All You Need Is Overanalysis
February 14, 2012 § 2 Comments
It’s Valentine’s Day and I feel that it is incumbent on me to write something about love. Well, okay. But I can’t organize it into any kind of beautiful essay or snarky send-up because I don’t really feel that strongly about the holiday per se, except that I view it, like most holidays, as an excuse for baked goods.
Nevertheless, here are a few thoughts.
1. Can we stop making this one day so black and white? Quit taking it so goddamned seriously! Or, for that matter, quit giving it any significance whatsoever! People who think Valentine’s Day means anything are like the kind of people who actually thought their junior prom was going to be romantic. It’s a dumb idea and you need to divest yourself of it right now. Because, look. it’s not like people in relationships are actually really happy today and it’s not like single people are actually drowning in sorrows and/or cheap scotch. I mean, maybe some are, but if they are, it’s because they want to feel really happy or really sad and the day just gives them a reason.
2. If you know there is love in your life–and there probably is, somewhere–be grateful. Reciprocate. Full stop, end story. Any display of affection on today is just a brass ring. Real love is millions of mundane micromoments* that you need to take time to notice. When your sister lets you sob on the phone to her from New York or your boyfriend calls you four times in a row at 7:15 to make sure your new medication didn’t make you sleep through work or your friends help you tie your hair back so you can throw up vodka and brownies into a dorm room sink, this is love. Boring! Embarrassing! Messy! Not involving anything red or heart-shaped! It mingles in every part of your life, from giving you the biggest steak to climbing in your lap to lending you bus fare, and if you keep waiting for the Grand Moment, it will not come, and then, at the risk of sounding dire, you are going to die thinking you missed something. You didn’t. It was there, fragmented and stretched across every day.
3. When I was in kindergarten I kept the valentine the boy I liked gave me on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. I got in the habit of kissing the part where he had signed his name so much that it turned into an unreadable smear of marker. I think there’s a metaphor there.
4. The primacy of love is ingrained in Western culture going back a long, long time. I’m going to take a rather hubristic guess and assert that the 12th century and the invention of courtly love** has a lot to do with this. People like to think that “romance novels”*** as such came about around the time of Jane Austen, but really, the romances of the 1100s were doing a lot of the same things. They were written for young women as a way to explain what this strange concept of love was and should be. They thought that love was the only thing keeping human civilization going, but it needed to be the right kind of love. The kind that didn’t make people abandon everything else they were doing, but still had them making just enough babies to keep the species from dying out. So? Rules. The romances took the extensive codification of scholarly treatises on love and enacted them with characters in stories that women would hear, enjoy, and learn from, maybe without even realizing it. Love had to be procreative but restrained. Hence: courtly love. All these ideas of love-as-pain, playing-hard-to-get, literal knights-in-shining-armor? Old. Very old. The good news is, that means you can ignore them. The human race isn’t in danger of dying out, you don’t need to suffer, and no one has to win at a tournament to marry you.
5. For the love of Christ, it’s Valentines. The only one allowed to call it Valentimes is me. Ironically. And you have to laugh.
*Say that ten times fast. Or don’t.
**What do you mean, am I writing a thesis on this?
***What do you mean, have I spent a significant portion of my young life writing in this genre?