|Couple at the Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wisconsin|
Weird. I'm at a loss to explain it, but can toss out a few theories: A) the economy is still sagging, promotions cost money, the wad was shot at Christmas, so businesses decided it was best to limp on until spring; B) the Winter Olympics sucked all the hoopla out of the room; C) Gay marriage, having ruined the institution of wedlock, is now corrupting romance itself; D) it's Obama's fault.
I certainly didn't write anything for the newspaper about Valentine's Day this year. Been there, done that. At this stage of the game, Edie and I don't want to ignore the holiday—that would be sad—but don't beat ourselves up commissioning jewelry and engraving love sonnets on grains of rice either. We know. This is where tradition comes in so handy. Tradition takes the place of surprise—you're doing something, but nothing that's going to roil the placid waters of matrimonial harmony, or break the bank. So we will be lunching, quietly, at Prairie Grass in Northbrook, where we always go, where I hope they will have Door County Sour Cherry Pie, as they have on Valentine's Days past.
For those who want a little additional perspective on the heart-shaped holiday, a piece of Valentine's Day candy from The Vault. Five years ago, I waved the flag in surrender:
Sure, Valentine's Day is commercial, but then so is getting married. You obtain a license, as if you were opening a bar. Objects of value are exchanged. Oaths are taken. You may even sign a contract. Mine was in Aramaic.
Those guys who airily announce they won't let themselves be bullied by the Hallmark Corp. into putting on a display of affection on command doth protest too much, methinks. The implication is that they'll do something special later, on their own terms; the reality is, they never do. I can see them sprawled on the couch all day Sunday, watching basketball, while their honeys glare at them, disappointed.
Even birds know that love demands you fluff your feathers and show off. At least occasionally. Otherwise, love becomes little more than a shared routine, a practical domestic joining of forces. True, love can't be on display, can't be splendid, all the time. The truth is, love changes year by year, day by day, sometimes second by second. Love is multifaceted, extraordinary, strange and wonderful, fleeting and forever. It stops you in your tracks and makes you run up the stairs. It is the boy tugging on the girl's pigtails and the aged widow who lives for years with the mummified corpse of her husband.
The mystery of those mummified mate stories falls away when you place them into the continuum of marriage -- enough decades go by, and you don't harp on your partner's peculiarities.
If you're lucky enough to have a partner. There's a whole lot of lonely in the world. Before decomposition sets in, if you love them, show them. If not on Valentine's Day, when?