Dear Valentine's Day, my old friend

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Valentine's Day is a day worth celebrating, but there may be deeper aspects of it that people should think about.

I am sorry Valentine’s Day, but sometimes I don’t pay great attention to the online advice about how to celebrate you. I could a make digital or paper card, write a short poem, provide breakfast in bed or plan a dinner, all of it for my wife. Likely I will do something. Or she might.

On the other hand, our wedding anniversary, two days later, often means that you get second billing. It’s nothing personal against you; I’m sure you understand.

Either way, your showing up is not a bad occasion to ask, What’s it all for? By “it” I mean the whole online dating, romance, relationship thing. What’s it all for?

I’m not asking you to answer the question because you are just a day of the year and can’t be expected to know much of anything. Still, the fact that you drop by each year helps us mortals to ask, “What might be the reason for people seeking romantic encounters?”

From what celebs, health care professionals, or counsellors say, it is easy to conclude that the purpose of romantic encounters is in the end, to fulfill some need the individual has. It’s more or less about “you.” I don’t mean, you, Valentine’s Day. (May I call you “Val?”) You don’t have needs the way we people do.

So, some pursue a romantic encounter in order to establish a medium term relationship. Someone who wants some immediate sexual gratification might get it. Someone else may be dreaming of finding the right person to spend the rest of their life with. Some don’t have any idea why they are trying to meet up with someone.

Anyway, Val, the point is that our own individual reasons are what matter. That’s what many people have decided – if they even feel that there is something to decide at all. I am sure you have noticed it.

On the other hand there are communities that take different approaches from the one I just outlined. Buddhists, for example, would likely not emphasize the importance of individual desires. This is because Buddhism recognizes that personal desires can get us into a lot of trouble. It recommends that you downplay your desires. I don’t think you get a lot of attention in Buddhist societies. Sorry Val. No one means to hurt you.

I am no expert on how Muslims handle romantic encounters, but I would be willing to bet that at the local mosque no one is saying “it’s all about you” when it comes to dating and relationships. Somehow, the intentions of God for each person would be key to envisioning what a proper relationship should look like.

Or take the Protestant and Catholic colleges and schools in London, or anywhere really. I am a little more knowledgeable about what students are taught there. And I can assure you that there is no handing out of condoms with the comment, “In the end, it’s all about you. You decide. (And whatever you decide, just do it safely.)” In those communities, self-control in attitude and conduct is valued.

This doesn’t mean that young (or not so young) people who are part of churches perfectly live up to their own ideals. In many cases, far from it. But at least the expectation is there as something to reach for. By the way, there is forgiveness and renewal when there is failure.

And we haven’t even touched on communities where marriages are arranged. They would also lean to the view that romantic or sexual encounters are not first of all about “you.”

Anyway, Val, you probably know all this stuff. After all, you’ve been around at least a few centuries.

Here’s my thing today: People will do well to consider what they want out of life when thinking about romantic encounters.

Most societies in the world have for a long time leaned sharply towards “enforcing” monogamous long-term relationships that will get children off to a solid start in life. They do not assume that casual sex is an appropriate goal. They do not send long-term relationships and child-supportive environments to the back of the line. They assume that monogamy and children are of supreme importance and that we all better get our act together to support this because, Val, it is not easy.

There is a lot of discussion and study about why divorce stats are what they are (high) resulting in a lot of single parenthood and negatively impacted kids. This is not to judge individual cases. Nor is it to begrudge anyone being born.

But we need to ask, “What do I really want in life, and how will that shape my romantic encounters?”

As far as I can tell, when it comes down to it, most people want and need marriages for life. Most want to give their children the benefits of stable marriages and families. And most children want their parents together. “The studies show” that statistically children from two parent families do better in just about everything.

If all that is true, we’re best to approach any possible romantic encounter with caution, asking, “Is this person worthy of any relationship of importance?” Does this person have the genetic material and character that will be a help to me and my children? As I sometimes quip, “Learn how to spot a loser and run in the other direction.” Asking those questions, Val, I am pretty sure will affect the way people celebrate you.

In the end, you’re not that important. It’s nothing personal. But long term relationships are. Kids are. Important I mean. Super important.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.