I know it’s all cool and hip to bash Hallmark holidays, like Valentine’s Day. You know, the whole they’re “cheesy, contrived, made-up occasions” routine. Or if not bash, at a minimum ignore them and flaunt your ignoring of them as much as possible.
So I’m going to fully own my uncoolness here by declaring that I love them.
Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, National Croissant Day -- I embrace these holidays fully and try to celebrate as many as possible. (Well, except this year I completely blanked and forgot to eat a croissant on National Croissant Day -- January 30th -- but I vow to make up for it.)
Why do I love them? Because life is too full of things to not celebrate, like sickness, natural disasters, career disappointments, overwhelming to-do lists, horrid traffic and people who cut you off in traffic. So when there is a chance to celebrate something, anything, I’m there. I don’t care how made up it is.
So maybe giving someone a little white teddy bear with a red shiny heart chocolate box attached to it is not the truest expression of genuine love. I get that.
But you know what it’s definitely an expression of? Not-hate.
And we need so much more not-hate. If we could all take a day and give each other little teddy bears with chocolate-filled hearts, we would spread so much not-hate.
And you know what people do when they feel not-hate?
They express not-hate towards others. They help each other. They solve refugee crises, fix up schools, invent cures for diseases, discover new planets, and a way to get there without traffic. People who feel not-hate also don’t cut you off in traffic; they’re the ones waving you through as you cut them off. They don’t mind because they feel not-hate, because someone probably gave them a little teddy bear for Valentine’s Day.
The first time I got a little teddy bear for Valentine’s Day, I was in middle school. We’d just immigrated from Russia, through refugee settlements in Austria and Italy, right to scenic Ypsilanti, outside of Detroit. One day was trying to figure out how to open my locker at Scarlett Middle School. And by trying I mean I was completely befuddled by this black knob with numbers around it.
Does everyone in America get “how to work a locker” instructions when you’re born or something? Because the whole once to the left, once to the right, do a cha-cha step and a somersault, and then once more to the right thing is not intuitive.
So I was trying to get my locker to open and this boy showed up to try to talk to me. I was so afraid to say anything in my broken English that I kept the conversation awkwardly short, but the next morning there was a little white teddy bear in my locker, with a red ribbon around his neck, and a small perfume bottle attached. I didn’t know you gave each other teddy bears for Valentine’s Day, or that it was Valentine’s Day, or what Valentine’s Day was, but I guessed the boy put it there, having figured out my locker combination as I was fiddling with it.
About a week later I opened my locker to find it trashed inside. Black marker all over the place, notebooks torn up, and the little teddy bear lying on his side, ribbon ripped off, empty perfume bottle next to it. The spilled perfume made my locker smell like Kmart, which made me even sadder because I loved to go to Kmart back then, to browse the aisles for hours, and dream of one day having money to buy all the things.
“I’m really sorry they did this,” said the boy, who again magically appeared next to my locker as I stood there, surveying the damage. I should have said thank you then, but instead I ran away, hiding my tears. I never found out who “they” were.
I also never thanked the boy, who I guessed had put my little Valentine’s gift in my locker. That I do regret.
A few weeks ago my various social media feeds were filled with Powerball stories. They all said the same thing: Some people might win a ton of money, but don’t be jealous, they won’t be happy anyway because money doesn’t make you happy. Truth, right there, money doesn’t make you happy. Neither does reading endless articles about how money won’t make you happy.
Instead, I want more articles in my feed about a woman who races across town to get her friend’s favorite flowers for Valentine’s Day, gets to the flower shop as it’s closing, but the owner lets her buy a bunch anyway.
I want scientific studies about the average size of smiles people experience when given a teddy bear with a chocolate-filled heart attached. I want my various social feeds to be filled with photos of 95 year-olds having romantic dinners and 5 year-olds exchanging Valentine’s.
Give me more Periscope videos where the husband attempts to make scallops for the first time because they are his wife’s favorite. (For the record, my father did this once and I had to talk him through it by phone. Complete success, including slightly overcooked scallops and all.)
I say lean into Valentine’s Day. Really go for it.
Text your friends an overwhelming number of heart emoji.
Write a card to someone you like or love -- and there are plenty of hip Valentine’s cards to be had, so you can keep your coolness and spread non-hate, bonus!
Give a bunch of flowers to a person who makes your heart jump a little.
Buy someone a teddy bear with a heart-full of chocolates.
Because you never know when your cheesy “Hey, happy Valentine’s Day, haha!” text is the very thing your friend needs, the very thing that helps them feel less lonely on a day when the world seems cruel and hope is hard to find. Or if your card makes someone smile, or gives them a break from feeling pain, sadness, boredom, or worry.
Thing is, it’s all just about love.
This whole thing, our whole crazy world, with our overwhelming to-do lists and worries, our fears, and our achievements, it’s really just about love. All love, not just romantic love, although that one is nice too.
And the best way to get it is to give it. To be reminded that you’re not alone, that there is someone in your life to whom you’d like to send a heart emoji, or a “Let’s Ignore Valentine’s Day Together” card, or a $5.95 small teddy bear with a red heart full of chocolates attached to it.
I know I want one :)