Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy "Out-of-line's" Day! (pt. II): in which we hear from actual columns, not just Becky's ranting

OK, I guess I'll just proceed....chronologically? Which means with Amy, since she jumped the gun by publishing a V-day question yesterday. Actually not a bad idea, since it gave the person some time to adjust their plans/attitudes. This first letter is exactly the kind of Valentwhiner that drives me nuts.

Dear Amy: Well, Valentine's Day is approaching once again, and I find myself alone. Once again.

I am a woman in my mid-30s, was briefly married many years ago and have had few relationships ever since. I feel as if I've tried absolutely everything to find a mate, and the results are, well, not great. Lots of dates, lots of duds.

I can't believe I have to suffer through another Valentine's Day with this feeling of loneliness deep in my heart.

Do you have any ideas? — Sad Single

Oh come on! This woman has this problem 365 days a year, and that's what makes me nuts. If you're sad about being single and desperately seeking a mate, that's an issue of its own. It takes what really might be a sad and depressing thing (I'm trying to give her some leeway, although people who fear singleness would be happier all around if they worked to get beyond that) to the level of ridiculousness when your reasoning behind wanting a mate is "I can't believe I have to suffer through another Valentine's Day with this feeling of loneliness deep in my heart." Let's not forget that the reason we celebrate is because St. Valentine suffered through St. Valentine's Day with feelings of horrific pain deep in his entire body. Amy wisely ignores the fact that it's Valentine's Day, and just treats the woman's real issue, her desire to make herself desirable.

This is a long one, and I might have enjoyed it more if I weren't so anti-schmoop. Basically this person advocates doing Valentine's Day just how I think it should be done, and most enjoy it myself. But they're just so....well, schmoopy about it. Again, I like the attitude they're advocating. I just can't stomach the bitterness topped with schmoop and nostalgia with which they're advocating it.

DEAR ABBY: I clearly remember my first Valentine's Day. I was in first grade. A few days before, my mom asked how many kids were in my class, and we went to a store and bought large packages of valentines -- one for every child in the class. The cards were all the same size and said, basically, the same thing.

When I arrived at school, each classmate had a small box on his or her desk. At some point during the day, I went around the room and gave each child a valentine. [So did're not like the magic fairy of Valentine's Day...] There was one for the quiet one in the back, the most popular girl in class, the prettiest and even the boys. This was long before society taught me that such a show of affection had to exclude people of the same gender as me. By the end of the day, everyone had a full box of valentines to take home.

One desk, one box ... the love of a child.

As I grew older, society taught me to narrow my offering of affection, picking only those I chose to be special or worthy. Eventually, I was taught to limit my valentines to only one person. More time went on, and then a card was not enough. To show that really special person what she meant to you, you needed to send flowers, candy and jewelry. [You don't! You don't!]

Apparently, as we grew older it took more and more to fill those boxes. Now we absolutely could not give to more than one person. People hire detectives to make sure that the person isn't filling anyone else's. [Yes, Valentine's Day means flowers, candy, jewelry AND FIDELITY. Society is asking too much!] And if you had no one to send you anything, you were saddened by your big, empty box filled only with sadness and despair. [empty box of sadness and despair? Jeebus.]

Today, I am taking back from society what it has taken from me. [You go!] I'm counting how many people play a role in my life, and I am buying "virtual" packages of cards. I have one for every single one of you -- man or woman, young or old, straight or gay, married or single. Each card is the same size, they all say the same thing -- that I appreciate who you are and what you have to contribute to each other. [You could buy a pack of NON-VIRTUAL valentines and ACTUALLY SEND THEM to the people you care about....]

I invite each and every one to do the same, so that no box is empty and the shy ones, the pretty ones, the popular ones and those who are less so go home tonight with a full box of valentines.

One virtual desk, one virtual box, and the love of a child at heart. I wish you all a happy Valentine's Day. -- ERIC IN LOS ALAMITOS, CALIF.


And on to Carolyn's live chat (my link-maker isn't working right now, so I'll try to link it up later), which has a number of delightful and less delightful bits and pieces from all types.

