What's love got to do with it?

I really wish I liked Valentine's Day more than I do. I mean, I love the idea of it. A day for celebrating love! With roots in medieval literature! And it thrills me to no end that St. Valentine is also the patron saint of beekeepers. Somehow, this fits perfectly with his also being the patron saint of lovers.


I think I would be crazy about Valentine's Day if the tradition were still to exchange love letters. Love is, after all, a big word, and encompasses more than sexual desire. I would be delighted to send and receive letters of love. (And if you are writing to someone you do feel a physical sort of passion for, and you do not know what to say, might I recommend the poetry of Pablo Neruda, a select quotation from the Song of Songs, or the lyrics of Leonard Cohen?)


But the day has become less about the personal, and all about buying something as a sign of affection. And, it seems, the more expensive the something, the greater the affection behind it. (Except, oddly, in chocolates. I have received a truly puzzling number of emails this month advising me on how to buy chocolates for "my man." Apparently, manly chocolate must contain bacon. WTF I don't even...)


The thing is, buying something expensive is easy, relatively speaking. Once you've decided what sort of expensive thing fits into your budget, it's a fairly easy task to order flowers, pick out a shiny piece of jewelry, or procure a truly terrifying and probably uncomfortable set of lingerie that requires a set of instructions and a ladies' maid to get into. None of those things require thought, or consideration, or love.


Don't get me wrong. Those sorts of gifts are nice. I love getting flowers, and if you know me even a little bit, you know I love chocolate. I'm happy to receive something beautiful and frivolous that I would never buy on my own to decorate myself with. But that's not what I think of when I think of love.


A Valentine's gift, a gift between lovers, ought to say something about the people in the relationship. Make something for the other person, give them something only you can. Bake a cake, paint a picture, write a poem. Give a favorite book, with annotations in that show why it's your favorite. Make a mixtape (and yes, I know that actually means burn a CD or email a playlist): what was the song playing when you met, or when you first danced, or the one that always makes you think of the other person. Be more intimate than lingerie. Give love.