This is our second Valentine’s Day together, Andrew and I. We celebrated it quietly in bits and pieces today, and all throughout the weekend, in fact. It was very different from last year, but in such a wonderful way. I only hope that our holidays — and more importantly, our everydays — will continue to get better with time.
Friday night we went out for a beautiful dinner at our favorite special occasion restaurant, Hjem. It’s a little Scandinavian place on the square, and it’s so out of place and yet so perfectly nestled into the Fayetteville Town Center. Fifty percent of why I love the place is for its decor — rough-hewn wooden tables, exposed brick, thoughtful artwork and tapestries, spare and modern plates and flatware (IKEA!), wall-mounted antlers, and tiny, bejeweled pendant lamps for each table. The last details makes each seating area feel intimate and unique. Someday, when we have a home together, I want to design a place with the same worn, cozy, clean aesthetic.
And of course, the other fifty percent of my love from Hjem comes from the food. Andrew had the Wagu beef burger that tasted like butter, and I had the local shitake burger, which also tasted like butter. That, plus beers, plus herbed goat cheese and rosemary crackers, plus good conversation after a week of working and not seeing each other made for a delicious and nourishing date — in so many ways.
For dessert we headed over to another favorite place: Nightbird Books and bhk kafe for creamy lattes and two tiny, exquisite cookies. And I bought a book. What could be better?
We ended the night with a movie, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, based on a book we read by Jonathan Safran Foer. Suffice it to say I cried throughout the film, and perhaps Andrew shed one manly tear. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I whimpered to him at the end of the movie, wiping away my smeared mascara. Then we laughed, because while the movie was beautifully made and touching, there was plenty of strange humor that we both enjoyed.
And yet, it didn’t really feel like a “Valentine’s Day date” at all, because when we are together, everything is special. I’ve thought about this more and more over the past few days leading up to V-day, I’ve thought about how the most genuine and approachable love is that which is displayed in small, commonplace ways. A hot coffee before an exam, in between classes. A big steak to mark a special occasion. A foot rub on a Tuesday, or a love note in the mail on a Friday. These are the things that make my heart flutter because I know they took time, effort, creativity and attention. All of these things are qualities that anyone should wish for in a lover and a friend, regardless of the holiday.
Yes, I know, we hear lots of “shun the commercialism” when it comes to Valentine’s Day, and I have two opposing views on that. First, it is commercialized and sickeningly so, but it is a nice reminder in the middle of dreary-bleary Februrary to wear something red, eat a fancy chocolate bar, and celebrate love, whether corny and contrived or real and passionate. Second, in a thought that contrasts the first, if we were doing such a great job at loving one another, we wouldn’t make such a big deal about the day anyway. And as much as we say we’re into avoiding the commercialism or the contrived nature of Valentine’s Day, how many of us stalk Facebook and Twitter for updates about who gave who what and how many flowers and for how much? It’s sickening, and yet with every sickness there is a diagnosis and a root cause.
Instead of placing the blame on Hallmark or Walmart, let us instead look at ourselves and envision a world in which we loved more, every day. How can we make every day Valentine’s Day? Better yet, how can we make every day special so that there is no need for Valentine’s Day? Because the legend behind the holiday may be sweet upon first inspection, but it’s really just a terrible story about a man in jail before France got it’s “liberty, equality, fraternity” groove on.
And so, a toast to us all — whether we are being romanced or are currently assessing our options, let us celebrate love as a goal to be cherished and chased.