A Valentine’s Day Public Service Message

Like many of the 110 million or so Americans who watched the Super Bowl on February 5, I was more interested in the commercials than the game. At $3.5 million per 30-second slot, advertisers are highly motivated to grab the fleeting attention of chip-munching viewers. Humor is thus frequently on display, as are beer bottles and shiny things that go fast. Because of the large number of males in the audience, good-looking women also make numerous appearances during Super Bowl ads. If most or all of these elements can be skillfully interwoven for half a minute, the sponsor is likely to get its money’s worth.

One commercial that caught the eye (and maybe some other areas) of the male demographic in a big way was mounted by Teleflora, the network of 18,000 florists in North America and 20,000 more worldwide. As waah-chicka-waah-waah music and female moaning played in the background, the camera lovingly observed Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima applying the finishing touches to herself for a hot night out, while offering some convincing come-hither looks. Actually these were “I’m-going-thither” looks, indicating that whoever was thither would be having a grand and glorious evening.1

The male viewers no doubt didn’t notice the floral arrangement on Ms. Lima’s counter, until she glanced at it and purred, “Guys, Valentine’s Day’s not that complicated. Give, and you shall receive…” The flowers remained on the table as she left, and the words “Happy Valentine’s night” appeared. The message was delivered along with the flowers: For $69.95 – the cost of the Teleflora XOXO Bouquet that sent the supermodel into a supercharged libidinous state – you can have a similar experience. (This flower arrangement is the first thing that appears, at least this week, when one visits www.teleflora.com.)

Aaah, Valentine’s Day. Say the word to my wife and she’ll roll her eyes – not because she doesn’t appreciate a little romance, but rather because this highly commercial festival generates a number of visits to her counseling office by women who were disappointed because the clueless men in their lives didn’t deliver the goods on February 14. Sadly, all too often their expectations are as much a fantasy as those of the male Super Bowl viewers who believe that XOXO Bouquets will set off a sexual firestorm. In a way, the vast amount of money that changes hands every year during the first two weeks of February – an estimated $17 billion in the U.S., according to the National Retail Federation2 – is emblematic of a grandly wrongheaded (but nonetheless profitable) perception of love as commerce:

  • If I give her what everyone says she wants, (flowers, a nice dinner and some bling), she will give me what I want (sex, sex and sex). If she doesn’t, I’ll start looking for someone who will.
  • If he loved me, he would do _____ (some extravagant gesture, even if only for one evening) to demonstrate it. If he doesn’t come through (even if he has no idea what extravagant gesture I have in mind), that means he doesn’t really love me, and he will reap the consequences.

How do I love thee, in the fantasy world of Valentinian commerce? Let me count the conditions, unwritten rules, unspoken expectations and manipulative gestures. Actually, if I’m honest about it, I really don’t love thee, but rather I love the way thou makest me feel, or at least the way thou shouldst make me feel.

How might I love thee, in the real world of imperfect people and relationships that will always be in progress?

  • By being patient, kind, protective, trusting, and neither self-seeking nor easily angered, among other things.3
  • By looking out for the other person during the 364 days of the year (actually 365 this year) that aren’t February 14.
  • By complimenting and thanking rather than criticizing and complaining.
  • By forgiving and asking forgiveness, relatively often.
  • By taking out the trash, making the coffee, changing diapers, massaging a pair of tired feet, mending a shirt, or fixing a drippy faucet.
  • By listening, being fully present in the conversation, with the cell phone, TV and computer monitor turned off.
  • By seeking to serve rather than demanding service.

How do I love thee, if there is no thee in the picture?

  • Do a random act of kindness for someone who is lonely, isolated, ill or not particularly attractive.
  • Adopt a child through World Vision or Compassion International.
  • Adopt a pet at the local animal shelter.
  • Buy a meal for the guy on the corner with the “Will work for food” sign.
  • Send a note of encouragement to someone who isn’t expecting it.
  • Smile at the bank teller, grocery checker, waitress or other all too easily anonymous person who assists you in some everyday transaction.
  • Get to know the Thee who is the ultimate source of love and compassion. Start with a modern translation of the gospel according to Luke, my favorite historian/physician.

©Paul and Teri Reisser, 2012.

Paul Reisser is a family physician who has been in private practice for more than three decades. He has served as the primary author of Focus on the Family’s Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care and Complete Guide to Family Health, Nutrition and Fitness. Teri Reisser is a marriage and family therapist and author of A Solitary Sorrow, which deals with the emotional fallout of abortion. Together Paul and Teri have recently written Your Spouse Isn’t the Person You Married.

1 According to Wikipedia, Adriana Lima is a devout Catholic who attends church each Sunday and is married, with a 2-year old daughter. The Teleflora ad would have been much more interesting if it had shown her wearing her wedding ring and meeting her husband for a romantic interlude.

2Report: average person will spend $126 on Valentine’s Day.” Scripps Media, 2-7-12. http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/lifestyle/report-average-person-will-spend-126.

3 For more details, see the iconic passage in the 13th chapter of Paul’s first letter to those living in Corinth.

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