Our youngest daughter is home from school with a concussion and a sprained ankle from a sledding accident. The steering on the minivan isn’t working properly. The dog ate an entire jumbo rawhide bone in 10 minutes, and has been trying to wretch it up on the carpeting. Two days ago, a pimple appeared on my forehead.
And of course, it’s almost Valentine’s Day.
Every year, it’s the same thing. We’re engrossed in the hectic pace of military family life. We’re paying bills, deciphering homework assignments, cheating on diets, reprimanding teenagers, grocery shopping, car pooling, and shoveling snow.
When February 14th rolls around, you can almost hear a collective exclamation in the air — “Oh crap, it’s Valentines Day!” Then, we all rush around like maniacs to get the proverbial check in the heart-shaped box.
Mustering fresh romance after decades of marriage isn’t easy. If my husband, Francis, and I manage to pop open a bottle of bubbly and exchange the obligatory cards with meaningful sentiments (scribbled in the car outside the 7-Eleven) we still have to fight back the urge to yawn once the clock strikes nine.
It all seems so contrived. As if a boardroom full of stuffy CEOs of corporate conglomerates who market greeting cards and heart-shaped balloons conspired to add more tasks to our daily “To Do” lists, all in the name of Valentine’s Day profits.
Several years ago, I was complaining to a fellow military spouse friend about Valentine’s Day complicating my schedule, when she told that she and her husband did something a little different to celebrate each year. My ears perked up, because this particular Navy couple seemed to have a great relationship, even though he deployed often.
I leaned in, and my military spouse friend told me their secret Valentine’s Day tradition. “We don’t give each other cards,” she said. “No teddy bears or picture frames or ties or boxes of candy,” she continued.
“Not even Whitman’s Samplers?” I asked, astonished.
“Nope. No flowers, no fancy dinners, no balloons – none of that stuff.”
“Then what DO you do on Valentine’s Day?” I pried.
“We fill up our Hanky Panky Party Pail,” she said with a devilish grin.
She explained that the Hanky Panky Party Pail was nothing more than a cheap purple plastic sand bucket, into which they unceremoniously threw items that would facilitate a Valentine’s Day romp in the hay.
Driving home from that visit with my friend, I thought, “Well, that’s disgusting. No hearts? No candles? No flowers? What kind of marriage is that?” But, I knew in the back of my mind that my friend was onto something.
Essentially, there are two reasons our husbands buy us cards, flowers and chocolates on Valentines Day: 1. So we won’t get mad at them, and 2. On the off chance they will get lucky. And the only reason wives cook and buy sweaters for our husbands is so that we can say we gave them something, even though we know it’s not what they really want.
So why rush out in our salt-encrusted cars to buy silly pre-printed cards, then wrack our brains for something meaningful to write inside? Why search our closets for old gift bags that they have most likely seen before? Why bear the expense of babysitters so we can stand in line for the Valentine’s Day Chicken Quesadilla special at Ruby Tuesday? Why pressure our husbands to give us flowers when we know they will eventually wilt, drop petals everywhere, and leave that green slimy ring on the inside of the vase? Why expect heart-shaped boxes of chocolates when half of them are filled with nondescript fruity fluff anyway?
Why not skip all the unnecessary holiday commercialism and get right down to business?
It’s a win-win for both parties. Wives don’t have to cook, clean or find time between orthodontist appointments and school projects, and husbands get what they always wanted.
And if your husband is anything like Francis, it only takes a few minutes.