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Fuck Hallmark (Or, Dear Wife I Love You More Than My Life)

February 14, 2011

– a Valentine Soliloquy.

I am not a romantic man. The reasons for this are unclear. I grew up with parents who demonstrated for me on a near daily basis what a good marriage looks like, and my father, as stubborn and as harsh as he could sometimes be, was in no way delinquent in demonstrating how to be a good and loving husband. And poets are, as I understand it, a romantic lot. Or, at any rate, we’re supposed to be. This is a constant source of frustration for my wife, who deserves all the romance that is beyond me and much more.

I have learned to be sweet, though. Sometimes. Occasionally. (I really do try.) And while I like to think this is an adequate substitute, I know it’s not.

This isn’t merely a rant on the Valentine’s Day, day of ill-repute, invention of greedy gift card and candy companies to make up for the slow season between Christmas and Easter. If that sounds cynical, let me explain.

Commercials spend a lot time trying to, and largely succeed in, convincing the consumer public that a new diamond necklace, perfume, a dozen roses, sexy lingerie, and the right box of chocolate is the appropriate way to show that special someone that we love them. And I suppose there’s nothing wrong with buying any of those things for someone; there certainly isn’t anything wrong about taking advantage of the sale price that tends to accompany “holiday” sales. I suspect this all has less to do with a desire to show deep affection than it does with a rampant consumer culture and the inevitable guilt people feel when they pay less attention to the person they love than they do a ham salad sandwich.

I’m equally cynical when it comes to weddings – I bring this up because tomorrow, the 15th, is mine and my wife’s anniversary. We will be married 8 years, together for 10. Note: I said WEDDINGS not MARRIAGE. Weddings are sold to innocent little girls from the moment they’re old enough to say “Barbie” as The Event That Should Mark Their Entire Lives. This, too, is utter and complete bullshit. The Industry that has built up around two people promising to love and honor til death do they part is absurd. Planners and cake bakers and dress makers. Bridezillas and an increasingly disparaging number of Reality TV shows dedicated to showing all the reasons why people should either 1) never get married or 2) have the good sense to elope. Used to be, you could just tip the preacher or judge a little extra and be done with it.

A wedding always ends up having to do, one way or another, with someone’s mother. Guest Lists. Gift Registries. Who sits on whose side. Vests versus cummerbunds. Live band or a cheap stereo. And if it’s not about someone’s mother, then it ends up being about everything else and not what it ought to be about – which is that after the bands have been read, two people are actually MARRIED.

That means you wake up the next morning with bad breath and a stinky ass, and the person next to you in bed is still married to you. One or both of you will snore. One or both of you will forget to close the cap on the toothpaste or leave your dirty socks in the middle of the floor or forget to replace the roll of toilet paper once it’s used up. Somebody has to do the dishes. Somebody has to take out the garbage. As a society we’ve acknowledged that these are not gender specific duties; but all that means is that SOMEBODY has to do these things. It’s nice when the work load is spread out. It almost always is unless one of you is a doormat.

Now, other than my anniversary and Valentine’s Day being so close on the calender, you’re probably wondering what they have in common. Valentine’s Day exists so that forgetful spouses can spend money, fueled by guilt, in order to convince a spouse or significant other that the love is genuine. In some circles, the price tag of the gift is in direct proportion to the emotion that has been taken for granted over the course of the other 364 days of the year. Weddings are a nice way convincing people that being married is easy – it’s the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony that matters. I’ve heard people – mostly women – say they like Valentine’s Day because it makes them feel special. I’ve also heard the same thing from brides-to-be. They want a day, they say, where they can feel special.

This is the problem.

I’ve been asked before whether I “get in hot water” if I don’t get her something for both Valentine’s Day and our anniversary. I have started telling the same story in response, which is this. Once, for her birthday, I bought her a thermos mug. I bought her a thermos mug because she wanted one she could take to work that would fit in the cup holder in our car. So, I bought her a REALLY nice thermos mug… the kind that will actually keep the liquid hot or cold. We were living in Arizona at the time. Not long after that, one of my friends from the bar … I’ll call him “Ned” … asked what I bought my wife for her birthday. Now, keep in mind: Ned is 45, single, and spends more on the dog races than I made in a week. So I told him what I bought her.

“What!” He almost yelled at me. “You’re not serious?”

“Sure I am.”

“Was she pissed off?”

“No. She wanted a thermos mug. She’s been talking about it for a while.”

Ned went on for a while about romance and “what it takes.” Ned. Ned who is 45, single, and is probably nowhere near as successful with women as he likes to pretend.

I’m not romantic. When I have tried, it’s a dismal disaster. Romance, like dancing and the perfect Trifecta, are beyond my skill set. To her eternal credit (and my undying shame) my wife puts up with me, the stumbling baboon that I am, when I snore or stink. I suppose I could fake being romantic if I was married to a woman who needed diamonds and roses to define her self worth. Lucky for me, she is made of stronger and better stuff. We both know she DESERVES all the diamonds and roses; and if I had the money, you can bet your ass I’d shower her with it. She’d be sick of by the time I was done because I’m nothing if not predictable.

But since I can’t, and chances are good – since money avoids my pocket the way junkies avoid taking a bath – that I won’t be able to shower her with all that she deserves any time soon, the best I can do is to tell her I love her everyday, try to remember when it’s time to take out the garbage, and sometimes wash my stanky ass. Because in the end, that’s how I think about love. Love is making sure to show in some little bit every single day that I love her and that my life would be one giant shit-heap without her.

I love you, Melissa… in that sloppy silly way that continues to amaze me, just like you continue to amaze me, just like you will always amaze me.

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