Anyone else grow up writing poems about the ocean, taping posters of Justin Timberlake to their wall, collecting shells at the beach, and engaging in other standard sensitive kid stuff? Cool. Like so many other people with heads that, as my grandmother says, “would fly off if they weren't attached to a body,” my primary concern has been romance and love. I’ve tried to will it away to no avail. It's no use trying to convert me. When the inevitable game of would you rather busts out during a 10 hour car-ride, “true love” always wins out over money.
Although, when I asked this question to the East Fork Team, a surprising amount of grinches spoke up about wanting cold hard cash instead of true love, but to be fair, they were going to use the money equitably to solve global issues. Still— true love beats all in my book.
When I was in the 1st grade, my classmate Charles, whose last name I’ve since sadly forgotten, arrived at school bearing a very special gift. For most of us in Ms. Pollak’s class, it was a day like any other, but for Charles, a real Casanova, every day was an opportunity for romance. I was sitting studiously at my desk when he shuffled over, reached into his pocket, and slowly pulled out a sparkly diamond necklace set in a bright gold chain. I may have flashed a light blush, because to this day, the way to my heart is through gifts and love notes, but as a 6 year old with zero grasp on luxury goods or quality gemstones, it could have been a Ho-Ho cupcake and I would have gone red all the same.
When I got home that afternoon, and pulled the necklace out to show my mother the lovely little token Charles had so thoughtfully gifted me, she went blank in the face. This was quickly followed by a sweet chuckle. We obviously returned the necklace to my teacher the next day, who rightfully returned it to Charles’s mother who had not noticed her son steal it from her jewelry box the previous morning.
Charles's daring robbery of his own mother set the bar high for my romantic expectations. Just kidding— sort of? I’m obviously a fool for anyone who steals me a diamond necklace. But the real essence of the Charles story is unadulterated romance. It’s that pure, child-like love that doesn’t play it cool, is sweet and generous, doesn’t need to explain itself, acts from the heart, and doesn’t apologize. It’s the mysterious force of bestowal. Charles didn’t say anything to me, he just gave me the necklace; it was the purest expression of love he could think of. Thinking about it now, it’s probably one of the romantic things that has happened to me!
When you love someone, there is this mysterious force toward bestowal. An adoration that swells to be too large for your own body to hold, wherein you must, must, must give the beloved a token, a present. It manifests externally, in a love poem, a dandelion plucked on your way over, a playlist curated just for them, or a purloined diamond necklace.
This force seems to take root during childhood, when you have the fresh, bountiful heart that is clean of rejection. When it is only you and your magnificent love. No sour memories, yet. No pesky "what ifs’’ to hold you back. It’s a force that is worth remembering, if you’ve forgotten it. It’s a force that is worth engaging with more, if you still have the courage.
The act of bestowal is, at its smallest, a satisfying solution to your overflowing love, and at its largest, an act that allows you to feel the breadth of your heart, and offers them a physical clue to the depths of your love.
When it comes to romantic love, I believe gift-giving is much more than a trope. When you receive a gift from someone you love, you feel this ancient vulnerability in the gesture, which is not only incredibly attractive due to its sincerity, but a pillar of connection. It’s a risk, it’s showing your cards, and it’s active, not passive. In the beginning of a relationship, when everyone is getting their footing, this is especially important. In the lengths of a relationship, giving a gift is like a signal back to this initial vulnerability, a leap against that which is dull with routine, back into into love’s non-linear, wild, and uncontrollable essence. Bestowing on the beloved is deeper than an act in a rom-com script.
Marriage never interested me, but the force of love does. I’m not pining for a ring. I don’t fantasize about a wedding. Attaching a label to a relationship has just never felt like a pressing issue. At least not compared to the issue of being in love. Not to be sugary or annoying, but the language of love is poetry, not a legal document. Maybe it’s the experience-hungry millennial substrates of my consciousness talking, but the judicial yin to love’s wild ass, inescapable, blush-inducing, fire-fluttering yang, is not what turns the pages of the world’s best novels. It’s not what gives us butterflies. And, it’s definitely not what made Charles put that necklace in my hand.
In conclusion, get your boo something sweet. The power of the gift lies not in its contents, but in its gesture. It doesn’t have to be big, or fancy, or even bought (although, I’m sure anyone would love these.) Make them a bracelet or pick up some flowers. All gifts are good gifts. And remember, giving for the child-like sake of the giving, is a gift unto it self. Happy Valentine's Day!