RX for a Happy Valentine's Day: become your own true love
Ah, Valentine's Day, the fantasy-filled holiday that comes right after we've managed to get ourselves through another year of Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Have you ever wondered whose bright idea it was to have those three holidays in a row? For many people, the 3-month period of December through February can be festive and fun-filled. But for others, or for at least some of us, it can be like running a gauntlet of forced gaiety. The holidays become an obstacle course full of mind-numbing obligations, challenges and, sometimes, loneliness.
Think about it, first comes Christmas with all its potential neurotic pitfalls. Stores begin putting up their colourful Christmas displays and we hear those bells starting to jingle. And like Pavlov's dogs, we jump to those bells. Compulsive shoppers quickly blow their budgets, people-pleasers agonize over the perfect gifts to get so that everyone will be happy, and gamblers obsess about that elusive big win that will allow them to provide the fantasy Christmas for their loved ones. Food addictions run rampant as junk food becomes even more plentiful and overeating abounds. And more than a few of us try to hide from it all by hugging the punch bowl and staying anesthetized till it's over.
Are we having fun yet?
And then, just one short week later, we have New Year's Eve: a particularly difficult time for people who are not in a satisfying personal relationship, or for those who may prefer to abstain from drinking to oblivion after their Christmas over-indulgence. If you're not wearing a sparkly pair of Manolo Blahnik stilettos, dancing the night away with a hunk in an Armani suit, and swilling over-priced hooch out of Waterford crystal, well, I guess that puts you on the 'B' list of life.
At least, that's what Madison Avenue wants you to think.
Although it’s true that some people do have that kind of experience on New Year's Eve, many also feel very lonely on that night, wondering why they've missed the sailing of "The Love Boat" yet again.
And just when you think it might be safe to peek your throbbing head out of the Holiday Foxhole, you look up to find every store display dripping pink lingerie, sex toys, chocolate kisses, and greeting cards in anticipation of February 14th, and now you're dodging Cupid's arrows.
The fantasy involved in Valentine's Day has now reached epic proportions. We are all supposed to be wildly in love with a "perfect" (read: physically beautiful with lots of hair on his head and no cellulite whatsoever on her hips) person who will shower us with diamonds and expensive chocolates while gazing soulfully and lovingly into our eyes. In that same dream-state, we become the perfect person for him or her as well, unable to do anything wrong in their estimation. If you're not George Clooney with a hot Italian model, or Cameron Diaz on the arm of her latest professional sports hunk (or if you haven't found your "twin flame," "soul mate," or "other half" to "complete you"), well, Valentine's Day is here to remind you that you're clearly doing something terribly wrong, my friend.
Is this the stuff that real life is made of? Or is it more likely out of the pages of a Hollywood romcom, or maybe a con from the mind of Don Draper and his Mad Men? I'm exaggerating a bit here to make a point, but who among us hasn't, at some time, felt ourselves reduced by romantic holiday hype?
FANTASY OR REALITY? YOU PICK...
In my opinion, what the media is selling us, and what too many of us are still buying, is "fantasy." As a direct result of the emotional distress people feel at these times of the year, it is no wonder that fantasy often feels like the best option. And because the use of fantasy works quite well to fend off pain and discomfort in the short run, this method of coping with life can easily become our drug of choice.