“I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll neeeever let goooo!”
OK, fine. I’ll admit it. As Kate Winslet uttered those Oscar-winning words, I sniffled. Really, though, any girl would get Titanic-ly teary at the thought of Leonardo DiCaprio’s frozen carcass drifting away. How heart-wrenching. Romantic. Emotional. Yes, this is what our culture calls a “love story.”
Ahem, but in describing the genre correctly, I wouldn’t call “Titanic” a love story. It’s a romance. Or a story about love.
What’s the difference? Love, real love, itself, isn’t supposed to be simply a story. It’s supposed to be the most real thing we know.
And lucky ducks that we are, our society has its very own holiday to celebrate the big “L” word. At least, it thinks it does.
But does our modern Valentine’s Day really celebrate love? Or just a titanic bombardment of emotional mushy-gushyness?
Clearly, it’s the latter. Once Christmas is over, up go the pink and red hearts, and people start grumbling that marketers push holidays too early on us, that Valentine’s Day was only invented by Hallmark, and that not having a Valentine is one February-cold self-esteem killer.
Wow. Feel the love.
Our modern Valentine’s Day is curly-cued around romance, and having that “special someone” – unless, of course, you’re in grade school, and in that case you have to give a Valentine to everyone, yes, everyone!
This holiday, then, necessarily excludes all who aren’t currently jivin’ with romantic love.
This is wrong! Refuse to put up with this discrimination! Valentine’s Day should be about real love, upper-case-L “Love,” and not simply romance.
Can we maybe try to not grumble about Valentine’s Day? Can we maybe realize that this is a day when we get to tell the people we care about that we love them? Because doing so is important.
Even more important is realizing that love doesn’t correspond with our pleasure/pain society. Real love isn’t about instant gratification, and doesn’t work with the “if-it-doesn’t-feel-good-then-something’s-wrong” rationality.
Isn’t it true that we can be our most brutal and the least patient with those we say we love? Aren’t we the quickest to judge and often the slowest to listen to those we say are most important to us?
Loving isn’t a pretty and perfect science that can be summed up on a happy candy heart. Loving means surrendering to the unknown. It’s accepting the uncontrollable vulnerability of possibly feeling pain, as well as perhaps the even scarier vulnerability of letting the guard down and allowing ourselves to be loved.
We are all born into that tension and vulnerability. As an adult now, I choose to live in that vulnerability. I want to be “in love” with the people I surround myself with and things I find myself doing and studying and hoping for.
Rebuking the opportunity to do so would render my life the same as our modern Valentine’s Day: all sickly, sweet fluff and no substance.
We are pre-disposed to love. You can’t convince me otherwise. It’s all that we’re supposed to do with our lives. It’s all that gives our lives meaning.
So… shouldn’t we celebrate this word, this outpouring action verb?
I say we should. And you know what? Feb. 14 seems like a great day to do it.
Angela Balinbin is a writer for NEXT, a Sunday opinion page in The Seattle Times, and a Seattle University senior. E-mail: NEXT@seattletimes.com (c) 2004, The Seattle Times. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.