Lessons in Love

tristan-and-isolde-by-todd-peterson-at-fine-art-america 

Tristan and Isolde by Todd Peterson at Fine Art America

 Pourquoi faut-il de cette façon? (Why must it be this way?)

I had a bit of an epiphany the other day. After I picked up Brett from school, we went to Target to pick up a few things, including Valentine’s Day cards. Brett commented that he didn’t really like Valentine’s Day because it reminded him of how lonely he was.

That made me pause. I told him that when I was an undergrad, I always felt lonely on Valentine’s Day because although I was dating, there was no one special in my life. It was at that moment that I realized that Valentine’s Day is a complete non-holiday, perpetuated by the greeting card industry for couples, married and otherwise.

I know. I know. Valentine’s Day does have its roots dating back to the Roman Empire when the feast of Lupercalia occurred on the Ides of February, or February 15. Lupercalia was an ancient fertility ritual that was held around the time that birds began to mate. The festival was held in honor of the god Pan. Gifts were exchanged and couples would be paired. Our celebration today hearkens back more to the pagan holiday as we still celebrate with signs of Cupid or Eros as the symbol of the day.

According to the Christian legend, there was a Saint Valentine who went against the order of Emperor Claudius Gothicus and married young men to help to keep them from going to war. Valentine himself was sent to jail, and there he supposedly composed the first valentine to the jailer’s daughter.

Whatever it’s origins, the day has been totally exploited by greeting cards, pink teddy bears, and red hearts. Those of us who happen to be paired with someone feel an incredible sense of obligation to buy the perfect card and with it, the perfect gift to reflect our love. Those of us without a special someone are left feeling as if our lives are bereft of love and that no one will ever love us because no one gave us a gaudy pink teddy bear or mushy card that expressed his or her undying love.

I used to wait for my flowers or chocolate or both on Valentine’s day, measuring my love’s love for me by what I received on this day. Until the day of my epiphany. Truly. I mean, why is this day any different from any other?

The price of a dozen roses jumps $10 on this day, and falls back to normal just one day later. Isn’t that exploitative? Will that dozen roses prove that Corey loves me?

gustave-klimt-the-kiss-close-up
Gustave Klimt's "The Kiss" close-up

Corey and I say “I love you” to each other several times each day. Whenever we end a telephone conversation, we say it. If one of us is leaving the house, we say it. Before we close our eyes at night, we say it. And it isn’t just perfunctory; we mean it. Okay, sometimes it’s perfunctory. But when we sense that we are saying it just to say it, we back up, take a look at ourselves, and then say it as if we mean it with all of our hearts.

I don’t need roses for that. I don’t need a card for that. I love the cards that he chooses for me. As I have said, he always chooses well. But too many couples go way overboard for this holiday: diamonds, roses, chocolates, everything. What do they do the rest of the year? Do they say they love each other to each other and really mean it? Do they take care of one another without a second thought? Do they make each other feel loved through their actions and their words?

Roses are beautiful flowers, but they are not everlasting. Chocolate is wonderful; you know how I feel about chocolate, but once you eat it, it’s gone. Diamonds are spectacular, but I once knew a man who gave his wife a diamond anniversary ring and then left her two months later. These things are symbols.

I would rather have something that I know to be real and true every day than something that is just a symbol for a few days. I told Corey how I was feeling about this the other day, and he was completely shocked because I have always been such a romantic. The truth is that I am still a die-hard romantic, but I don’t want my romance dictated to me by a greeting card industry. Perhaps I am too cynical for my own good.

But when my son made that statement, it took me back to those years when I sat around feeling sorry for myself because no one was delivering flowers to me at work and how unloved I felt. And from that feeling I extended my sense of being unloved to my sense of self-worth. If I wasn’t worth loving, then perhaps I wasn’t worth anything at all. This is how the young mind works. It’s not logical, but these leaps in logic are not far-fetched for someone who already feels like an outsider.

And I know that I was not alone in feeling like that, and I am certain that people of all ages feel this way when Valentine’s Day rolls around and no cards are appearing on their desks or flowers are arriving at their doors. It shouldn’t be this way. We shouldn’t be consumed by the hype, but unfortunately we are.

That’s why I asked Corey, and he agreed, that we are going to boycott Valentine’s Day gift-giving from now on. We can still exchange cards, but the hunt for the perfect gift to show our love to one another seems superfluous and non-essential.

