Caught in expectation’s adrenaline Waltzer, we often spend the whole of St Valentine’s Day in a whirl of ‘Will he? Won’t he?’ anxiety – and, so fast and furious is our journey in this demonic theme park ride that, even if the answer to both were an unqualified, ‘Yes!’, we’d be too busy throwing up and feeling terrified to get the full benefit.
Ironic, eh? Yet, for so many of us – men, women, adolescents, children – the hours up to Valentine’s and the day itself constitute the kind of hell Dante went to such pains to describe poetically in his ‘Inferno’ section of ‘Divine Comedy‘.
Our expectation is, of course, enhanced – quite cynically and for financial gain – by the throng of devilish businesses, the Asmodeus Mall of the Psyche as you might say, which send out their alluring tridents of roses and chocolates, meals out, gorgeous cards and engagement rings in order to snag the romantic, the vulnerable, the unwary – and we humans encourage this circle of hell by our credulous reading of romantic tosh, our conventional need to fall in love with a certain type and our societal wish not to be left out on the fringes of the Lurve Experience.
YET – I am not denouncing the whole thing out of hand because sometimes, between the tonnes of red roses, the mountains of Thornton’s Chocolates and all the rest of it, we find love at its purest, least pretentious and most natural: Love, that is, which comes from the heart, not the wallet, and which loves just because and not because society dictates that we should all go two-by-two on the 14th February.
For many many years, I stepped quite willingly onto love’s scary Waltzer, expectation and hope and fear battling it out in my mind and the faces of a variety of adored would-be (if I had my way, that is!) beaus adorning my inner bedroom.
It came to nought. The ride ended. I tottered off, green in the face and shaking. The symbols of Valentine’s Day receded. Often I swallowed obsessively to rid myself of the lump in the throat, the crushing disappointment – and then, perhaps worst of all, I started making the excuses for my uninterested heart throb: He disliked such a wanton show of emotion; he loved me anyway – why did he have to show it in so overtly, almost embarrassingly, an over-the-top way; he was repressed, depressed, cynical, busy, broke…
You see, I, like so many before and after, concentrated upon such a narrow definition of love that, in many ways, I should have known that my expectations were unrealistic and doomed to failure. I, like so many others, could only see love in that conventional man/woman hearts and flowers sense; I forgot, as I wept in a heap of lost love and crushed hope, that love is far bigger, wider and better than that!
Yesterday, an envelope arrived for me. I do not have The One in my life at present – am, in fact, taking a rest from, and redefining, that role, that person! – so there was no need for the annual, ‘Will he? Won’t he?’ lament that had so marked the years.
This morning, I opened the envelope – and found a beautiful, loving card from a very special friend. My whole being lit up with joy. And it hit me suddenly that the true and loyal love of friends, whether male or female, is worth any amount of pernicious anxiety caused by love affairs which exist only in the mind, or which struggle to get off the ground or which have a seam of toxicity only too obvious to outsiders.
It hit me that I do not have to have The One. Of course, it is lovely when we find that special person – and I am not discounting it for the future – but love transcends that narrowness of focus; it is far more than man meets woman and all of that!
The card from my lovely friend went far beyond my Valentine’s expectations – which, let me be frank, were in negative numbers this year! – and meant much more to me than would a hurried bunch of wilting service station flowers given apologetically by a man late as a result of dallying overlong in the bed of his other woman (or whatever!).
This card was not about guilt or obligation or nagging by me (not that I am a nag in that sort of way) or convention. It was sent because this person loves me (as I love him) and we both know that deep friendship has just as much weight as any other kind of love; we both know that you do not have to match the romantic idyll criteria to feel, deserve and share love.
Those who truly love us do not need to create needless anxiety by playing withholding and delaying games. We do not need to leap upon the Waltzer in order to try and relate to our special people. Why? Because they are there for us without all that, ‘Will he? Won’t he?’ terror.