Roses, Valentines, and Prostitution
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
Is Valentineâ€™s Day really just a sanctioned form of prostitution? I Â donâ€™t say this simply because I donâ€™t have a sweet- heart this February 14thâ€”Iâ€™ve been un-enamored of the holiday for several years. And thatâ€™s pretty funny coming from a hope- less romantic like me.
When I was a kid, I loved Valentineâ€™s Day. I didnâ€™t know yet that I wasnâ€™t artistic, Â so I still tried hard and made goofy- looking hearts that I Â pasted to shoeboxes decorated in aluminum foil etched with lacy, scrolling designs. Â That was back be- fore political correctness kicked in and you got valentines cards and notes from students who liked you and you gave them to students you were friends with or wanted to be friends Â with. Later, Â because some kids never got valentines and there were hurt feelings to be contended with, Â teachers began to mandate that Â you Â must Â provide Â valentines Â for Â every Â student Â in Â your classâ€”not just a few. Thatâ€™s Â not a bad idea,Â Â if youâ€™ve seen awkward little girls cry, but it set a stage for the current state of
I always liked to think of Valentineâ€™s Day as a day when everyone celebrated sweethearts, any sweethearts, even and especially children. Now itâ€™s as commercial as, oh, Christmas. Itâ€™s all about flowers, cards, candy. Itâ€™s damned near mandatory to give or get a Valentine and if you donâ€™t have a man sending you a dozen overpriced roses, youâ€™re to be pitied.
Then again, a dozen roses can sometimes be a bad thing, a very bad thing. I often think of a woman I worked with at the medical center just before I graduated from college. I was young and idealistic, and I raved Â about the dozen roses her husband sent to her at work at least once a month. The woman took one look at the roses and burst into tears. One Â of my other co- workers explained to me, after about three months of this, that I shouldnâ€™t comment about how lucky she was to be getting roses from Â her husband of thirty years on such a regular basis. The best Iâ€™d managed was maybe a trio of roses from my boyfriend, so a dozen to me was like Â four times the love or something. â€œTheyâ€™re guilt roses,â€ my co-worker Â explained one day
while we filed medical reports in the corner of the file room. â€œHer Â husband started sending her flowersâ€”big, expensive arrangementsâ€”a Â couple of years ago. She found out that every time he cheated on her, he Â sent her flowers to keep her from thinking he was interested in anyone but her. She caught on and has been working this minimum-wage job to try to save money to leave him and start over but she canâ€™t yet. Now heâ€™s caught on, and he sends her the roses to let her know what heâ€™s been up to, but to all her co-workers, it looks like heâ€™s a great guy.â€
The day after my divorce was final, a bouquet arrived in my office. My ex hadnâ€™t been able to find my office for the past several years, but Â suddenly, he was able to send something to my desk. Truly a surprise that Â he could send something if he really wanted to. I didnâ€™t say a word to Â anyone about the arrangement or why it had arrived, but Michelle came in, looked at the card, and announced it up and down the hall, Mouth of the South that she is. The difference in how the sexes looked at that floral arrangement was surprisingâ€”all the men stood in the hall- way and told me I must certainly be one special girl while the women lined up, especially the divorced ones, with their arms crossed Â and Â frowning, each coming forward to give me a hug and murmur in my ear, â€œBastard.â€
This year, I could barely get through the grocery aisles for all the pre-packaged and already mushed rose bouquets. I selected an armload of dark pink Asiatic lilies to take home and avoided Sweetheartâ€™s Row. There Â were definitely more men in the grocery store than usual, most of them Â looking for some- thing red and rosy. And thinking of the obligatory sex.
So hereâ€™s how it works. The guy buys his sweetheart flowers, candy, cards, and dinner…maybe even jewelry. He gets guaranteed sex. Geez, sounds a little like prostitution to me.
But my real problem with Valentineâ€™s Day is the hypocrisy of it. Â The idea that you have to do something special for your sweetheart on Â the Â 14th of February. And that thatâ€™s the only day all year that you have to be romantic. Thatâ€™s the part that this hopeless romantic has problems with. If theyâ€™re really your sweetheart, you treat them like your sweetheart every day of the year and not just the one when the roses are the most ex- pensive. Itâ€™s not about the roses and cards and trappings of the day; itâ€™s about treating each other well.