valentine's day

Valentine’s Day Is a Holiday for the Absurd

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Spending money on Valentine’s Day gifts can feel sort of crude. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! I immediately sense you closing your eyes, filing this away as further evidence that you don’t need to participate in a “greeting-card holiday,” particularly in a “postcapitalist society” on the “brink of class war,” or whatever you’re going to say as an excuse to avoid vulnerability and disappoint your sweetie — nah-uh. You gotta do something.

But accruing nice objects on someone else’s behalf in an effort to communicate love does not always feel very rewarding. “You fulfill me emotionally in a way for which I will never be able to properly communicate my gratefulness, and that is why I guessed which Diptyque candle scent you would like, probably incorrectly. You know the full-size Diptyques cost $65, which is either very generous or only somewhat generous, depending on how much money you figure I have. I love you.” It’s difficult.

But there is a way around this, which is: an absurd gesture.

Do you know the story about Ted Cruz’s 100 cans of soup? It’s a bad one. Heidi Cruz, Ted’s wife, shared it in 2016. After she and Ted got married and went on their honeymoon, Heidi came home to find Ted had stocked their pantry with 100 cans of soup. By having what she described as a “tough conversation,” she found this was meant to communicate the idea that he did not have faith that she would be the kind of woman who would cook for him and that he needed the soup for sustenance. Humiliated, she returned all of the soup to the store and called her mom to ask whether she’d made the right decision. Her mom advised against returning the soup, so she went back and rebought every can.

It is an absolute nightmare of a story that I will remember forever. But here’s why I bring it up: Imagine if your wife really liked canned soup, and you surprised her by stocking the pantry with 100 cans. That would be so sweet! One hundred cans of soup in a pantry isn’t inherently evil. If your loved one loves canned soup (and if they are NOT Ted Cruz), it would be a perfectly absurd Valentine’s Day gesture to surprise them with 100 cans of their favorite flavors. Yes?

An absurd gesture replaces the hastily bought gift with something almost too personal, something that likely no one else is getting for Valentine’s Day because no one else is your sweetie, and only your sweetie would appreciate this sort of thing. It is a painting you did of your significant other holding hands with someone from the Young Ones, because you know she really likes that show. It is 200 mini-bags of the exact kind of chip your girlfriend likes, in a humorously large box. It is a fridge filled top to bottom with the European soda your boyfriend once said was his favorite. It is a large jean jacket covered in a bunch of iron-on Bruce Springsteen–related patches that you found online, and it says your loved one’s name on the back also in an iron-on patch. It is a room full of balloons.

For Christmas one year, Santa supplied me with a shoebox full of loose Sour Patch Kids, my favorite candy. That was very nice of Santa, and if your significant other likes Sour Patch Kids, maybe you want to steal his idea. I don’t think he would mind. (Though I guess this could backfire if your significant other really wants a new pair of shoes and they think that’s what’s in the box. Then it could be disappointing. Maybe put the loose Sour Patch Kids in a nondescript box.)

If your significant other really likes the movie You Can Count on Me, maybe you can record a video of yourself in a scene where you play all the roles. Then you can project it onto a wall in your home and buy a bunch of candy for the occasion and make popcorn. The scene you refilm can be the final one, though I think you’d need to know how to use editing software to make it so you’re sitting next to yourself on a bench. Maybe do a scene where you can cut away. Now I’m just thinking out loud.

A creative absurd gesture shows you really thought about it and you really give a shit. You love your loved one and they are weird, and so are you.

Valentine’s Day Is a Holiday for the Absurd