Love a la Carte

by Liz Caskey on February 14, 2014

Here we are again. Valentine’s Day. Some people love this day, other people hate it, but why does it even exist? There are several theories over its origin but many point to the third century during the Roman empire. A saint, called Valentine, was about to be executed for officiating illegal marriages of Roman soldiers. In jail waiting to meet his destiny, he fell in love with jailer’s daughter. Before dying, he supposedly wrote her a letter, signing his name with his own blood “From Your Valentine”. Now, 1,700 years later, we continue to celebrate this day in the name of love.

As kid growing up in the US, we always celebrate Valentine’s Day in school. I never thought much about the meaning of the day beyond the invasion of pink and red colors and sugary sweet heart-shaped candies. Those candies had super subtle messages like “True Love”, “Marry Me”, “My love”, “So Hot”, “I love you”, “Be Mine”, “Kiss Me”, “Yes”, “Love”, etc. We had to exchange red and pink valentines, often made from construction paper, with everybody in the class (whether we liked it or not) and ate red velvet cupcakes or whoopee pies, usually heart-shaped.

Years later as a 20-something single in New York City, the commercialization of the day was too much. It simply created too many expectations. Actually, I remember February 14 not only being a day of love for couples but also “international day to feel lonely” if you weren’t paired off. Cards, chocolates, flowers, massages, champagne, dinner dates flooded every media channel, flower shop, and store. It made you feel totally left out if you didn’t receive anything from that special someone. You were, somehow, unloved. Now, don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against romance or being in a relationship (I am married!). I do, however, find that the way we conceive Valentine’s Day and what it means to love to be quite narrow. Perhaps it’s time to open us to the idea that love is more than an excuse to go out to eat oysters in mid-February or indulge in a box of chocolates.

This year, I decided I am going to have a different Valentine’s Day. And anyone can do this independent of being married, single, in a relationship, divorced or even “estranged”. February 14 is the day of love, end of story. There is nothing more important all year, and actually every day, than love. Love is what connects all of us, with other creatures, with the divine, with ourselves. If this is the case, why not celebrate this day not only to receive love (and tasty chocolate) but also to give love, express gratitude and appreciation to all the people that have touched our lives in the last year? They can be simple acts of love. Here are some ideas.

A simple, homemade gift; a big hug for somebody who needs it (we all need hugs); call an old friend to say you love him; take flowers to a single friend; visit your grandma or mother for tea time and good conversation; make some tasty cookies as a thank you or share in the office; send a card to your great aunt because you have not spoken with her in years; invite friends to a dinner party to celebrate Valentine’s Day together and share that secret ingredient (Love!) which makes every recipe taste delicious. Pay for the coffee of the person standing behind you at Starbucks—without saying anything. These small gestures make us feel so good because we share love with no expectation of it being returned—it comes from our heart. Now, of course, for all you foodies if you really have your heart set on an aphrodisiac menu that’s cool, but the idea is to open up to sharing love, being at the service of others and expressing our feelings—even with us!

This last point is so important. We need to focus on giving ourselves some self-loving today, it is totally validated. Get that massage; wear that cocktail dress that makes you feel super sexy and good in your own skin. Watch your favorite movie for the hundredth time (because why not) and order in sushi, take a bubble bath with a glass of champagne (and even drink the whole bottle alone if you want), or savor a bit of something that causes you ecstasy—for me, that would be a macaroon from Pierre Herme in Paris (not in the cards, unfortunately). The point is to give love and THEN receive it…but always because you deserve it.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! A big virtual hug to you all.

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