Washington, D.C.: Dear Carolyn,

My fiance (of three months) threw a lamp at me. It missed me and hit the wall leaving a big hole in it. I don't know if he was aiming specifically for me. (He would say he wasn't trying to hit me, and that he was just mad. We'd been fighting a little that night and he was trying to go to bed when I interrupted him.) He told me to sleep on the couch, which I did. I packed up my things and left his house the next morning. It's been seven days now, and he has not called me to apologize, or anything. I'm almost 40, he's 46, and I really wanted to marry this man who I still love very much. Should I forgive him, should he eventually call me to apologize profusely?

Please, what do you think I should do? It's Valentines's tomorrow, and I wonder if he'll send me flowers. Pathetic, I know.

-- Still holding my breath.

Oh no! Oh no! Just so you know, Carolyn puts this woman straight in touch with the appropriate services to get her safe, and help her realize that she DOES NOT WANT FLOWERS FROM THIS GUY. If Valentine's Day can twist our minds around this much, THAT is a problem for sure.

Not as bad as a lamp, but...: My fiance and I had a big, yelling (non-violent) fight yesterday and have been cooling off, so to speak, since then. I haven't called him and he hasn't called me either, by mutual agreement. With Valentine's Day tomorrow, though, I'm wondering whether I should suck up my anger and drop by with the gifts I had bought him. I don't want to intrude on his healing space before he's ready, what do you think?

Another one--no violence, but letting valentine's day affect the course of the relationship--Carolyn advises her to focus on her own healing and health, and then the fiance's, and not obsess about the stupid gifts.

And less traumatic:

Valentine's Day: With all of these very serious issues coming up regarding Valentine's Day, I'll share a not-so-serious one. I work at a museum. Someone called yesterday and asked, "Are you open this Saturday, even though it's Valentine's Day?"


Hypertension City : My boyfriend is on a diet and trying to drop 50 pounds. For V-Day, I want to cook him a big, delicious dinner to celebrate all the progress he's made--and also just because the dish I'm making is one of his favorite dinners. I don't mean it as sabotage, just a nice thing to do for him. Is this sort of morally wrong of me?

Carolyn suggests it is at least unsupportive, and that gifts of food should support the new lifestyle change that losing 50 pounds involves.

and again with the Valentwhiners:

Getting a Grip on Valentine's Day: Any advice for how the single with no prospects 30-something can get through this weekend without silently going postal?

Carolyn Hax: Welllll ... you can remind yourself that it's silly, and that it's celebrated with the most gusto by people under 7 years old ... which actually makes it very not silly, but you get what I mean.

And, if that doesn't stick, then I would suggest using tonight and tomorrow to reach out to people who could really use the attention you want so badly to receive. A local hospital, senior center, homeless shelter, food bank--place a few calls to see who'd be happy for a couple of extra hands. Even if tomorrow is too soon to plan for a visit, you can spend the day making/gathering/buying something to deliver next weekend.

Thank you Carolyn!!!!!! And this guy :

New York, NY: Why not make a few valentines cards for veterans at a local VA hospital? Most of the guys that live there are widowers or don't have a lot of family/friends left. A card (or a visit, even better) makes a huge difference in their week.

And another:

30-something with no prospects: I understand the advice to look outside yourself when you are feeling lonely, but please don't dismiss the 30-something question as a matter of seeking attention. It's more anxiety than that -- it's worrying whether you will ever meet the right person, whether you will ever have the children you want, whether you'll be able to afford a home on a single income, etc. It can be a hopeless feeling (I was 30-something with no prospects once too). And Valentine's Day just makes it more in-your-face.

Carolyn Hax: I know. I do understand. But I think you misread my answer--I wasn't referring to attention-seeking of the look-at-me variety, I was referring to the loving attention of an Other. It's an ache for something you can't just go out and get. The best I can suggest, in those cases, is to give, which is something you can control. That's all I meant by it.

That, and to try to detach it from the holiday.

Exactly! All of these problems are real, but have nothing to do with Feb. 14.

And to wrap up:

Single and V-Day: I've always been single on Valentines Day. I've come to think of it like a Jewish holiday. I'm Catholic so I don't celebrate them but I think those who do should celebrate with gusto.


Oh---probably should explain the title. Carolyn coined "Out of line's Day" because so many of the issues that came up in her chat (most of them unrelated to V-Day actually) involved people being totally, unreasonably, irrationally out of line.

And with that--enjoy (or don't) your day in the manner to which you are accustomed!

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