Tortured Tenderness

st valentineI really don’t mean to be a bummer, but I just googled Saint Valentine and learned that, not only was he not the patron saint of lovers, February 14th marks the date that he was imprisoned, tortured and beheaded in Rome in 269 A.D.

Real romantic, hu?

Apparently, the Feast of St. Valentine (a.k.a. Valentine’s Day) was not intended to celebrate romantic love until some crusty old fourteenth century English historians began propagating the legend that Saint Valentine was martyred because he was caught secretly marrying persecuted Christians behind Emperor Claudius’ back.

So, as much as we want to point the finger at Hallmark, Brachs, Whitman’s Samplers, The Melting Pot, FTD and the rest of the blood-sucking consumer industry, apparently they are not to blame for inventing Valentine’s Day.

Regardless, there’s certainly nothing wrong with reserving one day a year to recognize love, right?

As a little kid, Valentine’s Day was a fun affair filled with construction paper hearts, lace doilies, cards imprinted with Ziggy, and red heart lollipops with white edible paint.

In high school, the mere chance of getting a $1 Valentine carnation from a secret admirer was thrilling. Just in case, my best friend and I always sent each other a “secret” carnation, which was smart, considering our dating track records. It wasn’t until my senior year that I received a Valentine flower from an actual boy, but unfortunately, it was from a kid nicknamed “Goober.”

Mercifully, I was finally able to experience Valentine’s Day bliss after meeting my Navy husband. There is nothing quite like the feeling of true love, and in the early years, we spent hours picking out cards for each other, covering every square millimeter with hand written words professing how doggone happy we were to have found our soul mates.

And we meant every sappy word of it. Still do.

However, after twenty years of marriage, the mandatory traditions of this manufactured holiday can seem like the torture endured by St. Valentine back in Rome. I know, I know, buying a card and planning a romantic evening with a loved one shouldn’t be compared to being stoned and beheaded. But when you’ve got the afternoon carpool, the minivan is caked with black snow, you have to get a stool sample for the vet, and the water heater is on the fritz again; Valentine’s Day can seem more like a day in hell.

Unfortunately, middle aged couples get so bogged down with the relentless demands of life — teen angst, mortgage payments, slowing metabolisms, routine oil changes, lost retainers, low water pressure, stray chin hairs — extraneous holidays become just another item on our already unmanageable To Do lists.

These days, despite our best intentions, we do a lousy job of taking a day out to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day. My husband hurriedly runs into the 7-11 to grab any old card on his way home from work. Before getting out of the car, he finds a pen between the seats and scribbles a generic sentiment such as “Love ya bunches, Honey! XOXO” in large writing to take up space.

He finds me in the kitchen, frantically trying to feed the kids and dog, while folding the laundry and helping our daughter study for her Chemistry test. We exchange a quick kiss and our hastily scribbled cards inside envelopes with still-wet glue. He rushes to change out of his military uniform, and I spritz on perfume to hide the scent of frozen tater tots.

We dole out the requisite bedtime threats to the kids, climb into our dirty minivan, and fight the traffic to make our reservation. At the restaurant, we make our best effort at romance, ordering wine, canoodling and sharing dessert. But thanks to middle-aged fluctuations in blood sugar, we start yawning before the clock strikes nine.

I don’t think that this “hurry-up-and-be-romantic-before-I-fall-asleep” routine is what the Pope had in mind when he crowned poor St. Valentine the patron saint of love, but it’s the best we can muster on a weeknight. Besides, even the most tortured schedule should include a little time for tenderness.

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Comments: 22

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  4. Maz February 21, 2014 at 10:27 am Reply

    First I hear it …then I see/read it…then ALL the SENSES get involved!
    I taste the tater tots.
    I smell the dog doo.
    I feel the love.
    Add your keen sense of humor and it’s a winner!

