Mr. Manners: What Do We Really Want On Valentine’s Day?
For as long as I can remember, Margie and I never really went crazy over the much sought V-Day. We greeted each other, made fun of the new couples, and just kept on with it. I did do what everyone else was doing. In our earlier years, I made sure I pre-ordered roses from Mabolo, and card was ready to go. Shirley Crisostomo, my executive assistant, then Carla Ledesma, then Keesa Ocampo (not of Jose Velarde infamy) all made sure I had something for Miss Margie on that date. It became perfunctory, the time of the year where flowers were 3 to 4 times the cost it would have been any other time. You end up writing something flirty or cheesy that became so de rigueur.
But all that changed when we decided to part ways. We remained good friends. The date became hollow, and it meant another day at work. We were never the type to eat out on that day anyway. I definitely would not want to sit at a restaurant where everyone just had to eat the same thing. It wasn’t really a special menu, but simplified way for the kitchen to get the food on the tables, with the hopes of having a turnover (no offense meant!). We found it impersonal, and really, sometimes couples end up watching other couples throughout the evening.
I do recall when Jeremiah Towers opened his short-lived Stars in Manila (you need to watch a documentary about him on Netflix!). Margie and I saw people we knew a few days before the 14th, and they were definitely not with their spouses. The restaurant was just too bright for people to hide, and I guess since it was chic then, hence they decided to book tables there. My mom always said to sit with my back by the door, so as not to see things we weren’t supposed to see. She was right. And I still do that today.
With the date coming close, I was thinking about the best gifts one could get for Valentine's. Remember, Valentine is a Saint, unlike us mortals. St. Valentine is by and large recognized by the Catholic Church. In fact, there are three attributions in Church history. First, he is said to have been a martyred priest, who wedded young soldiers with their true loves, when conscripted soldiers were not allowed to be married. Second, it is said that Valentinus was much of a resistance fighter of his time, helping free Christians from the grips of Roman torturers and their gallows. The third one gives credence to the Valentine card, because it is believed that Valentine sent a message to a maiden who caught his heart during his incarceration. It is said that before his death, he wrote the young girl a note, signing it with “Your Valentine.”
Described as sympathetic, heroic and—most importantly—romantic figure, his popularity rode through the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation. Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
In all his martyrdom, Valentine did not do too badly. He spurned the love business into an insatiable machine churning out cards and messages, libation, confection, dining, and even boosted the flower trade. It is like Christmas for the retailer after a slow start for the year.
According to History.com, "Approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine's Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas."
Honestly, when Margie and I moved on, I had to think about things that were no longer needed to impress her, or anyone else. Martyrdom aside, men also want to be remembered on days like this. I began to talk to her, and be real and honest. It was in this self-awakening that you see the true symbolism of the feast of St. Valentine. There are times when I don’t want to burden her with my own journey, but I do take time to listen to her day and the travails she has. I, like most, tend to wander off in these moments. But I realize that, for a relationship to be honest, you will need to focus and be attentive.
In essence, I really think that women or partners like to be listened to. We have seen a multitude of memes about how to react to a person through questioning or a third degree, many of us writhe in moment because no answer is right. Because in truth, there will never be a right answer. Often, we aren’t expected to provide solutions, but just be there to offer a hand to hold. I was told many times that it is best to listen and think. It made no sense then, but it does today .
The best is to listen, really listen, and think about what is being said. I am guilty of glossing over an issue. But as I have gotten older, I realized that our partners need not have the fancy things, all they want is probably the opportunity to be understood. It is often failure on my part. But it is essential in any friendship.
On the other hand, men want to be appreciated, too. Oftentimes, they can never get it right. But if every person took time to give a simple acknowledgement of the effort, it would do a lot more than a brand new Dyson (appreciated nonetheless) or some monogrammed decanter (hmmm, that would be great too!). I guess we are talking about positive affirmation. It shouldn’t really be one-sided.
So what would be the best gifts to give this Valentine's Day? Mr. Manner suggests that both take time to be loved and heard. It can be Valentine every day or any day you choose. The moments spent talking, giving gratitude, and spending quality time without interruption are what truly matter. This sensibility is what we look for in Valentine.
I am lucky because I have my Valentine back, and it took, and will always take a lot of talking, listening, and appreciating. Mabolo flowers or a pre-ordained dinner in Manila’s hot table won't cut it. It is really more the gratitude of time spent together.
A bouquet of gratitude, a healthy pour of affirmation, topped with truth as truth is needed, and the time spent to listen to each other are what I would consider the best presents. It's available all year 'round, no booking required.
Thank you Margie, for always being there.