Sunday, February 15, 2015

Momentary relief

My February 15, 2015 column.


One of my closest female friends, who think of herself as feminist, told her husband a few years ago not to send flowers to her office on Valentine’s Day.  She made a long discourse about how consumerism had taken the thrill out of the supposedly romantic gesture, about how the practice has robbed many women who were not in romantic relationships of their self-esteem, and how the thousands of pesos spent on flowers that would wilt in a few days were better spent on more worthwhile pursuits and purchases.  Her husband obliged, of course; I think happily at that.  
On Valentine’s Day, she was the only one at work that did not get flowers.   She said she didn’t expect to feel bad, but she really did.   She tearfully told her husband her realization over dinner—that her attempts to intellectualize and politicize valentines were puny in the face of massive efforts to remind women of certain entitlements on special romantic occasions.  The following day, she promptly received a large bouquet of roses from her husband. 
That wasn’t the end of the story though.  She went home that night a little upset because the belated valentines gesture made her the center of attention at work.   She got ribbed for having a forgetful husband.  Some joked about how only mistresses celebrated valentines the day after February 14.   As could be expected, her husband could only throw his arms in the air in frustration, muttering something about how it is truly impossible to try to understand women.
The point of the story is really about how consumerism and social pressure have altered the way Valentine’s is perceived or celebrated.  On our way to Baclaran Church last Wednesday we took a short cut through a side street in Pasay where the motels are.  We were taken aback by the in-your-face advertising employed by some of the establishments.  One offered a short short-time rate of an hour, which had us wondering the kind of intimacy that could be achieved in 60 minutes.  Let’s not go into the more indelicate forms of advertising targeted at certain fetishes; suffice it to say that people do make liberal generalizations about what love and loving involves and what valentines is supposed to be about.  It is on occasions like these when I feel like strangling the people who are adamantly against sex education or any forms of discussion about sexuality despite overwhelming evidence that says more people are getting more sexually active and only need the slightest excuse to exercise their sexuality.
When I was a in high school, valentines day was about exchanging a red cartolina paper cut out of a boy and girl offering hearts.  We painstakingly traced the pattern into a cartolina paper ourselves and cut it ourselves.  Last week, a nephew asked for money so he could buy a bouquet of flowers at Dangwa and a box of branded chocolates for the girl he had MU (mutual understanding) with.  There were concerts everywhere and an officemate told me he couldn’t get reservations on most of the high-end restaurants for a family dinner scheduled last night.
If everyone is in the mood for love, how come there’s so much hate and blaming going around?  And how come many people seem to be raring to go to war in Mindanao? 
I guess valentines, just like many other holidays, religious or otherwise, are really just momentary diversions for most of us.  Love is something we celebrate once a year.  So please enjoy the rest of this weekend of loving as tomorrow, we will get back to the usual screaming and blaming and chest-beating.

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