Sandra Gibbons

Sandra Gibbons

lives in beautiful Northwest Arkansas. She writes about parenthood, lessons learned, and creating moments of happiness.

Navigating the Commercialization of Valentine's Day

I survived another Valentine's Day. Kicked its ass, in fact.

Each year, as February 14 draws close, I become giddy. I'm a hopeless romantic. A sucker for fairytale endings, depraved underdogs who end up winning the girl, and washed out wallflowers who bewitch the Prom King. I am an advocate of love.

I believe in the modern meaning of Valentine's Day (14th century and later), in expressing romance and devotion, but I don't believe in the pointless commercialization of it. A month before the day, stores are decked out in red and pink and every retailer's prerogative becomes getting people to buy, buy, buy. Purchase the perfect gift for him, get the perfect gift for her. Come to our store and spend your hard-earned dollars on this giant teddy bear, or these expensive shoes, or that thing and this thing. We're conditioned to believe that we're inadequate if we don't spend money on certain items to express our love and devotion to someone. We're asked things like, "So what did [insert name here] get you for Valentine's?" God help you if you respond by saying something to the effect of, "Oh, he didn't buy me anything." He must not be that into you if he didn't buy you anything. And then there's actual Valentine's Day. Traffic jams and packed movie theaters. Filled to capacity restaurants and bars—absolute mayhem. This year, I avoided going out on Valentine's. And it was awesome. A stress-free day with my love to just spend quality time together.

As I write this, I'm sitting in my room at Copper Mountain—outside of Denver—reflecting on Valentine's this year. Kyle and I didn't go out shopping for each other. I had made a comment about wanting flowers (having flowers brings me joy), and he went out and got me some the Friday before. Sunflowers and tulips, the latter because he's Dutch and enjoys sharing his heritage with me, and the former probably because they were just pretty—they reminded me of Van Gogh's sunflowers, and they became even more special to me. He also got me white orchids that should last a while, something that we both can enjoy as we take care of them together.

And then there's the matter of Colorado. We took a few days away from work to enjoy Copper Mountain with friends, another couple, to just enjoy being together. I busted my tailbone snowboarding yesterday morning, and I cried like a baby—testing his patience a hundred times over—but he just sat there beside me on the slopes, encouraging me to get back on my feet and try again. He saw another side of me, while I saw another side of him, and we're stronger for it.

Experiences above all else. Don't get caught up in the consumerist approach to Valentine's or other holidays. Instead, focus on time—the opportunity to give someone your undivided attention. Experience something new together and push on your comfort zone. Growth comes from discomfort, which only makes you stronger.

Monday Morning at the Office

Paradigm Shift