  5. Sienna February 16, 2014 at 7:59 pm Reply

    Wow! I loved this post. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and find your posts to be honest and authentic. Thank you. My fiance, Ric, and I normally don’t go all out for Valentine’s Day but were selected this year as a military couple to receive a free wedding. We are 1 of 3 couples and are in a crazy race for votes. So this Valentin’s weekend has been insane and there is a month left of voting to go (you can check it out at: ( This has been a nice excitement however. I hope that you’re able to find some relief from the hectic days and enjoy some quality time with your hubby, Valentine’s Day or not!

  6. Simon February 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm Reply

    Happy Valentine’s day, I joke about it all as well but it is nice to remind and be reminded every now and then that there is real love.

  7. ermigal February 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm Reply

    This was fun to read and you described the demands of family life to a T. Loved the image of masking the tater tots scent with a spray of whatever. Great post, Lisa–thanks, and Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 13, 2014 at 6:48 pm Reply

      Eu-de-tater-tot is my own special fragrance. When I’m feeling frisky, I also like to try essence of Hamburger Helper.

  8. Jody Worsham February 13, 2014 at 12:23 pm Reply

    50 years of marriage and Valentine’s Day has never been a biggie for us. The biggies have been the roses on no particular day because “I know you like them”, the ice cream hidden in the freezer to be found later, or a quick neck rub at the computer on the way to pick up or drop off somebody. The “I love you” which comes out of the clear blue or the pet names you have for each other which sends the kids into hysterics! Guess romance in the eye of the beholder. Any guy who will sign off on 8 kids has my heart all the time. Thanks for reminding me of all my Valentine Days.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 13, 2014 at 6:46 pm Reply

      Jody, this made me a little verklempt! How super touching and sweet. I think I’m in love with your husband too!

  9. napperscompanion February 13, 2014 at 9:11 am Reply

    Nice one, Lisa. Middle-age and love: yup, yup, yup. Peace and best, John

  10. energywriter February 12, 2014 at 3:22 pm Reply

    Great job, Lisa. Luckily this year V Day is on Friday so you can stretch it out over Sat and Sun. Enjoy, sd

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 13, 2014 at 6:45 pm Reply

      Hey Sharon, I am being really romantic and having dinner with my husband on Friday, then going on a girls’ trip for the rest of the weekend, leaving him with the dog, house and kids! Whoopie!

  11. patricia60 February 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm Reply

    After 36 years of marriage my husband bought me a box of Chukar Cherries which arrived a week early – he will also find a beautiful card, but if it is a nice day he will head out on his bike for a long ride (80 miles?) I do not go with him anymore, because when we dated and went on I bike ride he would disappear – the day I was attacked by dogs, well I gave up riding with him.

    It is also our youngest child’s 28th birthday and that made the day very loving and fun, and my grandparents celebrated 68 years of marriage on that day ( before the big decree) and were always teased about it being National Potato Chip day …

    I hope you have a very good loving day…and I so enjoy your humor and reminding me of the all the busy times – loving times along the way!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm Reply

      Yes, a dog attack does kind of squelch romance! Congrats though on 36 years of loving marriage!

  12. Mimmik89 February 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm Reply

    Is there anything that says “shut up and kiss me” like a stray chin hair? As usual, you are spot on! <3

  13. ashleyomelia February 12, 2014 at 11:46 am Reply

    Probably my favorite Valentine’s post so far!

  14. lauriebest February 12, 2014 at 11:15 am Reply

    Great post! It’s very easy to be cynical about V day (and I’m right up there at the top of the cynics), but I must admit that it’s still nice when The Man in My Life surprises me with roses or whatever. (It probably helps that we’re not married or living together!) My recollection of the after 20 years of marriage celebration is that life does indeed get in the way. Enjoy your day anyway!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 12, 2014 at 12:26 pm Reply

      Yes Laurie, we are going out to a nearby restaurant that we’ve been wanting to try and have agreed to not buy anything else for each other except cards. The budget is tight with looming tuition payments to be made! It is so unromantic, but that is the reality of middle-aged life!

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