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Essential Companion to All This Valentine's Day Love

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Thoughtful and Happy Couple
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For these designated hours—and the long, cuddle-perfect weekend that’s going along with them this year—wrap yourself in the euphoria that comes with open expressions of love.

Revel in adoring texts and social media shout-outs from friends. Ooh and ahh over precious homemade arts and crafts constructed with pride by your children. Smirk at shoulda, coulda, woulda texts from exes whose a-ha moment about your greatness came late and wrong. Appreciate the efforts of your current boo thang to show you how mushy you make him inside. And unapologetically do a little something nice for yourself too, not just as a complement to the love you may be feeling from elsewhere, but because you bad and you should always feel it within yourself.

Opinions about Valentine’s Day seem to fall on the ends of two extremes: gung ho celebration or absolute disdain. I personally know more than a few people who call it their favorite holiday. I know about the same number of opposers who will hop onto an imaginary soapbox with the quickness to preach about its evils as an over-commercialized, capitalistic feeding frenzy for florists, jewelers, restaurateurs and greeting card pushers.

I get all that, but the optimist in me believes that all of the special gestures that go along with the Valentine’s Day hype are really just time-delayed sentiments and actions that were thought and intended during the rest of the year, but took a little catalyst to come to fruition. It’s a whole day to cheerlead amor in its many forms. But I agree with the naysayers that the love it’s supposed to celebrate has to be put to action, not just scrawled in a delightful poem. Seeing it in print and seeing it in motion are two different dynamics and one is without question more important than the other.

Yesterday, I checked in with my cousin in Pennsylvania to see how she was faring in the wake of baby Snowmageddon. We volleyed texts back and forth and in the process, she told me that she had been outside to shovel three times—I say once, twice and a third time, y’all—while her live-in boyfriend stayed in the house to hold the walls up and count carpet fibers, I guess. I was hot. From more than 100 miles away, I couldn’t do much more than mentally mollywhop his tail for being a bum and scold her for accepting and allowing that nonsense to even happen. Like it’s the new normal. 

I’m not in their relationship and I’m not in that house, praise Jesus in the heavens above. But the fact remains that she is with a man who, in addition to his seemingly never-ending list of unlikeable habits and boo-hiss moments, let the cousin I love put on her coat, pull on some gloves, slide into some boots and trudge outside in the whipping wind to shovel the driveway of the home they share alone. He takes showers there, he eats meals there, he lays his big blockhead on a feather soft pillow there at night. So, at the very least, half of that driveway should’ve been his to manually plow through. It would’ve been too much like right to expect him to do the whole thing.

Love, in general, has become an oversimplified sentiment. On its own merit, it’s beautiful and joyous. But without mutual dignity, respect and honoring of each other, it’s just a temporary and flimsy high. Today—and Lord have mercy, tomorrow when everything is picked over and discounted 75 percent off—some poor, panicked souls will be scrambling over the shelves of every local grocery story, bodega and pharmacy to commemorate the holiday with boxes of heart-shaped chocolates and semi-fresh flowers. My cousin’s dude will probably be one of them.

It’s nice to get gifts and cards and sentimental tokens on this day reserved for the exchange of such things in the name of love. But without the day-to-day exemplification of protection and appreciation, it’s just another L-word.


Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor who adores Black folks, cheerleads for girl power and works best in her PJs with a cup of Kool-Aid on chill. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.

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