All right, I’ll admit it: I like getting flowers every once in a while. I don’t believe they should be mandatory for a particular day, and I think the commercialization of Valentine’s Day is about as sexy as the commercialization of Christmas. It’s just capitalism revving its internal motor.
But still. I got flowers today and I adore them. Their backstory is pretty cool. My husband bought a raffle ticket from one of the administrative assistants in his department. He just figured he was donating $5 to one of the poorly-funded schools that borders our own relatively fortunate district. Instead, he won a dozen roses in a vase.
I love the idea of winning anything. It makes me feel lucky in general. I am totally reading this as a good omen for my whole life.
And yet, these roses pale next to to the real gift I got this Valentine’s Day. My husband was supposed to spend most of the week at a conference in Germany. He didn’t go. He stayed home with me instead. When he could have been reconnecting with old friends and basking in scholarly acclaim, he drove me up to Cleveland and held my hand and promised we’d get me healthy again. He didn’t think twice about his decision.
That line about “in sickness and in health”? This is part of what bell hooks is getting at, I think, when she writes that romance is a fickle and a shaky foundation for a life, while love is solid but demands that we consciously choose it over and again. (I realize I keep harping on this idea of hers, maybe because its ramifications are more complicated than they first appear.)
I’ve been on both sides now, the sickness and the health. Both exact a higher cost than most of us imagine when we utter a vow in the flush of youth. If we’re wise – or at least lucky – we keep choosing love anyway.
I see no reason to swear off romance: the butterflies, the flirtation, the vase full of red roses. Love ought to be fun, too, after all. But when the petals shrivel and fall, it’s love that remains – with its constant demand to choose – challenging and sustaining us.