There’s More to Love Than Cupid and his Arrows

One of the reasons I was unhappy in the last five years or so of my marriage—which lasted 21 years—was because my husband, who had been so apparently social and outgoing when I fell in love with him, had become taciturn and isolationist.  He scorned Valentine’s Day as a commercial holiday, and considered buying me flowers or taking me out to dinner on February 14 as a distasteful concession to marketing pressure.

While I can’t deny that Valentine’s Day is seized upon as a marketing ploy by all kinds of industries, I also think that it’s wonderful that we take a day of the year to celebrate love.  It doesn’t have to be romantic love between sexual partners, or would-be sexual partners—that’s where I think our American capitalist version of Love Day has taken a wrong turn.

Valentine’s Day should be a time to celebrate love in all its guises.

Today I celebrate the great love I feel for my parents, who gave me life and have always been so thoughtful and unreserved in their nurturing, from the time when I was an infant to right now, as I contemplate my 50th year.   My parents have taught me so much about being loving as a parent—which is not the same thing at all as being permissive or indulgent.

Today I celebrate the love that flows both ways between parents and children.  After my parents, it is my sons who have taught me at every step along the road about what they needed from me as a loving parent.

Sometimes they needed to be enfolded in my arms, and sometimes they needed me to step back and pretend we were strangers, but always they needed that firm, unbreakable assurance that no matter what they did, I would always be there for them.  That is the bottom line love that I learned from my parents, and no doubt they learned from theirs.

Today in my Art of Autobiography class we wrote and talked about the legacies of love that are passed down through generations in a family.  Even though there are other, less positive legacies that are also passed down, I asked the students to focus on the positive, loving side today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, and to think about how each generation gives a loving gift to those who come next.

It may not always be a gift parents or grandparents recognize that they’re giving, because it may come from such a place of automatic second nature.  For instance, I wrote in class about how my father’s family placed such a high value on education, and that is certainly a legacy that I received, put to good use, and am in the process of handing down to my children.

Who knows how long into the past that chain of valuing education goes, or how far into the future it will penetrate as my sons begin to have children of their own?

I come from loving people who have always wanted the best for their children, even if they didn’t always know how to make it happen.  Even the most loving parents don’t always succeed in doing right by our children. For example, my older son will always regret that he did not have a chance to play soccer earlier in his childhood—his father and I did not realize how important that was to him and did not make it happen for him.  But I have no doubt that he will correct that failing when it comes his turn to parent.

Each generation is imprinted by their parents and grandparents, and then goes on to add a few new tricks of their own, often responding to the exigencies of the time or to what they’ve learned in their own process of coming to maturity.

But what runs through, like molten gold at the core of a happy family like mine, is love.  Deep, abiding love, untainted by self-interest or vanity.

This Valentine’s Day, I celebrate family love.  Maybe another year I’ll be beckoning to Cupid and his arrows, but right now that bright red heart, ancient symbol of the yoni that welcomes us all into life on this planet, needs no romantic glitz or glitter.  It’s calling me home.

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  1. It was my birthday yesterday. I no longer recognise birthdays; I see them as anachronistic. Once upon a time it made sense to celebrate surviving through another year; in these days of plenty, where’s the achievement in circumnavigating the sun one more time? Our society over-values quantity of life, and increasingly sidesteps the need to recognise that quality of life is more important.

    Similarly, I see nothing admirable about a day celebrating love. Wouldn’t it be preferable to do that every single day of every single year of our increasingly meaningless lives?

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  February 16, 2012

      My ex-husband said this too. But he did not follow through on the idea of making every day a celebration of love. Sure, it would be great, if we could really do it!

  2. leavergirl

     /  February 16, 2012

    “He scorned Valentine’s Day as a commercial holiday, and considered buying me flowers or taking me out to dinner on February 14 as a distasteful concession to marketing pressure.”

    Sorry but your ex wuz right. There was no st valentine, the whole thing is a crass invention to make people buy crap. Would it have been better if your ex bowed to it falsely and tried for fake cheer and flowers he did not give from the heart? Bah humbug. The day no more celebrates love than Labor Day celebrates labor. It’s part of the spectacle.

  3. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

     /  February 16, 2012

    This just in from Peaceful Uprising (

    “February is a month we have claimed to celebrate love, but what about the history of love? In our modern age, where Valentine’s Day consists of candy and hearts, we often forget that Valentine’s Day began with St. Valentine – a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II. St. Valentine stood by his moral conscience and spoke the truth to power – a practice Peaceful Uprising follows and incorporates into every thing we do.

    “We recognize that love is the most powerful tool we have. It is only by spreading our love, joy and resolve that we will expand our collective consciousness and truly create our vision of a healthy and just world. By staying true to your heart and your principles, creating beloved community that holds and supports one another, and by continuing to believe that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves, we become our own most powerful agents of change.”

    It’s not that I missed the flowers & dinner so much as I missed the revolutionary power of love with my ex. That’s why he’s now part of my history, not my present life.

  4. leavergirl

     /  February 16, 2012

    Hm. I read that valentine is made up. Of course, there were saints made up by the church, not by merchants.

    Love is revolutionary indeed. “St Valentine’s day” of buy buy buy is not. Come to think of it, these “designated days” are a kind of extortion… the implication you are a heel if you don’t buy gifts for whoever the day is “dedicated” to… I think the only nonreligious holidays in America that have meaning are Thanksgiving and the 4th of July…

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