Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, February 14, 2011

Work Whispering and Anti-Valentine's Day Ranting

I was reminded today, for the umpteenth time, that in addition to my awesome "baby disser" powers, my ability to say one thing and make the opposite come true extends to my job. Specifically, no sooner do the words leave my mouth, "It's a little slow at the office, and I'm kind of worried about it," than the deluge o' crapola descends upon my desktop. And "deluge" is dead-on accurate: it never rains, but it pours. So advanced are my work-whispering powers that I don't even have to give voice to the thought anymore - it is enough to merely THINK it. And the downpour begins.

Usually - and perversely - my bouts of stinkin' thinkin' immediately precede a holiday or other day on which it might actually be nice to have a light workload. Like, for example, today, being Valentine's Day. Would it have been such a bad thing to have had a light day today, given that my attendance was needed midday at a rather long luncheon and style show, and also given that I would like to actually eat a meal at a reasonable hour with my significant others sort-of-in-celebration of the "holiday"? Answer: not at all. But on Friday, I found myself worrying over my relatively light workload, failing to take into account the likely outcome of my stinkin' thinkin' - and the looming date on the calendar.

But it's good to be busy, and whatever gets me there, and all of that.

I put "holiday" in quotes above, because I think that Valentine's Day is a dubious one, at best. One segment of the population spends the day under a cloud, lamenting the fact they don't have a significant other, while the other segment suffers under the weight of peer pressure to make grand gestures solely because grand gestures are expected. Although I certainly appreciate the orientation of the former (been there, done that, remember how much it smarts), I speak now for the latter, as I've been on "Team Smug Married" (to use the Bridget Jones terminology) for almost fifteen years now.

I love my spouse every day, and I think that I make that apparent to him every day. And, to my mind, the whole matter of how much I love him is a matter that is, and should be, between him and me. So why, exactly, should February 14th be an exception? Why, on that one day, should the private be made public?

One of my favorite Bible verses is Matthew 6:5-8. I don't quote scripture all that much, but when I do, I find myself quoting this one - a lot. It's kind of my go-to, actually. I found myself reciting it, or thinking it, quite a bit in college, in various situations where I would be faced with a self-professed "devout Christian" (a roommate, or someone down the hall, or someone in a study group or with whom I served on a committee) who would deride others for being less-than-perfectly Christlike - but you couldn't help but notice that when, say, your car broke down on the side of the road, you were far more likely to get a lift from one of the alleged unwashed masses, because Devout Christian couldn't be bothered to turn off Oprah or cancel a hair appointment. On these occasions, I would recite, or think, the following:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

In a maybe sort of weird way, Matthew 6:5-8 provides a counterpoint to mass consumer-driven Valentine's Day hysteria. If you want to make a grand gesture on this day because you really WANT to do it - because you know that someone in your life has been denying themself something, and you want to surprise them with that thing, thereby providing them with a huge thrill and/or a sense of affirmation, and yourself with the joy of seeing their face light up - well, by all means, go for it. But don't do it because you think it's expected of you, and because you think third parties will think less of you if you fail to go there. In my humble opinion, gifting-by-rote empties a "thoughtful gesture" of any thought or meaning at all.

We've all been there - on Valentine's Day, or maybe at Christmas - plodding through a store, looking for a gift because a gift is "required," and nothing seems to suit. You end up settling and phoning something in. And, midway through the process, resentment sets in - you hate the fact that the universe seems to be conspiring against you and, just a tiny bit, you start to resent the person who inspired the mission in the first place. But, the thing is, if the person is truly worthy of your love and affection, then they don't care if you get them the perfect gift. They don't care about getting a gift at all. If they knew that, at that exact moment, you were psychically torturing yourself for being completely incapable of locating the "just-right" item, and spending your hard-earned coin on something "just because," they would tell you to STOP THE MADNESS ALREADY. Because you both know the end-game: you buy something for the sake of buying something, and then a week later you find the perfect thing, the thing that reminds you SO MUCH of that person and that you know would mean so much to them. And you'll kick yourself. That, or you'll buy the Perfect Item with the intent of putting it up for a future occasion - and, if you are me, you'll forget where you stored it.

So here's my radical proposal - let's stop obsessing about days on the calendar. Demonstrate your love, in ways big or small, your choice, but in ways that make sense to you, and on a timetable that makes sense to you. If you see that thing that is bound to set someone's heart aflutter, buy it, and then give it to them RIGHT THEN. Tell them, "I saw this, and I thought of you. I think of you a lot - not just on major holidays - and I want you to know this."

Or, you know, don't buy them something - show them that you love them in more subtle ways. How do I know my husband loves me? Because he turns my seat heater on in the car after he drives the kids to school on cold mornings, so my seat heats up right away when I get in. And, in return, I make sure that the dry towel is closest to the shower, so he doesn't have to use my wet towel. If you ask him, he will tell you: "I know that my wife loves me, because she gives me the dry towel."

Not that I need to tell you this, because it's none of your business. Are you listening, Russell Stovers and Hallmark? IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. And my decision to forgo buying my spouse and children singing stuffed animals is not a sign that I am hard-hearted or a penny-pincher but rather, I think, a blow for good taste. Plus, I knew what my husband really wanted for Valentine's Day - new soles for his boots.

Okay, apparently I had to get that off of my chest - at the expense of getting beaucoups of work wrapped up and off of my desk. Returning to the stack, and then heading off to eat with mi familia. And, also, to admire my husband's boot soles.

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