Love for Sale

Ah, February!  Advertisers have had a chance to catch their collective breath after the festive season, and once again they bombard us all with Things To Buy That Prove Your Love.  At Christmastime the pressure is on to spring engagement rings on prospective spouses, but Valentine’s Day is the real show-stopper.  Mr. or Ms. Dating-But-Not-Ready feels the squeeze with every jeweler’s commercial, chocolate-box advertisement, and greeting card push.  Meanwhile, people who aren’t feeling the hearts-and-flowers love might find themselves eye-rolling so hard that there’s a danger of eyeballs popping out and skittering across floors all over the country.  Heck, I’m with the love of my life and even I feel the eye-roll-strain right now, every time I turn on the TV.

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Whether we like it or not, February is the month of “Love:  The Hard Sell.”  Single?  We don’t even want to know you!  Dating?  Buy an enormous engagement ring or else!  Married?  You’d better pick up chocolates and the biggest, sappiest card you can find, plus the gemstone jewelry of his or her dreams.  Oh and by the way, if you don’t whisk your beloved away to a sunny private beach somewhere that costs $1,000.00 a night then your love is clearly a sham.  We, the advertisers, have decreed it!

If I sound cynical, it’s because I am.  Not about love; I think that love is super.  What I don’t think is so great is using love as an income-generator.

Lately I’ve been seeing a commercial for a Tiffany ring the size of my fist (slight exaggeration).  I’ve just looked it up online.  The ring – a square-cut diamond on a plain band – costs just shy of $68,000.00.  That is not a typo.  Okay so if you’re a total cheapskate and only want to go for the one-carat version, it can be yours for a pittance at just under $15,000.00.  But how will your sweetheart know that you really love her if you don’t choose the ring from the commercial, which of course is the biggest rock they offer?  Because it’s not just the well-known blue Tiffany box with the white ribbon that matters, you know.  That ring had better be able to bring down the International Space Station when the sun shines on it just right.  If it doesn’t, you are obviously a hard-hearted cur without any concept of true love!

What, is that not the message they’re going for?  Huh.  It’s the one I get, from that ad.  Maybe I’m not their target audience.  In fact, I am certain that I’m not.

Note 1:  For the record, I like chocolate and jewelry as much as anyone else, but don’t push me, Ad Man.  I like these things on my own terms, thanks.

Note 2:  For most of my adult life I was single and thus worthless, according to the Ad Man.  For about 351 days a year I was perfectly happy being single, but jeez, that first half of February sure was an emotional downer.  Thanks for that, advertisers!

So what is true love, and how is it shown?  It’s different for everyone, I’m sure.  My husband proposed to me within two hours of meeting ‘in real life’ for the first time, on bended knee and without a ring.  Did I send him packing?  Oh hell no.  I accepted with joy because what he was offering to me was his heart, love, loyalty and himself.  Is there any better gift?  We went ring-shopping a while later and I do have a beautiful ring which I treasure, but it wasn’t the ring that proved Sem’s love for me.  It was in every word he spoke, each glance and touch and gesture.  It was in the plans we’d made and the hopes we’d dreamed on, and most of all it was in the unshakeable certainty we felt so deeply about each other.

When we were still living an ocean apart we wrote each other long letters which occasionally included that type of particularly passionate prose that someone on the outside looking in might blanch at, saying, “Oh gross, no one really feels love THAT intensely.”  But we lived and breathed those declarations of love, and maybe felt them all the more deeply because of the enormous distance between us.  I still have our emails, and I cherish them.

When we still relied on the postal services to deliver our presents, my Sem sent some beautiful things to me: a hand-crafted aquamarine bracelet and a gold heart locket, among other pieces.  But he also sent me a toy pirate set (plastic cutlass, hook, eye-patch…) and a remote-controlled toy Smart Car, both gifts prompted by private jokes between us at the time.  I was delighted with the gifts he sent, of whatever value.  I sent him poetry recordings I’d found, read by the poets themselves in the long ago, and books I knew he would treasure.  And I once sent him colorful pebbles from a beach I’d road-tripped to, just to give him something that I’d held in my hands so that he could somehow share the day with me (albeit on a time delay).  For both of us as recipients it was always the thought that lay behind the gift that was the most treasured aspect, not the amount spent.