Some of the best presents Corey has ever given me were for no reason at all: a card put in my carryall for me to find later in the day, freshly-cut gardenias, planting a new mock orange beneath the bedroom window so that the smell will drift into the window, surprising me with tickets to see my favorite comedian. Unexpected tokens of affection. No prescribed holidays.

And so, the joint boycott of Valentine’s Day. We will continue to live our life together just fine without red teddy bears or sparkling glitter or overpriced roses, and I believe that regardless of what the commercials would have you believe, we will be just fine.

More later. Peace.

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Something Different for Wednesday

early-depiction-of-eros-as-protagonus
Early Depiction of Eros as Protogonus

 

Feeling Prolific Today

My telephone conversations went much better than expected today: My prescription insurance card has bee taken care of by the one really nice person in Human Resources, and my presecriptions were called in again and put on rush, so those two things are finally fixed. Hooray. Now I can start on another to-do list tomorrow.

But today I did something completely unexpected: I came home and wrote two poems. I’m not sure where they came from. I have a feeling that they were simmering under the surface, but with all of the emotions that have been tossing around my psyche lately, I didn’t realize that they were there.

So here they are; two completely different themes, well maybe not, but two entirely different approaches. I’m pretty happy with them because they reflect where I am at this moment, so I’m putting them out here.

The first one has a Greek mythological backgroud based on Heriod’s Theogeny that Eros is much older than the Greek gods, that he actually is one of the first four to rise out of chaos, so it’s important to remember that this Eros is not the equivalent of Cupid.

The other one, well, I’m really not sure where the other one came from. I think that it just arose from watching young girls try so hard to be different that they all look the same. And what they don’t realize is that a lot of this is permanent: tattoos on your face and neck? Those don’t go away. I mean I know that we all went through our rebellious phases, with whatever that entailed, but am I just out of touch here when I think that having piercings all over your body might hurt you on a job interview later?

Who knows? Maybe I am. Maybe I’m completely wrong about this. It’s not the length of the skirts. God knows I wore mine as short as I could. It’s not the wild colors. It’s none of that. Maybe what distresses me so is the act of being deliberately stupid. To what end? What can possibly be gained by acting as if you don’t have a brain in your head? I think that maybe that’s what I really take issue with. Or with issue up with which I will not put . . .

Okay, enough now. As I said earlier, here they are:

Conversations With a Son Who is Never There

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Statue of Eros

Penia Speaks to Eros

 

 What if I were to leave and never return?

Would you notice the lack of my presence,

or would you continue with your chaotic existence

a world that nothing penetrates

made for you and you alone.

 

What would you do if everyone around you

were as covetous as you,

feeling entitled to everything

without ever once contemplating

how it makes its way to you . . .

 

How would you feel if I failed to keep my promises

when you have always known that I would?

I wonder if it would be anything

more than an inconvenience to you

in your ability to continue to take when you please

leaving nothing but cruelty,

bitter and sweet, or

indiscriminate charisma and charm.

 

What if I were to leave and never return?

What if the earth suddenly ceased

its eternal revolution on its axis

and you fell off because none of your anchors

remained to keep you grounded

to remind you

that you may be only human

after all,

and even humans need guidance occasionally

from mere demi-gods.

 

Lolita Liwag

February 6, 2009

 

*Eros is the child of Porus (Expedience) and Penia (Poverty). Like Penia, Eros was said to always be in search of something, and like Porus, he always found a means of attaining his aims.

                                                                                                                                    

 

Observations from the Sidewalk

anime3_pink_goth 

Pink–Haired Gurl

Pink-haired gurl

your attempts to scandalize

are too simplistic—

having already gone there

with my red streaks, black hair,

black and red talons

silver rings on every finger

patchouli oil and incense,

offers to read cards and fortunes—why not?

Be more inventive, less marginal

You want to prove something?

Get a job, or lurn to spell,

be different from the fray.

All of those holes in your eyebrow, nose,

And all the way down both your earlobes,

paint on your neck and breasts—

nothing remains sacrosanct . . .

Only a sad animé now

where once you were a young gurl

who waited, wept about daddy

and dressed your Barbie

in pretty pink dresses.

But daddy left home

and Barbie was all alone.

Little gurl lost, perhaps 

you had more to wonder about then,

in your black patent Mary Janes

and white lace socks,

More than you can ever accomplish now

in the tortured performance art

that your life has become.

So despondent and blue.

No tears shed for you,

Poor little pink-haired gurl.

 

  pink-hair-with-rosary 

Lolita Liwag

February 6, 2009

More later. Peace.