Are you my Valentine?

By CAROLE VASTA FOLLEY

The middle of February has a giant sore thumb called Valentine’s Day. Perhaps, since it’s the shortest month, it has a Napoleonic complex and makes up for it with a mammoth Hallmark- appropriated holiday. One that screams love while poking at our inside organs of guilt and insecurity. Shop for a Valentine’s Day card and let the poking begin. Forget just your significant other, you can buy cards for your friends, your kids, your postal carrier, and yes, even your pet.

Do you even want a card from your dog that reads, “I can’t keep my paws off you?” Or your cat, saying, “I love you?” On second thought, buy that one, because with cats you’re never quite sure. But the point is, just who is my Valentine? And wouldn’t it be awkward the rest of the year if I give one to my mailman?

Not everyone is torn up by this Valentine proliferation. The Greeting Card Association is over the moon as an estimated one billion are purchased each year. They report that women buy 85 percent of these cards, which, coincidentally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, is the same percentage of women who do the lion’s share of housework. I suggest the least we women could do is stop buying Valentines!

Some say the origins of Valentine’s Day came from church efforts to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival celebrating the ides of February. Its festivities include sacrificing a goat. Afterwards, the strips of hide were dipped in blood and taken to the streets to slap women as a blessing of sorts. Cards are suddenly looking better, aren’t they? But still, who do we give them to?

This is a great problem to have. After all, we are fortunate to count many relationships among our blessings. In fact, let’s call them a relation-fleet to capture their sheer number. We have family, from siblings to cousins. Then there’s friends, an entire armada on its own, from multipurpose friends who together we experience jobs, pastimes, and work-outs, to arterial friends. You know the ones; they remember to hold our hands when we forget we even have them. These are our core bonds; don’t they deserve a Valentine?

My one-stop-shopping answer is “yes.” Why not? Now, don’t put down the paper and run out to buy a card for your bestie that reads, “I love you as much as my elastic-waist sweatpants.” I suggest it’s the card itself that screws everything up. That and all the excess trappings from chocolates to lingerie. While on the subject, I definitely advise not giving underwear to the mailman.

Here’s an idea. What if we do a card-ectomy and make Valentine’s Day a reason to reach out to our entire relation-fleet? To say, in person, or via email, a text, or a phone call, “Hi, you matter.”

No need to do it all on the 14th. Spread it out, one person a day, every day, for the rest of the year. When you start on Valentine’s Day, you’d reach 321 people!

And what if you don’t know that many people? Well, that’s the exciting part. How about we let it spark an opportunity to give that acknowledgment to those strangers we interact with on a daily basis? The young woman running the register at the quick-mart. The guy at the big-box-store. And, even the customer service rep on the other end of the phone. Let’s leave the remainder of our “Hi, you matter” to them. Admittedly, it’s not the same as whacking someone with a wet goat hide, but, I guarantee, it’s way more rewarding.

Carole Vasta Folley is a Vermont award winning playwright and columnist. Contact her at carolevf.com.

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