Now I get it! I finally understand why Valentine's Day has never felt like a romantic event to me but rather a symbol of compassion, love and family. Without even realizing it, my sentiment has its roots in the history of why we celebrate Valentine's Day in the first place.
Historically, the celebration of Valentine's Day began with St. Valentine, who was a Roman priest. He was tortured and imprisoned after being caught secretly performing marriage ceremonies for young soldiers. Apparently, soldiers were forbidden to marry because it was believed that single soldiers made better fighters as they had nothing to lose. The married soldiers on the other hand, tended to be more cautious in battle for fear of what would happen to their wives and children, if they were to die. They had a sense of commitment, compassion and concern for their family. The celebration of Valentine's Day began with a belief in the importance of relationships and family.
When I reflect on Valentine's Day, memories from childhood flood me. I remember going to the drugstore with my mother to select the box of colorful and cool valentine cards to share with friends. I would rush home and gentle lay them out on the carpet for examination. I would select the right message for certain friends and then careful choose the one that I would give to a special boy in the class. They would each be signed and candy taped to the envelopes. The cards would then be placed in a brown lunch bag and put into my back pack for delivery at school. You remember the drill. The excitement of the valentine party, the cookies, the sharing and receiving of fun cards from friends.
Then, upon arriving home from school, I would wait with great anticipation for a special dinner and my father to come home from work. I knew he would enter the house with a whistle announcing his arrival and his hands would be behind his back. As he made his way to the kitchen, he would gently place a red heart shaped candy filled box for each of us three girls and a big box for my mother on the counter. This would be followed by a special dinner and Valentine's Day dessert.
It is not surprising to me when I am asked what I am doing for Valentine's Day or what gifts my husband and me will share with each other, I am somewhat at a lost. It occurs to me that Valentine's Day in my marriage has been about many of the same things as it was when I grew up -- family. My husband will buy the girls flowers and candy today as he has every day since they were little girls and we will take time to reflect on each other. Okay, so maybe that is romantic. But not romantic in the typical flowers and candy way (although I do love the dark chocolate). Rather, romantic in the truest spirit of what makes a man attractive and desirable. For me, the top three most romantic and loving things about a man include:
1. A strong guy. Yes, like most of you women I do love the appearance and feel of solid muscles. But the bigger turn on, is a man who has a strength about him because he is kind and gentle at his core. A man who on Valentine's Day remembers his children, his friends and the widowed woman at work with candy and treats to let them know that they are important. A man who can wish the servers in the restaurant a happy Valentine's Day.
2. A man who can cook or at least try. Come on, ladies. You know that when a guy throws a towel over his shoulder and begins to chop something in the kitchen -- he turns into a hot, sexy man. In our house, my husband really doesn't know how to cook, but he certainly can wear that towel on his shoulder well.
3. A great listener. Research has been very clear that there are certain regions of the brain that are rich in dopamine (the feel good hormone) that light up when we feel connected and engaged to others.
Listening, really listening is the truest form of respect. The most romantic and loving thing about a man is often his ability to be fully present and engage in conversations. The man who at the end of a long work day can listen to endless stories from his children, wife or even mother-in-law. Really guys, if you pay attention and hang on our every word, we find you more attractive and desirable. It is win-win.
So, on this Valentine's Day, find a way to honor the memory of St. Valentine and his commitment and belief in the union of loving each other. Make it a day to celebrate the power of connection and love with your family, your friends, your partner. Express your gratitude to those who have given you the gift of love.