2.18.2010

A Reflection from Bear

A reflection paper that Bear wrote for one of his classes. For all you people that know about anthropology, the reflection is on Marcel Mauss' book 'The Gift'. 
I thought it was cute or should I say intelligent!! Enjoy.... 


Last Sunday my wife (Katrina) and I exchanged Valentine’s Day cards. Every year, come February 1st, I begin writing myself little notes and setting alarm reminders on my phone to go off across the days between then and the 14th so that I wouldn’t forget to make the necessary preparations for the big day. In recent years Valentine’s Day has begun to be less a cause of heightened anticipation and more of a momentary memorandum from the cosmos reminding us of our – hopefully – undying love for each other. Nevertheless, the week or so before this Sunday I began my preparations.
 
Stop & Shop has two aisles dedicated to greeting cards. Starting mid-January, one section is done-up all in red and solely devoted to V-day, displaying endless varieties of little 5x7 folded cardstock. One has the choice of comedic, sentimental, romantic, or sexy themes, each proclaiming their own aphorisms of wisdom, affection, and endearment. They really are fascinating, and at times, beautiful little things – works of mass consumerist art and poetry stamped out in the millions each year. The frivolity of the whole deal may get some down upon closer inspection – “why do I need to celebrate my love just one day of the year?” or “V-day is just a holiday created by the card companies.” But to the recipient of such a work of bite-sized adoration the whimsical winged cupid or the highly stylized script emblazoned across a background of an idealic romantic scene becomes the fetishized embodiment of their true-heart’s love.
 
Someplace in our house, safely tucked away, there is a box containing little notes and tidbits of my and Katrina’s relationship. One such tidbit, I am sure, is a Valentine’s Day card I once gave to her when we had just been dating. We keep that card – although neither I nor Katrina has seen it in recent years – because in some ways it is our relationship. I gave that card to her at a specific time and said something in it that was apparently meaningful, and so the thing, the 5x7 folded over card stock, became the sanctified embodiment of my commitment and affection. And knowing that it is there in a strange way pays tribute to our lives together. Strangely enough, it also serves as an informal contract between the two of us. It stays where it is as a material realization of my oath to her, forever testifying and defining the form and contents of our relationship. I can guess that one day we’ll pull it out and read it together. And when we do we’ll be taken back to that time in our lives in which it was written, and in a very real way will be reading the history of our relationship. Hopefully, at that time I’ll get a hug and score a few points for how romantic I am/was. Lucky for me, when Katrina reads that card and the words I wrote some-odd years ago the warm gushy feelings will still pour through it. How that happens is truly magical.
 
Magic is truly in the making. Sometimes I put a fair amount of time into intricately crafting the words and syntax I handwrite on the inner folds of my V-day cards. At other times I let Hallmark do the talking. After all, there’s a Hallmark Goldcrown store not two hundred yards from my house, and their commercials really get to me. And what’s more, during a time of such economic hardship isn’t it only patriotic to pay financial tribute to the one institution in the U.S. whose sole purpose is to spread good cheer? Sometimes it’s also quite convenient that the price tag of $4.95 is so readily identifiable on the back of the card, ever proclaiming the investment I made and the financial burden I endured in picking out only the best for my sweetheart. But alas, it is those cards in which the ratio of pen to paper outweighs the predictable prose of a contracted card-writer that seem to have the greatest effect. It seems a piece of me is enveloped into each signed and sealed envelope. The card and my words carry with them an essence of me that I am all too eager to share, but in giving, never give away. In reading the card – and as I said, especially the hand-written ones – she actually experiences my affection, so much that hand-delivered or mailed from thousands of miles away the two ounce piece of parchment draws her into our relationship, solidifies it, and reassures her that it’s still there.
 
Sadly, I made the grave mistake one year of taking Valentine’s Day perhaps a little less seriously than I should have. I mean, I sent flowers and the whole bit, but my timing was off. Apparently making all your moves on the eve of V-day isn’t the same as on the day of; and when there was a relative decrescendo in festivities on the 14th, disappointment ensued – I should have known. Somehow, the timing of my affectations didn’t match her expectations. So come the day-of, when I was handed my card and box of chocolates and had nothing to give in return…well, awkward is an appropriate word to use, but doesn’t seem to quite cut it. There comes a moment in that one day when all your chips are down and it’s make it or break it. Sadly enough, I broke it; and the process of beginning to recompense for that blunder had to wait another 365 days.
 
There is an aura to Valentine’s Day. Love it or hate it, it really does emotionally and cognitively consume many of us each year. To find our one true love takes on grandiose proportions. Singles and yet-to-be-wed couples often get caught up in finding those who they’re meant to be with, mostly so that they too can be a “match made in heaven”. A sense of destiny seems to be awaiting the truly love-sick just around the corner, if only they could magically unmask their would-be suitor, or if God would simply unveil his or her true identity. Love is at times a wonderfully spiritual experience. David (a la David and Goliath) has even found his way into the center folds of a Hallmark via his often eroticized exhortations to God in the book of Psalms – the Old and New Testament had a lot to say about love. I even hear Saint Valentine’s Day bears the namesake of an early Christian martyr.
 
At our house we celebrate Valentine’s Day, despite my, uh-hmm, earlier mishap. I don’t really find the cute/romantic cards all that cute or romantic; I’m not really into buying expensive cards to prove the level of my financial liquidity, nor am I prone to support the U.S. economy through such discretionary spending; if our house burnt down with the little keepsake box with it I wouldn’t bat an eye at its loss as long as my wife, dog and I made it out ok; and I don’t really know if Katrina and I are a match made in heaven. But there is one thing I do know, February 14th comes around once a year, and like it or not I must recognize it and play along. Katrina’s not all too fond of V-day either. But it’s not so much aboutwhat I give her or what we do on that day. Rather, it’s that we did it. She expects it, and to some degree, so do I. Despite our misgivings about the “holiday,” it somehow pulls us together and forces us to make the best of it – and although we might grumble, we usually end up really enjoying the day. If there’s one thing, then, that Valentine’s Day does, it brings us together, every year, in a certain way, at a certain time, to do a certain thing. And whether or not our observance is sufficient to ensure a long and happy marriage I have no idea, but what I do know is that in some ways it is a necessary one.
 

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