Love is supposedly in the air. Sales of red roses, fluffy teddy bears and romantic cards have shot up, or so we are told, and if this wasn’t a family paper I would go into detail about some of the lingerie and big people’s toys that will be exchanging hands.
Local Drummer by Thembe Khumalo
Yes, it’s that time of the year where we mark Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love.
So we are all thinking about love and romance, are we? I am not sure about that. I think there is probably a large constituency of people who have been exposed to the message, are aware of the commotion, but have decided to tune out.
When my children talk about the “olden days”, I feel like a dusty relic, but the questions they ask are so entertaining that I quickly get over the fossilisation.
“In the olden days, were you allowed to take your cellphone to school?”
“Ummm . . . no. In the olden days there were no cellphones at all.” Their eyes grow big with disbelief and wonder. I haven’t got round to describing the party line system to them in case they faint from shock.
Another thing I haven’t told them about the olden days is that nobody really ever told anyone “I love you” and yet we seldom doubted that we were loved.
Valentine’s was something that rich white people did in faraway countries and that never really affected us.
After all, these were the people who kissed their children when they dropped them off at school; families where parents walked into PTA meetings holding hands, and who thought nothing of cuddling fondly in front of their children.
Such things were not part of our reality. We did not need a goodbye kiss in the school drop zone to know we were loved (after all, we took a bus to school), and our parents did not need to get frisky in our presence in order for us to understand that they were committed to each other for life. None of us needed an “I love you” at bedtime in order to dream sweet dreams of happy times with those near and dear to us. We knew we were loved in spite of being spanked and scolded regularly. We just knew it.
Today, however, our needs have changed. Or have they? Judging by the fuss we now make around Valentine’s Day, I suppose we would have to admit that something has definitely changed. Judging by the conversations in women’s bathrooms on the subject of men who don’t participate, I would deduce that women’s need for tokens of affection has grown.
But, what if there is some discordance between people who love each other? If one believes public displays of affection (PDAs) are important and the other hates them, what do we do then? If one believes Valentine’s Day is the make-or-break opportunity for love to be expressed and the other thinks love should be shown all year round and therefore Valentine’s Day is an unnecessary evil, where do we go from there?
The National (I am tempted to substitute the word national with naughty!) Association of Husbands and Boyfriends posted the following joke on their Facebook page:
The wife (waking up from her sleep): Oh baby! I just had a dream that you bought me a very expensive diamond necklace for Valentine!
Husband: Go back to sleep & wear it!
A local member of this organisation has proposed a February calendar without the date of the 14th. I guess that tells us what we need to know about their position on the issue, doesn’t it?
There are those who object to Valentine’s Day on the basis that it is a purely commercial venture disguised as a relationship building opportunity. Then there are those (mostly single women I am reliably informed by male friends!) who object on the basis that it makes them feel left out and unwanted when they don’t receive anything.
I am not sure about the logic behind this – after all, I don’t object to the Olympics because I am a slow runner; and I don’t object to the observance of Diwali because I am not an Indian, so why would I object to Valentines’ Day because I have no valentine?
So I guess Valentine’s Day has its takers and its haters. In the final analysis, it probably isn’t as big a deal as advertisers would have us believe. It has been known to trigger some monumental fights in some relationships, and to be the source of many a schoolgirl’s tears and trepidation.
Maybe life really was better in the olden days after all!
lThembe Khumalo writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to