What if our valentine doesn’t buy us flowers for Valentine’s Day?

Published: February 13, 2016

Your darling wife will force you to change your habits and clean yourself up, not to mention taking out the trash every day. Your beloved husband will try to impose himself on you and will make a lot of your decisions for you. Expectations of fantasy always crash down in the face of reality.

Many of my friends have been complaining that I am writing on way too serious issues and should take the ice bucket challenge (in my head). Since Valentine’s Day is close and all, why not? Before I begin, I do wish to offer a pre-emptive apology (similar to the kind America offered Saddam’s Iraq – no bombs here though) to all the female readers of this blog. The views contained herein may present only a limited set of emotions, for which I apologise.

I am a man after all and was born with a limited set of emotions. Expecting more emotion from a man, now that’s the stuff from fairy tales. At the end of the day, we only register four emotions – anger, love, hate and hunger. Love here should be written as love plus lust or ‘lovust, since we really can’t tell the difference between the two. Enough male bashing or reality check (take your pick).

From childhood we are normally told or made to read a lot of fairy tales with princes and princesses containing the simple protagonist or antagonist archetype and an even simpler twist of fate representing the conflict which can only be overcome by true love alone. Examples are numerous but since almost all are copyrighted by Disney, I won’t take any names and run the risk of being sued for libel.

If only we were told right there and then that these are fairy tales and fairies aren’t real, there is no real happily ever after and the person you are fighting the whole world to marry – you actually have to live with them for the rest of your life, not to mention living with your susraal (in-laws). And no, there is no incessant singing involved either.

For the sake of comprehensiveness, let’s discuss a common conflict paradigm we see laid out in fiction and played out in reality.

Love versus Duty

Our concepts of love have unfortunately become so morphed that we are now unable to understand what it actually is. To explain love to ourselves at least commercially, we have now tried to pit it against duty. The dutiful daughter or son is in love with someone and parents want them to marry someone else and thus the familiar tale of love versus duty carries out against the backdrop of sad sounding music.

You get the drift, right?

If not, please watch Indo-Pak entertainment channels, which you probably already do. Fast forward a few episodes and the character is married to his or her cousin as per their parents’ wishes leaving them sulking and depressed till they finally get rid of their spouse or their parents’ realise that their child’s boyfriend or girlfriend was a better choice. By the end, the lovers reunite and the whole universe unifies in celebrating their triumph to the sound of advertisement jingles.

Like the sad tales of love and redemption in the dramas, we all try to make our futile stands to live with our beloved – till death do us part and all – then do something silly and utterly dangerous along the way, as if we think that being with our beloved will be remarkably different from being with someone else.

Bad news Valentine’s Day lovers, it’s really not that different.

Your darling wife will force you to change your habits and clean yourself up, not to mention taking out the trash every day. Your beloved husband will try to impose himself on you and will make a lot of your decisions for you. Expectations of fantasy always crash down in the face of reality.

Both arranged and love marriages are tantamount to jumping in deep water with sharks. The difference of course is that if your love marriage goes sour you can’t blame anyone else for it or even if it wasn’t your fault, nobody will let you.

Arranged marriages at least have the plausible deniability clause built in.

“If you don’t like her mom, what can I do? You chose her for me.”

This works every time!

Cracks do become visible over time and so do wrinkles. You can’t avoid them. So whatever you do, don’t think the person you love is infallible.

Fantasy versus Reality: The commercial idea of love versus what love should be

I think our worst mistake in selling the idea of love commercially was to pit it against duty; turning the idea of love into ‘something we want to do’ versus ‘something we must do’. This way we mutated this great emotion from being selfless to selfish, from being giving to demanding and most importantly from being freeing to being suffocating.

In modern meanings, love has devolved into the physical instead of the spiritual. We are engrossed in our physical world so intensely that we cannot dissociate from it even if it is for a little while. Loving someone does not give you ownership of that person. I am free to love someone but that someone is also free to not love me back. Similarly, if I care for someone deeply it shouldn’t mean that I have a right on them. Loving someone is not the problem; in fact it’s great and completes your life. Problem arises when we think that if we love someone they should be by our side at all times. We are now, rather unfortunately, accustomed to feeling love and possessiveness altogether without being able to separate the two, as if loving someone makes it natural for us to ‘have’ them. Love binds, agreed. But it is not bondage.

We cannot change the commercial enterprise but at least we can do one thing. Let’s love with freedom. Let’s not patronise the one we love. Understand that if they don’t buy us flowers for Valentine’s Day, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love us. It only means they were stupid enough not to. Let’s love people for being humans and care for them without selfishness, so that for a brief moment, we can be human as well.

In the end I’ll leave the ‘lovaholics’ with a treat – for the one that will get away.

The Purple Violet:

In days long ago, I walked far in an open field where I saw a purple violet. Its colours were eternal and untouched. Headstrong, opinionated and aloof it stood. I wondered how it got there. Its beauty mesmerised me. The flower swayed in the wind dancing to a tune as if it was a testament to hopeless romance. I sat down to see it closely. The flower smiled and floated away when I got closer, as if laughing at me, teasing me. I saw it gliding carefree, in all its gracefulness, trusting the wind to take it to a better place. My will bid me to follow, but my road was elsewhere. Sometimes still in my mind, I follow the flower to where it blows.



The author holds an MPhil in Public Administration and has taught Politics and Public Policy at the University of Karachi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.