Valentine’s Day for many is just another “Hallmark holiday,” an event companies promote to sell wares. There are 55 holidays listed on Hallmark’s website, including some that most of us aren’t even aware of, like Sweetest Day, October 20 this year. The company describes it as “a reminder that a thoughtful word, deed or small gift enriches the life of the recipient as well as the person giving it.”
Some may cynically dismiss Valentine’s Day as a day businesses use to sell flowers, chocolate and wine. But we shouldn’t this year. There seems to be more confusion than ever about how to pursue a romantic interest and how men and women should treat each other in relationships. We need to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
On Valentine’s Day men celebrate women by outward proclamations of kindness and love, whether through simple schoolyard cards or the ultimate gesture of an engagement ring. Across the spectrum from the smallest to the biggest act, there is affection and attention rooted in love and respect. Respect is what is too often missing in the way some men treat women today.
The culture around Valentine’s Day encourages men to demonstrate appreciation for women and teaches them how to deal with rejection. Think about the note passed around school—“Do you like me? Check yes or no.” Through these small acts, men and women learn how to interact and how to deal with unwanted or unreciprocated affection. Cultural cues, like those that are part of Valentine’s Day, that encourage and reinforce more positive interactions are what we need.
Focusing Magnifies and Activates
It is easy to focus attention on the bad actors. But one way to encourage more men to treat women well is to feature good examples. As part of Valentine’s Day this year, men and women have the chance to nominate a man who is an example of a gentleman in The Gentlemen Showcase sponsored by the Network of Enlightened Women.
During the contest, young men are nominated in the College Category and Under 30 Category for demonstrating gentlemanly behavior. They compete for the title of America’s top gentleman and the honor of designating a donation to a charity. This contest recognizes, honors, and in turn, encourages more gentlemen. Take this nomination of Bryan Leines, a student at Patrick Henry College:
Bryan is the most gentlemanly person I have ever met. He is kind, and gentle, and compassionate towards others. He makes everyone feel like they are the most important person in the world when they’re talking to him. I met Bryan during our freshman year at Patrick Henry College. We quickly became inseparable and (I’ll admit) he was friendzoned pretty hard. However, he never let that deter him from being an amazing friend to me, even if that was all he’d ever get to be. He was the sweetest person, to everyone around him, and would go out of his way to ask people how they were doing and catch up with them. I’ll never forget how many times I found out after the fact that he had done kind things for others, even though he never got recognition for it. From the time I heard that he’d brought medicine to a friend no one knew was sick, to the time he tutored another student in a class no one knew they were having trouble in. Over time, I realized that I actually had feelings for this guy, and I decided to let him know. Turns out, Bryan had been in love with me from the day we met, but he had never told me, he just remained my quiet, steadfast friend. He said that he hadn’t wanted to tell me about his feelings because he knew it would be selfish at the time, as it was obvious I didn’t feel the same way at the time. How sweet is that! Fast forward three years and Bryan and I have been happily married for almost 8 months. We love each other more and more every day, and when we have children, I hope I have a son that grows up to be just like him.
Selflessness, respect, and kindness are common themes nominators use. Sean Calabria’s nominator wrote of her fellow classmate at The Catholic University of America: “Sean is the first person to lend a hand when needed and is the ultimate gentleman. He deserves to be recognized with the Gentleman title because of his ability to constantly put others first and give without expecting anything in return. The true sign of a gentleman is their willingness to serve those around them selflessly, and Sean exemplifies that every day.”
This year, celebrate Valentine’s Day. You don’t need to buy anything—just appreciate a special someone in your life with kindness or a nomination in The Gentlemen Showcase.