Sem still sometimes presents me with unexpected gifts and it always floors me.  Partly because before Sem, I’d been in a long relationship in which the gift-giving had been almost completely one-sided (oh to have those thousands of dollars I spent back in my own bank account!).  But also because it touches my heart that when Sem notices something online that he thinks I’d like, he just buys it then and there rather than waiting for a certain day on the calendar.  It also often leaves me at a loss, because Sem is hard to buy for, meaning that I am – if he tallied these things, which thankfully he does not – always at a deficit, in the gift-giving stakes.  I try to make up for it in other ways by smoothing his often-difficult path through life, and doing whatever I can to make things better, nicer and easier for him whenever possible.  It’s not the same as giving a gift, but I hope it counts for something.  Knowing him as I do, I’m certain that it does.

Illness has taken its toll on romance but our love continues to deepen and grow.  The good thing is that neither of us yearns for romance in the hearts-and-flowers sense.  In fact, I think Sem knows that if he were to scatter rose petals throughout the apartment I would likely think “oh great, now I’m going to have to pick all those up, thanks,” rather than become dewy-eyed with swooning love.  And this week when we were in the store walking past the large pink and red display of Valentine’s Day cards I said to him, “My Valentine’s gift to you is that you don’t have to get me a card.”  He laughed and said his gift to me would be the same.  I don’t think we’ve ever given each other anniversary cards, either (generally we forget the date – oops!).  We’re more likely to scribble love notes on a notepad or chalkboard, any day of the year.  I love that so much.

Too often there’s a smugness that is attached to the giant engagement ring, or the look-at-our-perfect-life stage-set of rose petals, candles, champagne and jewelry boxes that get posted on social media (or advertised on TV).  I’m sure there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those things, if that’s what brings a couple happiness.  It’s when lavish expenditure is held up as the standard for “real love” that I get annoyed, especially because the hard sell seems to be designed to guilt people into capitulating just to prove something.  For me the proof is in the daily acts of love, gestures or tokens both big and small.  It’s the fact that Sem will stop what he’s doing and make me a cup of coffee if I’ve slept in later than he has on a Sunday morning, or that I’ll divvy up his handfuls of meds ahead of time so that he doesn’t have to go through the endless boxes every day, himself.  It’s Sem reading aloud to me from ‘The Lord of the Rings’, a gift of effort and time, or that when I’m out I’ll make sure to bring back a newspaper and a croissant for him.  It’s knowing what will make the other happy, and both of us trying to do these things often.

None of it makes me feel smug about us or how we love each other, and I hope it does not come across that way.  It makes me feel grateful and loved in a way I never thought I would experience.  I’m constantly astonished by it.  The best, the absolute greatest thing that Sem can (and does) say to me is that he has never known anything like this, either, and that his is a life transformed, because we found each other.  It’s the same for me.  We have our struggles and sometimes we get very angry with each other, like any couple can.  But no matter what has happened during each day, every night we say to each other, “Thank you for today,” and we mean it.

Tiffany & Co. can keep their $68,000.00 ring, Godiva can keep their chocolates, and Hallmark can keep their cards.  I’ll be over here, not putting price tags on love or feeling like we somehow fall short if we don’t, no matter what the Ad Man says.  Because we are all worthy of love, and we don’t need to spend money to prove it.

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Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands, sharing life with her husband, a Highlander she stumbled across purely by chance on a blog site. They own a small business restoring and selling vintage fountain pens, which allows Deb to set her own schedule and have time for photography, writing and spontaneous car rides in the countryside. She is grateful to the readers of ANC for accepting her into the North State fold.
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16 Responses

  1. Oh, Deb, what a lovely column, and your daffodil photo is especially nice for those of us surrounded by snow here in northern California.

    I’m lucky that I have enough electricity to keep my computer going – for now – but I suspect that many other regular commenters are without power this morning, but they’ll comment when they can.

    In the meantime, thank you for this love-filled, practical and delightful column. I wish you and your sweetie a lovely Valentine’s Day in every way.

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Thank you, Doni! I’m glad you enjoyed the column, and that I can give snowbound Redding a glimpse of springtime today. Here’s hoping everyone has power again soon, it’s too cold to be without!

