When we find ourselves in Court, there is a lot of waiting time. And that means that there is a good chance to talk to our clients, not only about their case, but ‘life’ as well.
This week I was in Court three times, for three different clients, and we got to talking while we waited for their cases to be called on.
Client number one, a 40-year-old professional, asked me what I was doing for Valentines Day. “Nothing” I replied, bemused. She looked horrified. “How can you not do anything for Valentine’s Day!?”.
Though I did not say it, I’ve always felt that Valentines Day is a bit ‘made up’, created by retail masterminds to drum up business for florists. Single roses in plastic cylinders, and tacky embroidered teddy bears. It all seems a bit forced*.
I enquired “What do you love about it?”. She paused a minute, and then smiled. I could tell she genuinely felt what she was about to say. “You get flowers at the office….I guess it’s a day when everyone gets to see that each other is loved, and in love. Most of our interactions with our partners are private, but Valentine’s Day is for the world at large to see”.
Clearly her Instagram feed is different to mine, where the PSAs (public shows of affection) of those I follow can often reach toxic levels.
Intrigued by the reaction of client one, I asked my next client, a late 30s sales rep the next day, “So, do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?”. “God no”, she retorted, snorting with derision. “Valentine’s Day is like shooting fish in a barrel – it’s for teenaged Lemmings, who get told what to do by a marketing juggernaut for weeks beforehand, so they can’t possibly forget. It means nothing”.
“So you would prefer something impromptu, and spontaneous?”, I asked. “Yes, it’s more special that way – some actual thought has gone into it!” was the response.
Having heeded client number one’s warning, I asked. “So what if your partner brought you something for Valentines Day?” Her response? “I would think that they have done something wrong!”.
Fascinating, I thought. Client one would be devastated not to receive a ceramic dog saying ‘I RUFF YOU’ on February 14. And client two, if she were to receive that same gift, would pay it no credence, and actually perceive that behaviour negatively.
When I asked client three, a mid-thirties woman in professional services, the same question later that week, she was clear. “Yes, you must celebrate Valentine’s Day – no doubt about it”.
“So, what about a random surprise, on some other day of the year – would that not be more ‘special’”? I asked. “Oh yes, that’s nice too. It’s both, really”, she said.
Wanting both was a concept I just could not leave alone. I pursued it further, asking “But if you like the thoughtfulness that goes with the element of surprise, doesn’t that mean that you can forget about Valentine’s Day?”. “Nope”, she said. “Valentine’s Day is a given. You have to recognise it, because everyone does. Deep down, we’re all teenagers, and don’t want to not have a Valentine’s admirer come February 14”.
And there it was, and other factor I had overlooked – FOMO [fear of missing out].
I pressed on, “But if you are in a relationship, you know that you have an admirer. Why would it be important for that to be confirmed on a particular day of the year?”. “Because we want everyone to know it!” was the response.
I confess to feeling confused, and thinking that Valentine’s Day is an unwinnable battle – damned if you celebrate it, damned if you don’t celebrate it. I began to outline a doctoral thesis on the study of this calendar event in my mind, thinking my research could help future generations navigate this deceptively complex day.
But, with a chuckle, I reminded myself what my life as a family lawyer has taught me – relationships are like snowflakes, each of them with their own beauty, but also with their own jagged edges, no two being alike. In short, Valentine’s Day will mean something different for each couple.
For some, receiving a bunch of roses double the price they were on February 13 will give them a thrill, a public acknowledgment on the day when all others in love are acknowledged as well. A chance to tell everyone at the office, on the train, and at home, that they are loved.
For others, some other totally random gesture, on some unsuspecting day in March, or June or October, will mean much more.
But for many, they want, and need, both. The overt evidence of being loved in the form of a gift on February 14, joining them in a world-wide exhibition of love, as well as something unplanned at another time, just ‘because’, even though work colleagues and friends may not ever see it.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things.
In fact, although I am a lawyer writing on a subject involving no law, there’s a message in it for all of us – remember to pay attention to those we love in different ways – sometimes in ways which are evident to the world around us, and sometimes in ways which are just between you and your partner. Why? Because it makes those in our lives feel loved – publicly, and privately.
In short, if in love, remember to say it. Sometimes from the rooftops. Sometimes with a surprise gesture. But in any event, somehow.
* And yes, I checked with my significant other, and she agrees….