Valentine's Day was not one of my favorite holidays when I was a twenty-something looking for love.
I spent too much time waiting to see what I was getting, and not enough time wondering what I could give.
There are a few great moments that stand out in my memory from that decade, like the time a boyfriend delivered two dozen long-stemmed roses to the bank where I was working as a teller. John came in person and stood there beaming as the other tellers seemed to congratulate me on getting flowers. It was as if the rankings had come out and just for a day I was right up there.
This is often how the female world of that age group can work, and it all feeds right into Valentine's Day and the need to score some bling.
However, problems arise not only when there's no boyfriend as the holiday lurches around, but when there's a great guy in your life who is present-disabled. No matter how many hints are dropped or general conversations are prompted about what you might like to see in your hands, he doesn't get it. He's not ignoring you; he just doesn't see what all the fuss is about.
Frankly, I finally have to agree with him. Don't get me wrong, it's still nice to get flowers or jewelry or even a card, but it's not necessary anymore. There are more important things I'd like to see in a man, like whether or not he shares well. Or if he has a sense of humor that isn't mean-spirited and can he play well in a group, no matter the group.
Cooking abilities would also be a plus. I'm willing to do the clean up and even this is negotiable as long as salads, crock pots and takeout are acceptable.
The other choice is to nag and complain about not getting your way, completely ignoring the assets that matter more and last longer, like looking at you as if you really are the most beautiful thing he's ever seen, or being nicer to your mother than you've ever been able to muster, or occasionally going to a chick flick and staying awake for the entire movie.
These are the traits that matter and are the clues you not only have a lover but a good friend as your mate.
It's that friendship part that helps a relationship go the distance, because there are going to be times when the going gets very rough. But you look up and see that you're not alone and he appears to be calm. It's in that moment that it dawns on you that you can share the burden and nothing ever seems quite so difficult again.
It's what pulls two people together till they become a family in the best sense of the word. Families take every member into consideration and try to be of service, so that everyone can flourish.
See, that's the part I was missing in my flighty 20's. I didn't get that gifts are temporary, and in the end, don't really mean anything. However, being of service to someone else is like a root we plant deep into the ground while we simultaneously reach out to others.
As for me, I'm going to send out a flurry of Valentines with my mother, Tina, at the top of the list. I know she's missing my dad who's been gone for almost five years now, and the joy I'll get from returning a little of the love back to its source is a better way to celebrate this day anyway.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Her latest book, "Live Your Big Adventure," is available at www.MarthasBi.