The holiday for couples is just around the corner, and if the overplayed cheesy commercials haven’t bombarded you enough by now, you’re going to miss it. But you won’t be missing much.
Did you sit up at night before Valentine’s Day in grade school filling out cards for each classmate like I did? Maybe you attached a special piece of candy for your closest friends, and maybe you put a heart around the name of a little boy you liked. Perhaps the next day you watched nervously as he shoved the card into his backpack without so much as a glance at it, or maybe he put it in the trash, crushing your fragile heart.
“Love isn’t real, it’s just a social construct,” lectured my mother as she studied Medieval history. “They created marriage for family unity, as a contract, not because people ‘fell in love.’”
I didn’t want to hear it. I thought a knight in shining armor would trot his horse up the driveway and ring the bell, sweeping me away from the Land of the Pines forever.
But things have changed. Now I keep hearing the same story from 20-somethings, embarking on personal expeditions into the world that waits like a giant oyster, disregarding the pearl. I’ve met several people in the past few weeks who have ended relationships because they wanted more flexibility, more freedom and wanted to gain greater satisfaction from personal growth without being attached to another person. Perhaps our generation is shifting away from getting married and settling down after college to growing individual careers and thriving personally first and perhaps the babies will come later.
I’m glad. I think my parents’ generation settled down too quickly, and half of those marriages, as we know, ended in divorce and broken homes, with single parents raising their kids. My generation was raised by mothers who preached about “not needing a man” and “depending on one’s self first” and I think the results of that are showing now. We benefited from watching our single parents struggle to make ends meet because now we know how hard it can be and what it feels like to never give up. We know what it means to persevere for those we love. Maybe Valentine’s Day should be about that — thanking the people who gave us a chance to survive — instead of cupid and chocolates and roses and teddy bears.
And maybe when my generation grows a little older — I’d say give it 15 years at the most — we will start making families that last, because they will be built on foundations of growth and value. Sometimes we have to head down into a valley to know how truly high a mountain is. Sometimes our culture goes through a wringer just to come out the other side stronger and more relaxed. So on Valentine’s Day, don’t worry if you don’t have a lover waiting for you or your crush isn’t returning the feeling. Think about where you came from and who helped you get there. We should all love each other equally. Even your enemy deserves your love, for without them you wouldn’t know the value of those you trust. Think of those who are lonely and show them that we are never truly alone. Or perhaps you’ll thank a veteran for risking their life for you to be free to love whom you please.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.