Why I’m a Conscientious Objector to Valentine’s Day



Ah, the official day of love expressed! What’s not to like? A lot, in my mind. I’m all for feeling and expressing love, but the idea that we need an official day to remind us to do so is a bit sad. Really, Valentine’s Day – regardless of the saint behind it – is a commercial construct whose purpose is to wrestle money from our guilty wallets, as we try to make up for the other 364 days we feel we failed to express our feelings sufficiently.

Yes I’m a Valentine’s Day cynic. But I’m no cynic when it comes to love.

Love takes a lot of gumption. To go for it, to give in to it, to let it go. I personally experienced a decade of volatile relationships in my twenties before falling into the sweet embrace of marriage, which lasted 30 years but ended in divorce, followed by two years of lying fallow to replenish my emotional fertility, at which point – probably because I wasn’t looking – the universe sent me a captivating seat-mate on an airplane and I had the wits to recognize a good thing when I met it.

Ending my marriage was an act of gumption. It’s terrifying to let go of being married. To give up having another beating heart in the house and the conceptual comfort of having a partner in life. It’s terrifying to recognize that the reality of those things is not the same as the idea of them, and is no longer good enough. I thought that act took more gumption than I would ever have to muster again in my life.

Then the possibility of new love presented itself.

Following the spark that showed up on the airplane and letting it develop into something deep and unrestrained took a different kind of gumption. I started off thinking the usual thoughts of where will this go and how can I make it go someplace I want. Then I realized that I’m no longer fifteen years old and I can create a new idea for myself about how I want to love. One that is less tied up in outcome and more concerned with the celebration of how good it feels to love and be loved in the moment, regardless of what the future might hold.

I was inspired by a passage in a book that wasn’t about love at all. Its subject was civic duty, but in the forward the author wrote about love letters:

[A love letter brings] something delicate and intimate into the light of shared vision. This disclosure is hazardous and frightening, but it is necessary because the kind of love that moves between people cannot survive in solitude… Love letters, then, require the courage to stake oneself on an expression of hope that may well come to nothing. They also indicate a perception of importance, a sense that some possibilities, however unlikely, are so important that not acknowledging them would be an act of terrible neglect.

– Jedediah Purdy, For Common Things

For Valentine’s Day I don’t want chocolates or roses or even a declaration of love. I already know how my love feels. My wish for the day is that, on this day or any other, those of you who might be thinking of love will ‘stake yourself on an expression of hope’, if you should feel it. So as not to let a lack of courage result in an act of terrible neglect.

There are lots of uses for gumption, but love strikes me as the greatest use of all.

If you have stories about how you’ve been gumptious in love, please send em’ my way in the comments section. Because just like everyone else, I love a good love story even if I’m a conscientious objector to Valentine’s Day.



2 thoughts on “Why I’m a Conscientious Objector to Valentine’s Day

  1. Winnifred Rosser

    Below is my favourite quote about love from the book ‘Let me sing you gentle songs’ by Linda Olsson, which is a beautifully written story about and elderly woman and her young neighbour both of whom have lost love and the love that grew between them in the telling of their lives. The quote is from Page 250, chapter 36.

    A letter from Astrid to Veronika

    Live Veronika! Take risks! That is really what Iife is about. We must pursue our own happiness. Nobody has ever lived our lives; there are no guidelines. Trust your instincts. Accept nothing but the best. But then also look for it carefully. Don’t allow it to slip between your fingers. Sometimes, good things come to us in such a quiet fashion. And nothing comes complete. It is what we make of whatever we encounter that determines the outcome. What we choose to see, what we choose to save. And what we choose to remember. Never forget that all the love in your life is there, inside you, always. It can never be taken from you.

    As you say to love anyone or anything takes a great deal of Gumption – it’s that leap into the abyss of faith in yourself, your new found love or passion and in life itself.

    I loath Valentine’s Day for its commercialism of feelings one should have each day, the way that Mother’s Day has been hijacked and now even International Women’s day, which here in Italy is celebrated as the arrival of spring with Mimosa being sold everywhere. I am no rampant women’s libber, but we should all be proud of who we are and our achievements as being women, mothers, friends and just plain human beings, each and every day.


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