Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion. You do not have to agree with me.

I am 56 years old and as long as I can remember, Valentine’s Day has been something that involves disappointment. For years I hated it. I preface this by saying, I had a wonderful, loving daddy and I have a wonderful loving husband. Daddy always had a valentine for me every year until he passed away at 87. Some years even came with candy on the table at breakfast. My husband has always had a valentine for me on Valentine’s Day and some years there were other things too, flowers, candy, dinner, etc. so let me explain what I mean.

In elementary school, children celebrate Valentine’s Day. A valentine for every child and school approved food or cafeteria produced cookies are available for the party. At least there is less disappointment than when I was a child. Back then you gave valentines to your friends. I imagine I received more than some others but there was always at least one that I was disappointed not to receive a valentine from.

Junior high school boys and girls pair up in time for Valentine’s Day. Popular girls with boyfriends get presents—charm bracelets, necklaces, flowers, candy—from their special someone. Boyfriend-less girls look on from the sidelines and wonder what is wrong with them or catalog a list of all the things they already think are wrong with them. They secretly hope for an admirer to pass along something through a friend or leave a surprise in the mailbox at home. Back in the day, every teen magazine was filled with cute girls with special heart-shaped earrings or strawberry lip gloss for their teeth-and-braces grins. Girls get their hopes up before Valentine’s Day and it comes and goes with disappointment. The next week, there will be a rash of relationship breakups as the gals who got their Valentine fix move on to a newer crush. It was the same in the old days.

High school and the popular flower-gram fundraiser provided a daily dose of long faces. I lived through it and watched my kids go through it. I would sit in the car line in front of the high school waiting to pick up one or more of my kids, watching girls go by with one, two, a whole handful of carnations or roses and all I could think of was how disappointed all the rest of the girls were. I’d see sad gals go by, glancing over at the girl with the big handful of flowers laughing as she went to the car. Every day they hope someone will send them a flower-gram only to realize that most of the time, no one will. Disappointment.

Single life after high school is no different but the pressure ramps up. Stores are filled with Valentine’s displays. Every drugstore and grocery store is filled with multiple aisles of special things for your special people. Valentine candy varieties run the gamut from M&M’s to Peeps in heart shapes to Lindor truffles as well as specialty chocolate-dipped strawberries. You can buy a Valentine card for everyone from your hairdresser to your dog for nearly $5 each. Websites and emails with captions like: 16 Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinners, Perfect Valentine’s Gifts for Everyone, 10 foods that are aphrodisiacs, How to say I Love You, 6 Ways to Dress for a Valentine’s Date, Best Valentine’s Day Desserts, 3 Diamond Settings that say I Love You, etc. ad nauseum. Many very nice single gals are sitting home with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, a $10 bunch of flowers they bought for themselves, with a choice of 15 love story movies on TV to watch. They decide it’s best to stream NCIS and go to bed early. Tomorrow you’ll just be like everyone else and it will be over.

I know this sounds so pessimistic but I know for a fact that this is what many, many females experience on and around February 14 and it is HEARTBREAKING to me.

Married women and moms are the ones filling the aisles in the stores. They are buying valentines for their children to give to every child in the class so it will be fair and no one will be left out. (Better plan) However, beware! If you don’t attach some sort of really cool candy to your kid’s valentines, you didn’t do as good a job as another mom. <argh> These same women are buying valentines for their family members and friends, making sure they get them in the mail on time. They are pouring over the card aisle like their lives depend on it, reading for 20-30 minutes to choose just the right card for each person. Some really crafty ones are home with scissors, doilies, glue, stamps and an assortment of pipe cleaners making fabulous time-consuming homemade valentines far in advance. Gifts are bought. Candles are made. Cookies are baked. Recipes are researched and personal preferences of the intended loved one are taken under advisement. Women with no cooking expertise at all will attempt 5-star dinners just to say “I love you” complete with table linens, candles, music, and flowers. Many will start thinking about what to do mid-January. Those who hit Groundhog Day and don’t have a plan start to feel panicky. By the week before, overexerted moms with young children grabbing at their legs will push grumpily through the grocery store or drugstore aisle, digging through the leftover cards and trying to find an envelope to fit out of the assortment of empty slots. The card aisle now looks like the aftermath of a Black Friday giveaway sale in electronics. Most of the candy is gone. You can find a few boxes of Twizzlers and some of those break-your-teeth conversation hearts with words that make no sense on them. At this point you are better off buying a candy bar in the checkout line. Forget that it doesn’t say Valentine’s Day on it.

UNLESS…you are a male. Then there is a BIG WHITE DRIVE-THROUGH TENT in the parking lot and you can drive up and get what you need and head home like you’ve been planning for weeks. I love watching the men in the grocery store on Valentine’s Day….embarrassment all over their faces, arms full of flowers and boxed cake, perhaps a candy found at the back of the shelf, and a bottle of wine. Trying hard not to look a female in the face, they go through the self-checkout line and slink out of the store as quickly as they can. I’ve even known the occasional man to come home with a gallon of Blue Bell. Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey.

Men, women with boys, hear me. I had a serious discussion with both my boys this year.   One is newly married and the youngest has a girlfriend. I wish I had told them this a long time ago and repeated it every year to them. I wanted to make sure I told them this in case I drop dead tomorrow.

I want you to listen to me. It doesn’t matter what your special gal says to you…”I don’t need anything. I know you love me. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on me. I know we can’t afford it”….whatever it is. No matter what your special gal says to you, DO NOT let Valentine’s Day go by without making a big deal over her. This does not take the place of showing her love every day of the year when you are married. As a married man, you are called to love her and you should be loving her well all the time…not just on Valentine’s Day. Back to the point, it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of money or not. You are creative. Think something up. Make it yourself. Plan it yourself. Don’t wait until the day before or the day of….PLAN AHEAD. That says that she matters enough for you to actually do something about it. Don’t wait for her to fix you that 5-star dinner. YOU do it. Complete with table linens, flowers, candles, music, and all the trimmings. Work an outside job and earn enough money to buy her a special present. Do something that requires extra effort. It doesn’t matter that she knows you love her…SHOW HER. And make it special! Not just this year but EVERY YEAR at Valentine’s.

Like I said, I wish I had started saying this to my boys every year from the time they were little so it would be burned in their brains by now. Even married women see when another married woman is taken to dinner at a special place that she knows the husband had to plan nearly a year in advance. They notice when a friend posts photos on FB about the fabulous dinner their husband prepared for them. Women do not stop enjoying the courtship. Most females think like this innately. LISTEN WELL, MALES. They have lived with a lot of disappointment up to this point concerning Valentine’s Day. You have the opportunity to add to it or make it better. There is a reason God tells a man to LOVE his wife. Love looks like lots of different things. Maybe the female in your life would prefer shotgun shells, an evening at the shooting range, and some homemade smoked BBQ ribs. Find out what makes her feel special. You can tie a ribbon on it, put a heart on that rib and wrap those shotgun shells in red paper with pink ribbon. Plan ahead. Be thoughtful. Choose well.