I think Valentine’s Day is less about love and more about capitalism. I mean, the actual St. Valentine was beaten to death and then decapitated. Hallmark came along and turned his death into an occasion for buying chocolates and flowers. If that’s not the very definition of capitalism, I don’t know what is.
A day of romance is difficult when neither of you is all that romantic. I tried. I would send chocolates to Kelly’s work with cards reading, “Say you’ll spend just one lifetime with me, but know that one lifetime will never be enough” or “You’re the dream I’ll go on dreaming forever.” All the women he worked with would swoon, and he would tell them I’d stolen it from some musical or poem.
Kids can complicate the whole situation – like they do every other aspect of romance. A couple of years ago, the resource and support website for gay, bi, and trans dads, gayswithkids, asked guys to submit short videos sharing how they observed Valentine’s Day pre- and post-kids. One couple mentioned how, before fatherhood, they would go to an upscale restaurant together; now they make homemade pizza with help from their daughter, and then watch a movie of her choice – one she’s seen six times.
For another couple, the day was never anything special. Before kids, they’d try to grab dinner if they could. Now, with children, they don’t even exchange cards. Still another couple planned to take their toddler with them to Vegas to celebrate because they didn’t want to be stereotypical parents and decided to include their daughter in their plans.
Valentine’s Day can be difficult for LGBTQ+ people. Experts note that the commercialization of the day has often excluded queer people and therefore celebrating it can prove awkward. In fact, as I researched this topic, I discovered that there’s even a Gay Valentine’s Day – well, unofficially – on February 15. Apparently, it’s intended for LGBTQ+ people to celebrate our love with a special night out on the town free from the burden of being surrounded by straight couples.
Actually, googling the words “Valentine’s” and “gay” produces a litany of responses that read like the lyrics of an Adam Sandler parody. Suggestions spanned the spectrum from spending the day volunteering to taking a walk to having a talk about finances. Who said romance is dead?
To me, these suggested activities seem to reiterate the notion that Valentine’s isn’t for gay people. One site actually pondered what gift two gay guys could possibly give each other – as if we don’t like flowers and chocolates.
The lifestyle blogger Catherine Short tells how her own mother really loves Valentine’s Day but not as a day to celebrate one’s significant other. She also never expects any sort of gift or acknowledgment from her husband or kids. Instead, Short says, her mom turned the “holiday” into a fun day for family and friends, a way to “express love to people important to us.” Maybe that’s why so many gay parents include their rug rats in their celebrations – they’re the most important people in our lives.
We only had one rule about Valentine’s when the boys were growing up: give a card to every kid in the class, no matter how weird you think they are. We’ve always given them each a small box of chocolates and that’s it. There’s no volunteering or walks in the neighborhood. We never expected, nor wanted, anything from them. We’ll observe the day the same way this year.
I guess we don’t need a decapitated 1700-year-old Roman saint to remind us that we love each other.