February 14, 2010: On Marketing and Meaning, Living and Loving

Valentine's Postcard, circa 1910, from Wikipedia

On this day, I’m reflecting, along with all the other writers and non-writers I know, on Love. I’m not a big fan of sentimentality organized around Hallmark greeting cards or tasteless waxy chocolates. I think the last time I got a heart-shaped box on Valentine’s Day might have been when I was eight or ten, back before my father went mad and left us all. I’m deeply in love with a cynic, skeptic and atheist, a man who’s more head than heart, who I admittedly wish would shower me with flowers on occasion, but whom I love all the more for his unwavering honesty (and for the fact that he loves it when I give him chocolate).

I’m not a fan of the marketing of Love in any form, in fact, though I see the well-meaning reasons for it in the case of philathropy. Still, Sally Struthers’ big weepy eyes gave me the creeps when I was a kid as she pleaded for our Love and Help from the small Sony TV sitting on our kitchen counter — it’s not that it wasn’t a good cause, it was the way the cause was put forth, pulling at our heartstrings, appealing to a sense of guilt more than anything else. We’ve become more sophisticated in our efforts to seduce middle- and upper-class folks into philanthropic causes, of course, and we’ve learned how to reach a much wider audience:   as I write, the Facebook pages for Haiti Funds and Support for Gay Marriage are growing by the hour.  And I belong to both of those causes, and more.

Romance DVDs for Sale!

But I’m leary of jumping on the Valentine’s bandwagon. I see the love pouring out all over the internet, but I would rather see that same kind of love on random days. If you go and research anything about Valentine’s Day today, you run into a whole lot of commerce. Even the informative website www.history.com, where I looked to research the much debated origins of Valentine’s Day, is hawking romance DVDs.

So no, I don’t want flowers and chocolate today. I want flowers and chocolate on a random day of the week, in March or May or November. (But they can’t be carnations or Hershey’s. I have my standards, after all.)

Year of the Tiger

All joking aside, and despite my attempts to celebrate the Chinese New Year on February 14, 2010 and not this ridiculously over-sentimentalized day, I am… thinking… about… Love. Not the kind of naïve and wistful love of my girlish youth. My post-feminist education and experience hinders me from believing that an all-consuming, you-complete-me love makes a girl glow, that the very act of giving herself over to another makes her whole, that marriage is The Key. That sounds a little 1950s to me and, frankly, makes me squirm; I’m no retro-girl who naively believes A Man Is All You Need. No, the love I’m thinking about is more than that.

Victorian Valentine, from Wikipedia

Today, and every day, love abounds. On a personal level, there’s a dynamic and robust twelve-year marriage and two daughters who light the way every day. A mother whose love reaches across all the miles I’ve put between us and siblings who have recovered a love that once seemed lost. A father who is a friend, and friends who connect across space and time. There’s even my first husband, back in my life thanks to a rapprochement which is being nurtured by better and more mature versions of ourselves and a mutual belief in, well, love.

Fijian Bounty, Love from Strangers

Today, Love in my life is bigger than me. It is not the burning-single-purpose-passion that I felt when I was twenty. It’s not the desperate emotion that I felt when love rescued me out of deep darkness. It’s not even the love that welled up inside when I married for the second time, this time a little more sure of myself, a little more committed. It’s all of those, and more. It’s knowing that all those loves have filled me up and made me who I am. It’s the love that overwhelms me when I’m sailing across an ocean. It’s the love that’s served up with generous portions of bananas and papaya and coconuts by South Pacific Islanders. It’s the love I feel when I look at my children and see parts of me and parts of their father and parts of them which are wholly and uniquely just them. It’s the love I see pouring out to Haitians, and the love I feel when I see friends joined in marriage because they believe in the ever-evolving, ever-improving capacity of humans to overcome prejudice and embrace love and courage over hate and fear.

Here’s to love, today and every day.

And to the Year of the Tiger.

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5 Responses to February 14, 2010: On Marketing and Meaning, Living and Loving

  1. George says:

    Oh happy day to all you on Momo — reach out your arms and feel the love coming to you from Tivoli.

  2. Priscilla says:

    “I’m deeply in love with a cynic, skeptic and atheist, a man who’s more head than heart, who I admittedly wish would shower me with flowers on occasion, but whom I love all the more for his unwavering honesty”

    Wow, reading that statement was like looking in a mirror.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how full my heart feels reading your writing, especially, in this piece, the last paragraph, but my efforts to describe my reaction just pale in comparison…I stumble and trip….so I will just say that I LOVE reading all that you have to say, and I would bring you flowers and GOOD chocolate on V-day (and other days) were I closer!

    I am off to make my traditional Red Velvet Cake, in the shape of a heart, decorated with cinnamon hearts. My kids have grown to love this cake, not so much for how it tastes, but because making it and eating it has become a tradition, one that no one they know shares. I hope that it will remind them when they are grown not of the pathetic, commercial holiday, but of the immense, fierce love we have for them, and hopefully show to them, every day.

    Happy Year of the Tiger!


    p.s. and the jury is still out on Theo and the immersion school. Of course, I want him to go, but it isn’t just up to me! He is quite interested, though, especially when I told him that children who study chinese generally end up smarter than average!!!

  3. Katy says:

    Well done, Michelle!

    & happy new year, tiger…

    • Thanks, Katy! And George! (and yes, I believe in diversity of interests; next thing you know I’ll be writing about NZ’s All Blacks!) And P! Love your story about making the heart shaped cake every year; love the image of you wielding a cake knife and feeling your fierce love!

      I feel all the encouragement and love from all of you, and I send some back…

  4. John says:

    Nicely done, Melvy! Love this.

    You are hereby forbidden to give me any more shit about being sentimental.

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