Who enjoys Valentine’s Day? I ask that like a man facing an assembly, eager to see who will come forward and say, “I love it! Valentine’s Day is the best holiday! The chocolate, the flowers, the stuffed animals, the romantic dinners, the gooey atmosphere–––I love it, love it, love it!”
Well, I sure as heck won’t be that person.
Don’t get me wrong–––I like a good bit of romance. I’ll admit, it’s nice watching a cozy flick where some unlucky schmuck (here, I’m thinking of a character played by the likes of Jason Segel or Michael Cera) gets lucky in love. It’s nice turning on the radio and hearing heartfelt songs, or to open a magazine and read about how Jay Leno’s marriage is still going strong after 30 years. But, is Valentine’s Day for real?
This is a day when roses are bought in excess, when every wall and utility pole in town is adorned with pink and red ribbon. That “gooey atmosphere”? It’s telling the world around, “Love is grand!” Well, I would say hooray, but I can’t bring myself to do it. The reason why is because it’s phony, even for one day. Hollywood can help me out in illustrating this.
The last “romantic” (if that’s the word) movie I saw in a theatre was Valentine’s Day, directed by Garry Marshall (think Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries and about a dozen other films) and starring a cast of, oh, about 116 Hollywood A-listers. The film opens with Reed (Ashton Kutcher) giving girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba) an engagement ring, suggesting that they capitalize on their seemingly fiery love for each other. He tries surprising her with lunch, visiting her at their condo, and all kinds of romantic moves. However, she doesn’t feel the same way, and breaks off their relationship later in the day.
Enter Reed’s friend Alphonso, played with pizazz by one of my favorite comedians, the one-and-only George Lopez. Taking a break from his usual rants about ethnic relations, Lopez explains the secret to a great love: You need a lover who is passionate, for sure, but who is also a close friend. Alphonso imparts this on Reed, citing his own marriage as an example. (Head’s up: Spoiler alert.) Reed then feels moved to express his long-hidden love to heartbroken female friend Julia (Jennifer Garner). Sure enough, the movie ends with Reed and Julia diving into a relationship, while Alphonso goes home to have a delightful evening with his wife, both spouses smiling as they ride the swings in their backyard.
Leave it to George Lopez—famous for his comic routines on race, Latino culture and growing up in the projects of San Fernando Valley—to do a complete one-eighty and placing his heart on his sleeve and offering a warm slice of advice on the world’s most-treasured commodity. And how right he is: Thinking about the people I know (at least the people who are my Facebook “friends”), I see that the best relationships are the ones where the couple have a mix of romance and friendship.
In my mind are two students I knew in high school. They were either fighting or exchanging physical affection. There was never an in between. Their relationship lasted about two years, but it came to a relieving end, and I’m certain it was miserable the whole way through.
Unfortunately, those are the kinds of relationships that Valentine’s Day encourages. It encourages a relationship where two people rely on dopamine, the hormone that encourages romantic and sexual desire. Dopamine’s counterpart, oxytocin, which encourages a deeper level of bonding, has no role in the chocolate, flowers, and public displays of affection that define Valentine’s Day. In other words, this is a holiday which encourages couples to live on a flame which burns fiercely but briefly, rather than a flame on a stove, which keeps the relationship a warm one. Another translation? This is the holiday that celebrates the one-day stand–––one day of seemingly endless romancing, with tears and regret to come once the sun rises the following morning.
For this reason, I refuse to actively celebrate this holiday anymore. Yes, I celebrated it when I was a young’n who didn’t know any better. But now, thanks to a certain comedian, I do know better. And, this man won’t be a one-day stand.
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