This may sound cruel, but I got a sick pleasure from telling my spouse, the Carpenter, that this coming weekend was not only Valentine’s Day but also Family Day.
A double-whammy: expected affection and an entire day of forced family fun, made all the worse by a day off work (because the world of concrete does not take Mondays off, silly). His face said it all: a flash of bewildered entrapment. There is something deeply rewarding about feeding his paranoia.
Let’s start with Valentine’s Day. In our 27-year relationship, I think we’ve maybe celebrated this tradition a handful of times. This is because we share a belief that every day should have some romance to it. We don’t actually live up to this ideal, you understand, but we know we should. It makes us feel like we’re walking the high road on all this manufactured Valentines stuff. After all, we’re not living in a television drama where characters have high-powered careers and all the time in the world for steamy, romantic montages.
Reality is quite different. Blue-collar married life sounds more like this: “You want to do that tonight? But it’s a school night. I have to make lunches in the morning.” Am I right? Don’t bother to answer. A collective nod will suffice.
I feel for men because Valentine’s Day creates default paranoia. There is a lot of pressure women simply don’t feel. If we tell our spouses to do nothing for Valentines, it’s still a multiple choice response for our partners. It could mean, a) I am saying I don’t want anything but if you don’t make an effort for Valentine’s Day, I will assume you don’t care, or b) if you get me something for Valentine’s Day, you didn’t listen. You never listen. Why don’t you just listen? And option c) Man does nothing and assumes eventually woman will forget. She won’t forget. She never does, but sure, go with C.
When I tell the Carpenter I don’t want a Valentine’s gift, I mean it. I do not want a lame greeting card where someone else says the mushy stuff and he just signs his name. That’s taking credit for another writer’s words, which is quite insulting when you are married to a writer. Write your writer a love note. It’s not hard. Sheesh.
Family Day is another issue. While my husband loves his family more than anything, the concept of a day that forces us to do some activity together is beyond his humour. My homebody man has forgotten how to play. He knows the kids and I love spontaneous adventures. He does not. The negotiations are fun. Car trips? No. He drives all week. Adventure? We can’t afford it. Long hike in the snow? He’s outside every day in all weather. He will, however, enthusiastically encourage me to go take a hike. And because I spend my work days sitting still, I will. What can I say? Opposites attract.
So basically, this weekend will be like every other weekend, where romance comes down to the gesture of who makes the first pot of coffee, and family time will be the moments of silliness that happen when we don’t plan them, and with any luck, the teens will agree to a road trip adventure with me while the Carpenter gets some peace and quiet.
A long weekend of love with the people I love most.
Good enough for me.