I don’t want your money, honey

Valentines day. Sjo. What a racket.

If you’re shacked up with the human of your dreams… well… you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I don’t care how many times you tell your significant other “that stuff doesn’t matter to me, baby”, you’re still eyeing that chick in accounting’s epic flower delivery with just a smidge of the green-eyed monster.

And if you do agree to exchange love tokens, the minefield awaits. Pity the fool who buys lingerie that’s too small… or worse, too big. And how do you buy the perfect gift that that’s big enough to get you lucky, but not so big that it signals matrimony?

Even if you’re single, you’re hell bent on showing the world you’re just fine, dammit. Dinner with the girls. A vat of wine. Fancy chocolate for one. Oh, yes please.

I’m being glib. And just a little curmudgeonly. But seriously. Why? Why, why, why do we have to buy stuff to signal that we care about someone? And why, even when we GENUINELY don’t want to get on the hamster-wheel of over-commercialised holidays, do we STILL feel a little left out when there is no heart shaped box of chocolates waiting on a rose-petal covered four-poster bed? Ok, I’m saying we. But I mean me. I’m a sap.

The truth is complicated, I suspect. Made up holidays like Valentines and Mother’s Day are rooted in emotional giving. And in our hyper-commercial world, emotional giving translates to emotional spending. Retailers love this stuff – it’s why they pounced on these kinds of days in the first place – and do everything they can to coax you in to spending lots. “Show her how much you care”, “He only deserves the best” yada yada. They even have whole departments dedicated to special occasions. Little annual calendars of ways to get you to spend your pennies. Just look at how nicely Braai Day is doing for boerie and tjop sales, all the while tugging on those patriotic heart strings. Nice.

The other part is that emotional spending is a whole heap easier than emotional making or doing.

What do I mean? Well, if you buy someone something and they don’t like it, it’s not great, but it’s ok. If you spend time and effort making or doing something for someone, and they don’t like, well that sucks. But really, that’s where vulnerability and connection lie. That’s where the meat of days like these sits. In the thought, the time and effort.
So before you spend cash on your love this Valentines, ask yourself 3 questions:

  • What do they really want from me?
  • How can I really show I care?
  • What will this really cost me?

If the answer to any of the above is time, affection, focus – well then consider a gift that’s woven from those things.

If the answer is money (a.k.a stuff), then I can think of a few more questions you could be asking.
So what are the options, if the usual flowers and chocolate aren’t on the (credit) cards? I could tell you to write poetry or cook dinner in the nude, but we want a happy outcome here. So these are my top 3 ordinary romantic moments you could whip up at home with just a bit of time and effort.

  • Plan a picnic in the living room – a couple of candles and some pillows on the floor will romance the hell out of everyday spaghetti bolognaise
  • Set up the DVD player in the garden – watch Game of Thrones under the stars. Even George RR Martin seems like a soft touch when there is starlight involved.
  • Set up the tablet on the dashboard in the car – like a drive-in, only in your driveway. Don’t laugh.

Valentine’s Day and the back seats of cars have a long history together. Just saying.

Not that you have to do any of that. I’m not saying you shouldn’t spoil the object of your affection. I’m just questioning if you really need to prove your devotion in hard SA ronts.

Originally written for 22seven. 

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