Tag Archives: love

The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing: or, Valentine’s Day and the Commoditization of Love?

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.- Oscar Wilde, the Picture of Dorian Gray

This quotation has been marinating in my brain for the last several days as I’ve been rereading the novel from which it is taken, and I found myself reflecting upon it last night as I entered the grocery store with a friend and was immediately in danger of being sucked into a vortex of Valentine’s Day merchandise: cards, candies, flowers, cupcakes, cookies, balloons, and teddy bears offered fragrant, fluffy, and fatty reminders of the approaching Hallmark holiday. Now, I am in no way averse to the celebrating of Valentine’s Day, but I do think that it’s gotten increasingly like the commercialization of Christmas in the marketing campaigns associated with it.

When I was growing up, my father would come home from work on Valentine’s Day each year with a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates each for my mother and me. When I was in high school, the student counsel sold roses and balloons each Valentine’s Day, and my father (who taught at my school) would send me a rose and a balloon each year, anonymously of course, and he still won’t admit to having done it because there was, and possibly still is, the chance that some boy too socially aware of his reputation to openly like the blind girl might secretly have wanted me to know he was out there, somewhere. Forming an alliance with me might be “regarded as a highly reprehensible connection” by the rest of the school, but I was no less worthy all the same. My dad did what he did for the simple joy of watching me participate in the day with my schoolmates.

The past two years, I’ve received a package from my mother with several dozen chocolate muffins from Vitalicious. Nothing says “I love you” quite like a box of fiber-infused, shit-your-brains-out chocolate chip muffins. More importantly, they’re practical, like my mother. These guilt-free, tasty treats are a weekend ritual for me—a hardy helping of indulgence on a Saturday morning. They are, however, rather pricy on a fixed income, and bank account, heart, and waistline appreciate the gesture.

Such sweet simplicity offers a stark contrast to the advertisement from Amazon.com that appeared in my inbox a few weeks ago: a special deal on the new Kindle Fire, an exclusive Valentine’s Day offer! As gadgets and gizmos replace candy and cuddly animals as tokens of our affection, is the price tag on love getting bigger and its value getting smaller? Perhaps, though we might argue that jewelry store sales have been indicating as much for years. Truthfully though, whether you show your love with candy or a Kindle, what matters most is that your heart is in the right place.

St. Valentine’s name is taken from the Latin word “valens,” meaning strong, powerful, healthy, and worthwhile, according to Latinwordlist.This day isn’t simply about chocolate, cards, and conversation hearts; it’s about cultivating strong, powerful, healthy, and worthwhile relationships, with yourself as well as with others.

So: love to all, not just today, but each day. Remember that you are worthy of love and are loved in ways you probably aren’t always aware of. Most importantly, remember that love, the most priceless gift we have to share, is also the freest. (Restrictions do not apply. Offer good year-round).
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Playing with Fire, Scorched by Flame: Ellen Hopkins’s Burned

I’ve had this novel in my “TBR” pile for several months, and in the humdrum of returning to work after the holiday, I decided to pick it up, thinking that some good young adult fiction would help me forget, at least temporarily, the stress of life. (Obviously I was new to Ellen Hopkins). I found, instead of the trials and tribulations of teen angst, a compelling story of love and hate, of faith and doubt, of feud and forgiveness.

Pattyn Von Stratten is a good Mormon girl: completing her chores, caring for her six younger siblings, dutifully attending sacrament meetings and seminary, tacitly tolerating her father’s alcoholism and abuse and her mother’s submissiveness to his domineering ways. But then a secret relationship with a “real boy”—a non-Mormon boy—incurs her father’s wrath and triggers a chain of drama that results in Pattyn’s “exile” to spend the summer with an estranged aunt in Nevada.

Banished from her home to be punished, Pattyn finds comfort in the arms of “Aunt J”. Battered and broken, she learns about the healing power of love. After years of attending sacrament meetings and adhering to church elders who rarely practice what they preach, Pattyn finds God in the thunder that rolls across the mountain range, in the rhythmic rocking of a horse’s canter, in the eyes of a boy who loves her. So long crouched in cold darkness, she blooms in the wild of the Nevada desert. But in these vast, wide open spaces where her heart is free to fly, is there a shelter in which she can escape her demons?

Burned is a story about the choice to love and the consequences of that choice—that with great gifts come great responsibility, and that even God, in his infinite wisdom, deals doses of tough love. Ellen Hopkins’s simple yet elegant pros at once touches and twists the heart of the reader, and Pattyn’s story is one that gives voice to any young girl forced to grow up in a narrow-sheltered world where questions are forbidden by adults who have no answers.

Note: not being entirely familiar with the Mormon faith, I cannot attest to the accuracy of the portrayal, but this is a story whose power is not bound by cast and creed; Pattyn’s family could just as easily be a Protestant family, A catholic family, a rich family or a poor one. It is a story that will resonate with anyone who struggles in a world where being lost seems far easier than finding oneself.