When I was nine, a boy who liked me (he was 13) trekked through half of Sofia in the pouring rain to knock on my apartment door and hand me a bouquet of soggy purple irises. I looked at him suspiciously, I took the flowers... and I said
"Thanks for the flowers. That was really nice of you… but you shouldn't have wasted all your time."
Then I closed the door and never saw the boy again…
(I’m sure this boy is now a grown man who has a loving partner to appreciate all those gestures. I was definitely not the one for him!)
The story above represents how I generally approach grand and dare I say, typical, romantic gestures. Regrettably, I'm sort of like the viral video girl who knocks her boyfriend on the head with a ukulele after he gets down on one knee at the mall and publicly proposes: a buzzkill? Maybe...
(NOTE: I've never personally used violence in retaliation to romance, nor do I condone its use in this context).
This is how I approach Valentine's day, too: totally dismissively. Maybe it's because I've never had my heart broken so that it needs to be repaired on that special day. (Well, I have, but it's always been by boys who didn't know I loved them. Secret summer crushes, high school swoon-fests, etc. Oh, and Jason Priestly. But that wasn't real love, anyway...) In real life, I've pretty well stuck it out with the same boy/man for the last 22 years. We tend to skip Valentine's day altogether.
In real life, I have the 'regular' stuff. He'll chop firewood in all sorts of weather so we can have a roaring fire. He'll force himself to go places for the sake of me, or the kids, and pretend there aren't a million other places he'd rather be. He'll snuggle lambs and babies and won't sleep if some living creature needs him. He'll make me a sandwich at midnight. Work a full day and clean the barn all night. Tirelessly selfless. You know, just the regular stuff.
Real romance, in my view, happens in the sharing of life. It happens when you face your fears and limitations in front of one another. When you unite without a word against the shit life throws your way. When you divide and conquer in parenting. When, after difficult days or arguments, you still know, deep in your gut, that this person is a good person.
It happens when you're 16 and he's 20 and you're crashing his basement before his night-shift and he brings a can of peaches and sheepishly says,
"here. I brought a spoon for you as well... so that we can share"
My teenage heart was smitten. Why? Because whereas grand gestures of romance normally do not have any far-reaching implications like, “I will care for you, I’ll look out for you, I’ll make sure you’re fed when you are hungry, and looked after when you are sick”, these everyday spontaneous altruisms do. He brought a second spoon for me, and he’s been following through ever since.
It’s the same reason my heart melts when our seven year old brings me a yogurt tube from the freezer, unannounced, every time he gets one for himself. I don’t frequently feel like banana Yoplait tubes, but that act is powerful.
If you are lucky enough to have a person to give you the 'regular' stuff, then Valentine's day might have passed you by without ado... but the joys of life definitely won't.