For anyone who is not partnered February 14 may be one of the days you are trying to ignore for a variety of reasons.
Perhaps the over commercialization is distasteful.
Perhaps it reminds you of old hurts, old traumas, or old methods of thinking you’ve since put aside.
Perhaps it reminds you of past relationships you’d rather forget.
Perhaps it makes you feel even more isolated and out of place in a hypocritical society which simultaneously places value on opposing sides of a culture divide.
Perhaps you’re just tired of all and sundry trying to pressure you into being partnered and producing children.
If you fit into any one of these categories, or several, or any number of others out there, this is a reminder that love and romance are not the Hallmark definition we think they are.
Most importantly, you are not some kind of bitter reject if you decided to not even acknowledge Valentine’s Day or you decided on alternative ways to “celebrate.” This is not post-War America where everyone is expected to marry and have children to be fulfilled.
There are a lot of people out there who are still pushing that attitude but that’s their opinion. It does not have to be yours.
The past few posts have been heavily into The Count of Monte Cristo, today is no different. And it’s even more appropriate because Alexandre Dumas flies in the face of what is often sold as the ideal romantic relationship. In the Hallmark/Hollywood ideal of romance the two young lovers at the beginning, Edmond and Mercedes would end up back together at the end. Mercedes would be freed from a dishonorable, lying husband, her son Albert would stay at her side and see Edmond as a better father figure than his own had ever been, and they would all live happily ever after.
Spoiler alert! This is NOT what happens.
Instead, we get a fuller, richer spectrum of love. Aruguably, it’s more realistic than anything Hallmark or Hollywood has ever cooked up.
Compare, for instance, the two loves of Edmond Dantes/the Count: Mercedes and Haydee.
Haydee is a princess turned slave turned princess again when the Count buys her out of slavery. At first glance, it looks more like the sugar baby/sugar daddy dynamic of a modern bodice ripper. Or Lolita. Except Haydee herself turns this misconception on it’s head. The Count does many things for her, but one thing he does not do is avenge her. She does that herself. He provides her with safety, freedom, and, yes, luxury. And yes, he may have helped orchestrate some of what happens to Mondego. But ultimately, she was the one who had to accuse Mondego. She was the one who had to hold her head up and make a stand. The Count wasn’t even there when she did so. And for her bravery she gets to sail off into the sunset with the love of her life.
Mercedes is a peasant, turned princess, turned peasant again when she married Edmond’s enemy and rival for her affections, and ends up with social standing and fortune. Only, instead of being her own hero and taking her life back, she refuses to accept help—even when the Count offers it. She even refuses to claim her half of her late husband’s estate even though it was hers by right. Instead, she chooses to weep and mope in the back garden of the house where Edmond’s father used to live. She chooses misery. She doesn’t even want happiness for herself. The last time we see her in the novel, she doesn’t get a “happily ever after.” She gets a life shut away from the world—as Edmond had been only she’s there by choice.
That’s the true secret of “happily ever after”—choice. You can choose to let life happen to you—as so many of us do. Or you can choose to do something. You can choose happiness, you can choose a new beginning, and you can choose to let the past color but not cloud your vision.
Life (and love) is about choice. Haydee chooses to love the Count—even though he made it very plain to her that her life was her own to lead. Mercedes chooses to abandon Edmond and then chooses to live in misery.
What will you choose?
You can choose to mope that you aren’t living the Hallmark dream on Valentine’s Day.
Or, you can choose a different path.
Personally, I hope you choose to be like Haydee and take love and life bravely. Stand up for yourself, love yourself, and honor yourself.
Do not just let life happen to you.