor for talking too much.  That evening the staff had a cook-out in the Outback Adventure Area, where we would be spending the night in cabins and learning how to do cook-outs as we would with our own campers each week of the summer.  I remember that we tossed a frisbee.  I remember that I loved his laugh.  We started chatting around a campfire with several other counselors, but before too long, we were the only two still up.  I saw three shooting stars, which he claimed were really just fireflies, but they couldn’t have been.  Because I made three wishes.  And they came true.  (I KNOW! Totally cheesy and ridiculous but absolutely true!)  Continue reading “summer lovin’”