On being ... the day after

By Ingrid Sapona

So, today’s the day after Valentine’s, which means the bonbons are half gone, the champagne’s gone flat, and the first petals are about ready to fall off the flowers. Or, for some, it means it’s time to get on with St. Patty’s Day plans.

But I say: not so fast! Though many claim Valentine’s Day is just a “Hallmark Holiday”, a few Valentine’s-themed stories I came across this week provided thoughtful reminders that happiness is related to the effort and care we put into all our interactions with others.

The first item that made me reflect on this was an ethics column in the Saturday Toronto Star. The column was basically about showing respect for others. In his column a couple weeks ago, the ethics columnist addressed a question sent in by a couple who are in their mid-80s and who are retired physicians. They asked the columnist if they should “confront” their new, young doctor to let her know they were offended by the fact that she (and the nurse) addressed them by their first names.

The columnist’s take on it was that there are different schools of thought on the issue of addressing folks by honourifics (in this case: Dr.) and he sees no reason to be offended by their new doctor’s failure to address them as Dr. X. The columnist ended by advising them that if they’d be more comfortable being addressed in some other way, they should speak to their doctor about it, but he sees no reason to “confront” her.

Apparently a number of readers vehemently disagreed and they wrote in about it. Most felt the young doctor should be deferential to the couple’s senior status and they thought she should refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. X. Interestingly, most readers didn’t object to the doctor’s failure to address the retired physicians by the honourific, which was the point made in the original column. Instead, they focused on the respect they feel is owed to the couple because of their age. The columnist disagreed with the readers on this too, saying he thinks it’s disrespectful when we define people as old, rather as people. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always believed all people deserve respect, regardless of their education, achievement, status, or age.

The question was, of course, what’s the appropriate way of showing respect in this circumstance. I doubt very much that the young doctor intended anything by the way she addressed her new patients. But, if her patients mention their discomfort to her, I hope she has the grace to realize that the truest respect is that which is given in a manner that the person receiving it appreciates, not merely in a manner that you think is sufficient.

Another column from the Saturday Star clearly written with Valentine’s Day celebrations in mind that got me thinking was in a relationship column by a guy and aimed at guys. This one was ostensibly about the “thorny” problem (pun clearly intended by the headline writer) presented when “The Rose Guy” saunters up to a couple at a restaurant in hopes of selling the man a rose for his dining companion. The columnist decried this as the classic no-win situation for the man.

As the columnist sees it, the guy either pays what amounts to an extortionist’s fee for the nearly-wilted rose, or he waves the guy off and looks to the woman -- and to all the nearby diners -- like a cheapskate who (paraphrasing an infamous line from Sex and the City) is just not that into his dining companion. To be honest, I agreed with the columnist -- until I read what a woman he apparently discussed the matter with said.

The woman said she thinks it’s a no brainer -- the guy should always buy the rose. Her reasoning goes like this: if the guy doesn’t, he’s losing an opportunity. As she sees it, The Rose Guy isn’t offering roses at all. So, when you buy the rose, you’re buying a memory and that, she points out, is priceless. I’ve got to say, I think she’s right. After all, it’s the gesture that will make the evening memorable -- and that memory will definitely outlast the flower.

The last story is a true Valentine’s Day story -- one that hits closer it home. My mother likes this one brand of truffles and my father used to keep a stockpile of wrapped boxes of those truffles in his closet. We each got one for every holiday. But the cutest thing was he’d often slip us one as we were leaving after a visit home. Those boxes were a tangible reminder of his sweetness and love.

Well, the other day one of my sisters was in the store and among the chocolates wrapped for Valentine’s Day she saw a box of those truffles. She confessed to me that when she saw them, she couldn’t resist -- she bought herself a box for Valentine’s Day because they reminded her of Dad. I had to laugh when she told me the story because it so happened that when Mom and I were shopping together this past weekend we saw a box of the truffles and we couldn’t resist them either! The relationship lesson here is simple: little gestures can create lasting memories of those we love.

So, though Valentine’s Day is officially behind us, I say we let the spirit of it linger awhile as we practice doing things to nurture our relationships. Just think how much happier we’d all be and how much more love there’d be in the world by next Valentine’s Day.

© 2012 Ingrid Sapona


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