It’s February — a month when the fancies of many turn to thoughts of love. An impending Valentine’s Day will do that, whether we have romance in our lives or not. But if my mental state is going to be governed by the holidays, what do I do about Presidents’ Day this year, other than shudder? O.K. Let’s stick to love.
Primary relationships, lovers, mates, or significant others — they’re probably going to want acknowledgement on Valentine’s Day. That goes for both partners in your ménage à trois. No loved one in your life? At this point in our society and cultural history, the greeting card and chocolate-in-a-heart-shaped-box industries have addressed that potential shortfall by marketing V-Day tokens for parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, pets, your neighbor, your grocer, and your mechanic. Really. I’m not saying it’s a scam. I’ll leave that to you.
There’s so much pressure on people to make the appropriate Valentine’s Day gesture to those we care about that something intended at its core to be a beautiful, positive, nurturing thing might actually disappoint your intended and make you miserable. That’s a conundrum to make any sensible individual ask, “What’s so happy about Valentine’s Day?”
COPING AND COMFORT
If love is the issue, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the love of someone you know or would like to know better that could well result in pure torment. Perhaps the easiest way to cope with Valentine’s Day would be to un-tether it from the concept of romantic love between humans (or, to stretch a point again, certain domesticated animals) and make it about things we love that make us happy wherever and whenever we encounter them. If raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens warm your heart (not that they do much for mine, although I do like a companionable cat), Feb. 14 is as good a time as any to feel the warmth.
Whatever you love, simply relish it on Valentine’s Day. I adore the melancholy music of British folk-jazz singer-songwriter Nick Drake, the droll movies of gentle French comic maestro Jacques Tati, and the hard-boiled novels of colorful Los Angeles crime-fiction writer Raymond Chandler. Be advised that I’m not sending any of them a bountiful bouquet of roses, since all three are dead — and not recently, so I wouldn’t gift any of their estates with flowers, either.
My favorite food is pasta, including almost any variety except orzo. I’m particularly partial to spaghetti, vermicelli, and especially rigatoni for some unknown reason, as long as it’s served al dente. Place a plate of penne in a spicy arrabbiata sauce in front of me, and I am beyond comforted. And if it were the tri-colore pesto dish I had at a Roman trattoria some years ago, I’d be in the Italian equivalent of culinary heaven. Even thinking about those three mounds of angel-hair pasta — each one tossed with a different type of pesto: basil, sun-dried tomato, and olive — makes me salivate like one of Pavlov’s pooches. That’s love.
LOVING YOUR HAPPINESS
I get that giddy feeling — one veering toward amorous — when I look out at San Francisco Bay as the fog rolls over and under the Golden Gate Bridge or I stand between garden apartments in Los Angeles as the sun goes down and the night-blooming jasmine begins perfuming the air. Or when I listen to “Under the Pressure” by The War on Drugs, a song that always gives me goose bumps. Or when I watch the characters played by Joel McCrae and Veronica Lake reunite in the last act of writer-director Preston Sturges’ 1941 masterpiece Sullivan’s Travels for the umpteenth time and I find myself involuntarily tearing up yet again.
Hallmark doesn’t make Valentine’s Day cards for any of that, nor are they necessary. Singer Bryan Ferry of the romantic art-rock band Roxy Music, filmmaker Taika Waititi of JoJo Rabbit renown, or spy novelist Len Deighton would probably be flummoxed if I sent each of them a Whitman sampler — even one with a card that read “I love you — Your devoted fan, Michael.” You’re not gonna ask a sunset on Stinson Beach to be your valentine, and you’re not taking it out to a fancy dinner. And the beauty of it (so to speak) is that you don’t have to do anything but revel in it. Talk about unconditional love.
My message here is that you don’t have to stress out over Valentine’s Day, with or without anyone at your side. Forget the frou-frou stuff and just embrace what brings joy, whether you’re alone or together. It’ll be like giving yourself a Valentine’s Day gift.
Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast, via GABnet.net, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster