Before we move headlong into the high holy day of love, which of course is meaningful to your Love Goddess (mostly because my son, Cupid, is such a pivotal figure in it), I want to put on the breaks for a moment in honor of living single. I want to stress the joy of it, not only because there are now 90 million singles in your country—an unprecedented number—but because many of those 90 million are dating....but emphatically NOT in love. They will NOT have chocolates and baubles on Valentine’s Day. They will NOT feel Cupid’s dart urging them into love and commitment. And they will, some of them, feel bereft because the day has become such a huge celebration of love.
They mustn’t feel left out.
I’ve spent centuries trying to be free; trying not to be controlled. I’m a huge fan of women’s independence and hate seeing women panic because love, romantic love, is eluding them. (I once married the god of fire—not even remotely cute, that god—just so I wouldn’t be controlled!) To you independents I say, take the whole day—yes, Valentine’s Day—to celebrate the fact that you are free to write your own script; free of having to follow the narrative of any other woman; free to fall in love tomorrow-- or not to fall in love ever.
This isn’t a booby prize, my lovely friends. Freedom is more and more important as you go along in life. And did you know that, despite the hype about happily ever after, single women are far happier than most married women? In fact, the only other cohort as happy as single women is married men.....for, as you know, men thrive in marriage more than women do, and suffer more outside it, too. This isn't to say you can't feel free in a committed relationship, or in a marriage, but it's vastly different.
So revel in these single days. Respect them and feel the entitlement to fun and exploration they afford you....the material, sexual, gustatory and sartorial freedom that you can only have when you’re autonomous, and which is a glorious state to be in in this particular culture. (As opposed to, say, Mumbai.)Just think what your great-great grandmother would have given to be able to improvise her life rather than follow the script that was already written for her! Yes, the love-and-marriage script is safe and often wonderful; but nowhere else on the planet can an unmarried woman be the narrator of her own deeply satisfying story as you down there in
So write that story for yourself. It’s your life! And on Valentine’s Day? Celebrate with your buddies. Or your mom. Or just go out to a restaurant and order your favorite food and drink, all by yourself. And think of me, your wildly autonomous Love Goddess, toasting you every step of the way.
The Goddess has taken yoga lessons for thousands and thousands of years. And with each teacher I learn something radical and wonderful.
Ned, one of my all-time favorite teachers, stresses one theme again and again: Yoga is not work. It is not “exercise.” It is not about no-pain-no-gain, feel-the-burn working out; on the contrary, it’s about pleasure. “If it’s not pleasure,” Ned says, clearly referring to other things as well as to yoga, “don’t bother with it.” Ned teaches this pleasure principle not only because he hates exercise but because, after fifty years of doing yoga, he hates the idea that we might hurt ourselves and then say, “Yoga hurt me.” Yoga never hurts you, he says; you hurt yourself by pushing too hard. You push too hard because you feel defective, flawed, fat, unfit, whatever, and so you think, “I’ve gotta work out like crazy today to be BETTER.”
Ned believes we’re already perfect, and that Yoga offers us the opportunity to experience our perfection. Not in a goofy, blissed out way (although sometimes that, too). The poses, thanks to the ancient wisdom that created them, allow us to feel the energy, the antidepressant energy, we already have in our bodies, but that sometimes just needs to be freed. Not by killing ourselves. Just by noticing it. Helping it course through us…but gently.
And breathing with it. The word “conspire” means “To breathe with.” Isn’t this the best possible lesson about love? That all you have to do is breathe with it? To conspire with your lover to have fun together? To be conspirators in the art of pleasure? To paraphrase Ned, love doesn’t hurt us. We hurt ourselves when we do the feel-the-burn exercise of knocking ourselves out to prove to ourselves we’re worth being loved, or to prove ourselves to our lovers. Nothing needs to be proven—it’s already good enough (notice I didn’t say perfect); and if we can go with that, a whole lot of unpleasurable things vanish.
This Valentine’s Day, as everyone makes a run for the stores, please remember that you don’t have to prove anything. You don’t have to be pleasing. And once you feel this freedom, you won't require your lover to prove anything or be pleasing, either. Just be together, if you can. Breathe with each other. Conspire to do whatever feels good together, even if it’s nothing at all, and just feel the pleasure of it.
Saks Fifth Avenue has sent your Goddess its Valentine’s Day page, as have all the other stores, showing gifts to give my Valentine.On this page here is a Morgan Cycle Retro Scooter; a Victorinox Swiss Army Watch; a Bowers & Wilkins Zepplin IPOD speakers; Mariebelle Vanity Purse Chocolates. Does Jove want any of this stuff? I ask him.
“He picked up his thunderbolt and the heavens shook with lightening and thunder. "Does this stuff make you as tired as it does me?” he shouted grumpily.
"Yes and no," I said as I so often say when he makes that particular statement. I’m indeed tired of stuff. But on the other hand, hey, I love stuff.
But right now my feelings about stuff are so ambivalent….doesn’t all this stuff smack of just what the culture is suffering from—too much irrelevant, unneeded, drummed-up-to-surprise-you-with-little-promise-of-pleasure STUFF?
I have an idea.
Ditch the stuff. For Valentine’s Day. All of it. Even the chocolates and flowers. Don’t buy a thing except some art supplies. Then tell your lover you don’t want anything at all except a love letter that he makes and creates, and that you’ll do the same and you’ll exchange cards over a lovely dinner. (Okay, you go out for dinner. But that’s not the same as buying STUFF.) It can’t be a love letter you or he buys, with a maudlin or cute message provided by Hallmark, but a love letter made and written by him for you and by you for him. You make up the terms. My friend Michael suggests that it be one thing each of you did or said this last year that meant a lot. That’s what I’m doing with Jove. He did something s meaningful that I even can tolerate that thunderbolt he keeps with him all the time.
And then, once you name the one thing (like, say, that he called when it was snowing to make sure you got out of the driveway; or that she drank, on a dare, four beers without stopping….whatever), you have to articulate why that one thing was so meaningful. That’s the hard part. Excavating the feeling, and then the words, that made that private part of you deep inside, usually not available for articulation, say, Yeah: That’s My Guy. Can you imagine how good he’ll feel hearing how he succeeded so brilliantly in making you love him—even if he did so only once this year?
Now that’s romantic. That’s saying, Hey, lover, you’re the best
I, The Love Goddess, am not a lover of Valentine's Day. For one thing, my son is Cupid, and I'm not fond of all the little cherubic pictures of him with stupid little arrows in his quiver. He's a much more handsome young man than Hallmark thinks he is, and, well, just imagine having YOUR kids depicted as a chubby little creature in a diaper. That said, my more pressing concern is all my darling lovers down there who are worried about Valentine's Day the way they worry about Christmas. What should I get her? What's he going to bring me? How much will it cost? Are chocolates okay?
My friend Andrew, who lives in San Francisco, tells me of a woman he once went out with whom he took out on Valentine's Day, arriving with flowers and taking her to a lovely restaurant. He was proud of his evening plans and sure he'd please her. But no. She was mad from the moment he picked her up. "Why didn't you send flowers to my OFFICE?" she complained as he handed her a dozen roses at her door. To her, the point of flowers were to impress her coworkers. For him, a rose was a rose was a rose--and far more romantic when presented in private. You know how I feel about expectations--how they're the death knell of real romance.
Dear ones, don't get into the commercial part of Valentine's Day. It's a holiday that takes advantage of my good name and my son's, too. The Love Goddess is a far, far better woman (as Cupid a far, far better boy) than anything Hallmark can devise. So, listen: Tomorrow we'll talk about some really romantic things to do for Valentine's Day--"romantic" as defined by me, the real thing, not by either Hallmark or Godiva.