Why I Don’t Hate Valentine’s Day (In August?)

Sunday, I caught a broadcast of the movie P.S. I Love You on the Lifetime network (Mythbuster: Men watch Lifetime…every blue moon).  I absolutely loved this movie when I originally saw it for the first time this past Valentine’s Day, so I decided to write about it.  The review turned out to be a critique of Valentine’s Day as well.  And even though it’s August, I thought I would publish it now, because it’s never too early to think about the one you love.  I hope you enjoy it!

I am single.  That declaration should be more fitting for an essay entitled “Why I Hate Valentine’s Day,” right?  Wrong.  Quite the contrary.  Why I don’t hate Valentine’s Day is because I’ve finally come to the realization that Valentine’s Day is not about me.  Neither is any other holiday, be it Christmas, Thanksgiving, or President’s Day for that matter.  I don’t boycott the mall and refuse to buy presents the week of Christmas (I’m a last minute shopper) just because I’m not married.  I don’t fast on Thanksgiving and push away a plate of turkey, mash potatoes and beef gravy, collard greens saturated with vinegar and hot sauce, macaroni and cheese, and a hot buttered roll, or turn my face away from the Detroit Lions football game just because I don’t have a girlfriend.  I can say “Happy President’s Day George Washington and Thomas Jefferson,” wear red white and blue patriotic attire, and even overlook the fact that they were slave owners for a day (okay maybe half a day) even through I don’t have a date lined up.  And you know what; I can enjoy St. Valentine’s Day too!  And that’s just what I decided to do this weekend leading up to Valentine’s Day.  To celebrate, I took in a movie, actually three movies:  Just Go With It, When Harry Met Sally and P.S. I Love You.

Although all three movies would satisfy the criteria of being romantic comedies, the first two were lighthearted in nature.  The third, starring Hilary Swank as Holly Kennedy and Gerard Butler as Gerry Kennedy, was less so.  The opening scene, in fact, set the tone for this complicated tale of love, loss, and acceptance.  In it, Holly and Gerry square off in a tumultuous argument, filled with flying accusations, hurled high heeled shoes and slamming doors.  The emotional brawl is so intense that it seems inconceivable that a resolution could come about so quickly as it surprisingly does.  The doors reopen, and the two lovers fling their bodies into one another, and twirl around in a circle in the middle of their living room, while exchanging slurred apologies with reconciliatory kisses stunting the enunciation of their heartfelt words.

I must admit, this was new territory for me, as most of my arguments with lovers in the past never got to that phase.  Those standoffs burned long after the doors slammed into a potentially dangerous, smoldering fire; the embers of what was once professed to be impervious love eventually extinguished with dirt.  I thought that this scene, synergistically performed by Swank and Butler, was wonderfully demonstrative of the futility involved in begrudging after quarreling.  If the way they buried the hatchet in milliseconds after they warred seems a little too Hollywood to the casual moviegoer, a “that would only happen in the movies” moment to the everyday anti-love cynic, consider if it was your spouse; and if they were to be snatched away from your arms forever in the time it takes for the second scene of this movie to begin.  And if you do consider this, you have begun to place yourself in the shoes of Holly Kennedy.

When Gerry suddenly dies tragically of a brain tumor, the predictable occurs; denial, depression, a never ending search for answers to the question: why?  Of course the audience sympathizes with the unimaginable scar left on Holly’s heart, transforming her from a young wife into a young widow.  On the other hand, it was a challenge to dismiss the ugly selfishness which unwelcomingly emerged within her relationship with other characters who leave indelible impressions on the audiences’ sensibilities, namely the brutally border line Asperger-like honest Daniel portrayed by Harry Connick Jr., and the neo-sexist female chauvinist Denise played by Lisa Kudrow.  In fact, I had to quell a reflexive “Tell it like it is girl!” comment on the tip of my tongue when Denise chastises Holly for ignoring her calls and dismissing her engagement and ensuing wedding, while alterations are being applied to her bridal gown.  The quelling was made less difficult by Denise’s immediate turn about face, 180 degree forgiving of Holly, at the start of what was sure to be a second round of verbal tirade.  The gentle scolding reminds us that sometimes when we ask “why me?” we are forgetting to ask what might be the more relative question: “why us?”  The answers to “why us?” lead to healing, understanding, and is a much more effective strategy for dealing with the unthinkable.  After all, everyone has experienced loss, disappointment, hurt, and unfairness of some kind.  As the cliché goes: everybody’s got a story.

Filmed in County Wicklow, affectionately dubbed “The Garden of Ireland,” P.S. I Love You will also have you falling deeply in love with Irish country, overloaded with the greenest of green hills and breathtaking scenery, as well as a multidimensional cast of actors that help us to recall someone we know or have met along our way across the bumpy roads of life.

And so I don’t hate Valentine’s Day.  I don’t love the difficulties encountered in finding my soul-mate, or the constant reminder of feeling lost at being lonely in the midst of a crowd of others who have found their special someone.  Those things I definitely hate.  But why take those frustrations out on a day that’s intended to honor the best of what the longing of the heart can lead to (Hallmark revenues aside).  And perhaps one day I’ll be buying two tickets instead of just one at the box office on Valentine’s Day.

© 2011



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