Confession: Valentine’s Day used to stress me out to no end.
You see, I’ve never fit society’s mold of who or what I’m supposed to be as a female, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. If I was in a relationship, I dreaded the gifts that I’d get because they’d invariably be based on the female stereotype and the type of things that women are supposed to swoon over. I always felt that they were “thoughtless” because they required no thought of who I actually was or what I liked, but simply one of the big 3: jewelry, flowers, or candy.
I don’t want expensive jewelry; I hate dressing up, so where/when would I wear it? I don’t want a huge bouquet of flowers; they’ll just die in a few days. I don’t want a live plant; it’ll just die in a few weeks due to my black thumb. I don’t want a big box of chocolates; they’ll just be gone in a couple days and then I’ll have to go shopping for bigger pants and I hate shopping.
I’d rather have something personal; a home cooked meal where we can linger over a glass of wine and deep conversation, the pair of deathly hallows earrings I found on Etsy but still haven’t bought, or maybe even a massage. (Hint, hint honey. I know you’re reading this.)
From Holiday to Every Day
Because I don’t conform to the feminine stereotype, Valentine’s Day – that over-the-top, once a year celebration – has given me a perspective on stress that I’ve been able to expand to the point that it serves me well in everyday life. It also keeps me from stressing over Valentine’s Day (and other gift-giving holidays) the way I once did.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
It’s OK to state preferences and dislikes whenever an opportunity presents itself. Don’t make it about gifts and don’t wait until right before gift-giving occasions, just let your preferences be known in the moment. For instance, you see an ad for expensive jewelry. It’s OK to say, “I’ve never seen the appeal of fancy jewelry. But then I’ve never seen the appeal of the fancy clothes and high heels that you have to wear with that kind of jewelry, either.” Or “Way too girly! *pause* Well, that attitude’s clearly one of the reasons my girl card’s on permanent probation.” This lets your feelings on the item be known in a casual way and may even spark an actual conversation about their views and preferences… bonus. Plus, the earlier new partners know your preferences, especially about the things to NEVER get you, the happier (and less stressed) you’ll be in the long run. PS, if you clearly make your preferences known and they get you something you’ve clearly expressed disdain for, I’d say that’s a pretty clear sign that something’s amiss.
Keep your expectations realistic. We’re all supposed to want to go out for a romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day, yet it rarely measures up to the hype. Why? Because our expectations are totally unrealistic. Everyone wants to be treated like a king or queen (that’s part of the romantic fantasy), the staff are run absolutely ragged because it’s crazy busy, and for some reason everyone seems to think that service will somehow magically be the best ever under the worst possible conditions. So… if you take this extreme example and apply it to everyday life you’re a step ahead of many people. To stay with the dining example: expect longer wait times at the most popular restaurants, expect longer wait times during the most popular dining times in your area, and if a restaurant recommends having a reservation don’t expect to be able to just walk in without one and be seated immediately. Life is a lot less stressful when you keep your expectations realistic and plan accordingly.
Show your loved ones how much you love them every day. Don’t wait for a few special days to shower the special people in your life with gifts and affection. In the end, it’s the little things you do every day that will mean the most. Things like saying “I love you” every day, rubbing their shoulders when they’re stressed, fixing them their favorite beverage when they’re really stressed, saying please and thank you, and listening to what they say and responding in a way that shows you heard them are better than any store bought gift. It’s much better to feel loved every day than to feel loved only a few times a year.
Don’t get into anyone else’s box. You are unlike any other person on the planet. It’s OK to not like the things that society expects you to like: fancy jewelry, high heels, chocolate, football, cars, beer, or whatever else it may be. By embracing all the things about me that aren’t “girly,” I’ve discovered that there a lot of other women out there who also don’t conform to the feminine stereotype, and men who don’t comform to society’s idea of masculinity. The human race is not a binary system where we each fit into one of two categories; it’s more like a spectrum with all of our likes, dislikes, preferences, and abilities spread out along it.
So what I’m really saying, is: Don’t worry what others think you should be or do. Be yourself. Be your wonderful, glorious, quirky, weird self. When you do, you’ll find that you attract people who appreciate you just the way you are. And I can tell you from experience, that alone takes a huge amount of stress out of your life.