Will You Be My Un-Valentine? Shirking Tradition for Real Love

My husband and I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. Or last year. In fact, we never have. Do we love each other? Absolutely. Is our affection for one another heart-shaped-chocolate-candy-worthy? Sure. It’s just that we don’t usually celebrate on February 14th.

Now, before you go and tattle on me to Hallmark, I understand that it’s a big deal and has been for centuries to signify this special day with flowers, chocolates, marriage proposals, and romantic dinners without the kiddos. Last year alone, Americans bought 58 million pounds of chocolate during Valentine’s week.

I used to celebrate Valentine’s Day. My mom would serve heart-shaped pancakes on that special day. I loved addressing the tiny envelopes that came with the boxed Valentines to distribute to my classmates. When I was 16, I received my first in-class delivery of roses from my boyfriend. I felt like kind of a big deal that day. As I got older, there were years where I had a “Valentine” with flowers and dinners and a card. There were also years where, well, let’s just say the guys I dated weren’t exactly heart-shaped-chocolate-worthy.


And then I met my current Valentine.

I woke up on the morning after our first date in October to the phone ringing. It was my future husband, calling to ask what kind of coffee I liked (swoon!). It was no small thing to me, this demonstration of kindness and, needless to say, he had me at “latte.” This kindness-and-little-surprises thing continued. There were “just because” bouquets on a Wednesday, surprise “I’m coming home early” phone calls, and gifts to mark each milestone in my doctoral study. I actually had to tell this guy, “Don’t buy me any more purses! I have enough purses!” which I know is not a common plea that one makes to her partner.

As we became more entwined in each other’s lives, little things turned into big things. Sprinkled amongst the just-because flowers were the big things: From standing at the altar (actually, in the press box at Kinnick, which, if you’re from Iowa City, is kinda like church) pledging ‘til death do us part, to passing on the staircase and slapping hands at 1:00 a.m., whispering “Tag, you’re it!” for feeding and changing shifts with our new baby.

Those demonstrations of love, in big and small ways, have sustained us through the heavy stuff. Stuff that needs more than hearts and chocolates. Stuff like losing family, helping family, changing careers, starting school, finishing school, wading through some personal crises. In sickness and in health.

Had those little expressions of love only happened once a year during an officially-sanctioned holiday, I’m not sure we’d still be together.

This year, we celebrated our Un-Valentine’s Day on February 13th. We made reservations at our favorite Iowa City spot, got a sitter, shared great food, and had even better conversation. Behind us, the front desk staff was frantically configuring the seating charts and reservations for the next evening, when they would roll out “special” menus and watch tables like vultures so they could squeeze in just one more couple. The night before Valentine’s Day was fairly quiet, which made for great service and the feeling that we were somehow outsmarting old Cupid.


I’m guessing you have your share of “big things” too, as all grown-ups do. And who couldn’t use more love? Even if your beloved is not the romantic type, chances are he/she wouldn’t turn down a gesture of love and kindness. Send your partner a flirty text message. Open a bottle of wine or a pint of ice cream on a Tuesday night. Do a chore that is normally designated as the other person’s duty. (Nothing says ‘I’ll love you forever’ like changing out the garbage.) Point is you don’t have to wait for a chubby little guy with a bow and arrow to celebrate love.

Go ahead; celebrate Un-Valentine’s today. Right now.


Sherri is a transplant from Oregon who came to be a Hawkeye in 2006 and stayed for the sweet corn...and for the Iowa boy she met along the way! She and her husband (Kyle) have a 9 year-old daughter, Aissa. Sherri earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of Iowa and works for Ruffalo Noel Levitz as an Enrollment Marketing Consultant for colleges and universities. When she's not working, you can find her with her family, enjoying Iowa City and cheering on the Hawkeyes.



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