“Happy Valentine’s Day,” I murmured to the spouse as I heard the break in the snores that punctuated the still of the early morning.

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you,” he muttered and went right back to sleep.

It is our 29th Valentine’s Day together today. Perhaps that is celebration enough? I had barely met him a few days ago, when Valentine’s Day cropped up all those years ago. The pressure was tremendous. Would he get me a card? Would he get me a gift? Were we dating at all for me to expect a card and a gift? Were we in love? Was this just another fling? Back then, Valentine’s Day was fraught with so much more than just declarations of together forever and Will You Be My Valentine, so much hinged upon the innocuous card and gift, there was so much nuance to be read into the words that the cards carried, that it required an entire gaggle of one’s friends to sit in a circle on them college lawns for sentence formation parsing and analysis.

Back then, Valentine’s Day was fraught with so much more than just declarations of together forever and Will You Be My Valentine, so much hinged upon the innocuous card and gift, there was so much nuance to be read into the words that the cards carried, that it required an entire gaggle of one’s friends to sit in a circle on them college lawns for sentence formation parsing and analysis.

I had overcompensated I remember, in my gift to him. A dear friend who looked on kindly at our budding romance had brought in a bottle of perfume, Drakkar Noir, if I remember right, gift wrapped, and insisted I gift it to the man. My budget had barely run to a slab of chocolate. I did receive a huge slab of Cadbury Dairy Milk which we polished off together, the wrapper still occupies pride of place in the yellowing, musty file which contains “important papers.” I’ve received Valentine’s Day gifts in the years to come, they’ve ranged from perfumes to jewellery but none as precious as that slab of chocolate. It came with a card that had the soppiest words ever that turned my insides to mush, and knowing the spouse as I do now I’m sure he’d asked someone to help him pick it out. He doesn’t do mush well. His mushiness is of a different order, one that involves yelling at me when I refuse to go to a doctor when ill. I know that now. It’s taken decades to get here.

marriage
Picture Credit: Ben Rosett/unsplash

There is love and there are days when we both look at each other and wonder what on earth are we doing with each other, we’re such complete opposites—he’s a tea drinker, I’m a coffee drinker, he’s beach I’m mountains, he’s sporty, my idea of a workout is walking to the refrigerator to snack, he’s mathematics, I’m language. Somewhere, between all our differences, we manage to find a common ground. And then of course, there’s the offspring, the font of all our heated conversation, bringing us common ground. But this is 29 years of Valentine’s Days passed. We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day anymore, I don’t think we ever did after the first year of that Cadbury’s chocolate slab.

He’s a tea drinker, I’m a coffee drinker, he’s beach I’m mountains, he’s sporty, my idea of a workout is walking to the refrigerator to snack, he’s mathematics, I’m language. Somewhere, between all our differences, we manage to find a common ground.

I think the celebration is the everyday, the small gestures. Him reaching out to grab my hand when we’re crossing a busy road and putting himself between me and oncoming traffic. It is me closing the door to the room, and keeping the noise down in the house when he’s on a work call. It is him picking things off from the high shelves on the supermarket for me to check the labels of, without me asking him to. Love is the huge humdinger of fights. Love is the anger because it is proof that there is no indifference. Love is the glance across the room to check out if the other needs rescuing from boring company. Love is in the quiet pulling up of a blanket that has slipped down in a chilly room. Love is in the opening of a jam jar without being asked to. It is this quiet love, one that doesn’t need the grand gesture and the over the top declarations that keep us going through the good, the bad and the ugly. And there is the ugly, yes, along with the good and the bad. What matters is that one walks through those, and emerge, sometimes holding hands, at others with cold wars so intense that one needs to steam up the place to defrost the icicles that have formed on the premises.

Love is the huge humdinger of fights. Love is the anger because it is proof that there is no indifference. Love is the glance across the room to check out if the other needs rescuing from boring company. Love is in the quiet pulling up of a blanket that has slipped down in a chilly room.

The institution of marriage is itself on the wane. Marriages are breaking up quicker as well as later. The millennials are consciously choosing not to get married. Baby boomers are getting divorced. The reasons, primarily economic and procreational, that had folks getting married are redundant these days. Women are financially independent. You no longer need to be married in order to have children of your own. You don’t need a single partner for the rest of your life. The institution of love though, will never die down as long as humans have hormones and the need for someone else to validate their existence, as well as the need to pour their own emotions into another. It is only by falling in love that we can sometimes catch a glimpse of the divine in the other, and through them, the divine in ourselves, probably best exemplified in the Bhakti tradition which considered the divine as the lover.

The institution of love though, will never die down as long as humans have hormones and the need for someone else to validate their existence, as well as the need to pour their own emotions into another.

Perhaps Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with love and everything to do with the idea of love. The hearts and flowers, the chocolates and cards, these are but precursors to a lifetime of love, as learning the alphabet would be to a lifetime of getting an education. And perhaps all we really need is to be told over and over again that we are loved, never mind what day it is.

Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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