So it’s Valentine’s day. A day some love to hate, a day others pretend to hate. A day some of us openly love, but not for Hallmark
reasons. Valentine’s Day, like Halloween, in newer to my part of the world. When I handed my husband a bar of chocolate last night, and asked him to write a little note to our kidlink, he asked “why? Valentine’s day is for Luuuuuvers.” I said because you know and I know we won’t do anything to celebrate, and in my house growing up, this is what happened. The kids got something. He signed it. (“Love, the Big Dog”, to be exact).
I don’t know what couples can actually exchange chocolates and cards without feeling like they are participating in a skit. I know on TV it seems to work, but romance on TV is like sex-usually as airbrushed and posed as Heidi Montag, and who really aspires to that? The good stuff does not read like a movie script. That’s only good in the movies.
2 days ago, I had a genius idea that I would multi-task, and take both my kid and my dog out for a jog, in the dark, with a can of mace, over broken streets where it’s not uncommon to have a hairy beast lung against its fence for you (and by you, I mean us). You probably know already where this is going. I fell, a great big sliding into home, taking the skin off my hand fall. I shrieked, my daughter cried, we hobbled home. My husband demanded that I hold my hand, now featuring a small topical map of Africa with mountains of gravel and rivers of blood, over the sink, while he ran to the store for “supplies.” And he fixed me. And on regular intervals changes my band aids, checking
the green slime now coating Africa with a mechanic’s precision. “Looks good. It’s not infected. Hold it like this,” he demands.
My husband should be a nurse right now. He was on the track when major life events interrupted our life. Then he was the supervisor over a house for highly autistic children. An excellent supervisor. And then major life events interrupted our life. And he is starting over again, trying to define himself. Trying to find our happily ever after. It is more than elusive. It is actively running in the opposite direction of any place we find ourselves. But he keeps trying.
I woke up this morning to the news that celebrated South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius killed his girlfriend. And I am struck by the comedy (forgive me!) in what could be considered her self penned obituary.
“In her own words on her Twitter biography, Reeva Steenkamp describes herself as an: “SA Model, Cover Girl, Tropika Island of Treasure Celeb Contestant, Law Graduate, Child of God.” Press Association, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 February 2013 12.33 GMT.
Apparently, this is the order of importance. Beauty, beauty, celebrity, education, Child of God. If this moniker is actually something that meant something to her, it seems fitting that it would have started the list, and been followed by a few more practical titles, or that it would be implied. Reeva is right, she is a Child of God, and I hope she is with him right now. But she didn’t earn it, any more than she earned her face. It seems to me that these lists we put next to our name should be either poetic, i.e. “Child of God, easily lost without GPS, love my dog but hate his slobber, failed writer and aspiring runner,” or actual accomplishments. If your definition of yourself reads like a resume for an OC house wife, it’s time to get a new definition. I hope Reeva didn’t really think these were the things that defined her. I suspect she did.
I am thinking of her because Valentine’s day, like the prom, seems to highlight a certain kind of desperation, if you let it. It brings out the old concerns: Am I good enough to deserve love? Will a secret someone send me a carnation? Will anyone ask me to prom? Am I fascinating enough? Pretty enough?
I listened to a podcast yesterday from this American Life about, of course, various experiments with love. One of the stories I won’t forget is about a couple who, after 13 years of being in a committed relationship, decided that, before they committed to marriage, they should really take a break to sleep around. Sounds like my jog, doesn’t it? And sure enough, the relationship crashes and burns. The lesson that the fellow learned? As he explained to the our friendly interviewer, Ira Glass, (I paraphrase) “if I ever DO get married, I will start with the agreement that after 7 years, it all ends. And we can decide if it’s worth it start over, or go our separate ways.”
Isn’t that so romantic? NO, of COURSE not! And bless Ira. He did it-he went there. “Seems to me” (I paraphrase again) that this is the nice thing about marriage. Even when you go to bed hating each other, you know you have time, to work on it.” “Really?” His guest said. “I guess I didn’t really think of it that way. “Really?” say the rest of us. What else could you think? Fidelity is romantic. Probably the most romantic thing on the planet. Definitely more romantic than chocolate and flowers. Because it lasts, if we choose it, if we work at it.
Reeva tweeted on her last night on earth “what do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?”And all I can think is, an African shaped scab. That’s about it. What my husband has up his sleeve is actually a little more romantic-it’s an immense tattoo of a tree, with the birth date of his parent, our daughter, and me tangled into the roots. I always tease him that he needs to add our anniversary, so he can check the date, just like he checks our birthdays. But that tattoo is like our marriage. Fairly permanent. He could take it off, if he really wanted to, but it would be messy, and leave a gaping would. And I hope it defines him. Father, son, husband, care taker, Faithful Big Dog. Ok, and obsessed downhill bike rider. But even he knows better-he hasn’t gotten that tattoo (yet!)
So on this sanctified day of love, may you cherish fidelity more than chocolate, and quality more than beauty and fame. May you be loved the way a little boy put it to his mother, who put it on Facebook: “I love you more than kids love jumping on the couch, and more than a hamburger loves McDonalds.” May you love and be loved like that;)