  2. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    What a beautifully expressed love letter to love! I admit, as a single guy Valentine’s Day mostly feels like a warning that I’ll probably die penniless and alone and ten pounds overweight (I’m only sort of kidding), but then you remind me that love is grand and imperfect and worth it. No better message could be conveyed.
    And your photos are always just right. The white castle (house? manor?) on the cliff is breathtaking!

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Thanks, Matt! It is worth it, even when it takes a while to find it (man, I know that tune all too well!). The white castle is Dunbeath Castle, not too far from where I live :-).

  3. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    I can’t forget our anniversary because we were married on Valentine’s Day – 50 years ago! – and Jim calls it our Valenversary. Since I don’t even feel 50 years old, I can only assume that our two sets of parents made an arranged marriage pact while Jim and I were just eggs and sperm awaiting a meeting some 26 years later.

    Lovely writing and photos as always, Deb.

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      50 years, that’s so wonderful, Beverly! Happy slightly-early Anniversary to you both! You must be right about the arranged marriage :-). You certainly come through as very young-spirited in your writing!

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        It’s well I haven’t posted a photo! Back to our anniversary being on Valentine’s Day: we lived in San Francisco when we were first married where my husband and two partners owned a pharmacy. Across the street was our dentist, a handsome, clever Jewish chap. When he learned that our marriage was on Valentine’s Day, he exclaimed, “Then you have to buy only one present!”

  4. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    This was such a joy to read! For our marriage, maybe 46 years? I just don’t count. Plus, we lived together for some years before making it legal. No proposal. My mister was home late one night, which was unusual for him. I recall thinking, damn, what if something happened to him? There would be no record of our love. I’m serious! Maybe it’s the archivist in me. So, I told him that, and he said, “let’s do it.” We always think of our anniversary as being July 4th. Because that was when we were at a party above Cannery Row in Monterey, and had “eyes” for each other. However, when 9/11 happened, I was reminded by our daughter that was our formal small wedding date. She was debriefing with me about that awful event, and then signed off with, “oh, happy anniversary.” So, now I remember. Valentines Day? I can’t be given anything. I have it all. I have my dear husband. And yeah, we buy flowers every week. Just because. In fact, after retirement he’s turned into the house floral designer. Crazy! Thank you to Matthew Grigsby for the nudge to identify Dunbeath Castle. Wow! And thank you, Deb Segelitz for such a sweet article. And no, you don’t sound “smug” to me at all.

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      I love your story, Linda! We buy fresh flowers every week or so as well, always nice to have in our front window :). I’m glad you enjoyed the article – it sounds like you are very happy in your marriage and in your love, that is wonderful to see!

  5. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Hi Deb
    What a treat yesterday morning to open ANC to articles from you AND Doni!! (no power the day before) Then we had to go to Sacramento airport, rerouted from the freeway on the way down due to southbound lane flooding, and routed through water on the way back up. Loooong trip, but we have power at home now. Yay! Grateful for it!
    LOVED your article, as always, thank you. What I do about Valentines Day cards is this: Years ago, I realized that my husband was throwing away – yes, throwing away – my Valentines Day cards!! So, since then, I find old cards that I had sent and kept myself (and this goes for birthday, anniversary, and Christmas too) and sign them again with the date. It’s always fun to see how far back they go. Yesterday, I found one from 1996 and gave it to him for 2019. Sometimes they are re-given more than once. I’m thinking men don’t care so much about cards (although he always buys me nice ones, because I do care) so it’s recycling for me. Yay!

    • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

      Hi Eleanor, what an arduous day you had! I’m glad you have power at home though, that’s great!

      I love your recycled cards idea, what lovely bits of personal history to have amassed :-). Sem once bought me the exact same birthday card four years in a row but didn’t realize it – and I never had the heart to tell him. We don’t get each other cards these days but that’s ok with me.

      A card story I have always liked is about the card my father bought my mother for a ‘big’ anniversary, I think their 30th. He wanted to do something special so he cut the card in half and had each piece mounted on wood, with gilt decoration – very pretty! There was clear shellac over the card halves to preserve them. My mother was delighted. “But you forgot to sign the card,” she said. His reply?

      “How many other men have you been married to for 30 years?” 🙂

  6. Avatar Connie says:

    Once again, you never fail to disappoint in sharing your wonderful written words! I love this one and the message you’ve expressed. Thank you!

  7. Avatar Erika Kilborn says:

    Sigh… you have a way with words, woman. I’m proud to know you.