Charles Gray | Moving toward a Valentine Life
The Gray Area | Now that Valentine’s Day is over, it’s time to take Ronald Reagan’s love advice
February 15, 2012, 12:38 am·
The Gray Area
Last Thanksgiving, I stuck around campus and had a little free time on my hands. So I decided to go on my Kindle to find a book.
Usually, I would have picked an historical or economics book, curled up in front of my heater and just started reading. But this time I decided to take a little bit of a risk.
I found a book called I Love You, Ronnie by Nancy Reagan.
It’s a collection of the letters that President Reagan wrote to Mrs. Reagan during their 55-year relationship on earth. All of the times that he had been away — as an actor, as the host of the hit show General Electric Theater, as governor of California and while campaigning for the presidency — he had written to her to stay in contact. Mrs. Reagan had saved these letters and published them in this volume.
I was deeply moved by these correspondences. The letter is a wonderful way to express true feelings. The instantaneous nature of an email leads to a certain level of timidity. In letters, however, there is more distance and therefore more freedom.
After reading all of these letters, though, there was one that stood out. It was written on Valentine’s Day in 1963 and goes like this:
“Feb. 14 may be the date they observe and call Valentine’s day but that is for people of only ordinary luck. I happen to have a ‘Valentine Life’ which started on March 4 1952 and will continue as long as I have you. Therefore realizing the importance of this to me, will you be my Valentine from now on and for ever and ever? You see my choice is limited, a Valentine life or no life because I love you very much.”
My first reaction after reading this letter was “wow.” I always thought that most great writing is short and sweet. But in only 81 words, President Reagan makes three pivotal points to consider in the context of Valentine’s Day, especially on a college campus.
It can be very easy to become consumed by the idea of having a whirlwind romance. All the time, I hear people say they have found the perfect match.
In many ways, the idea behind Valentine’s Day only furthers that mentality. The day is centered around the notion that your true love can be expressed in only one day.
It makes me think of the love described in those supermarket magazine covers. It is the passionate, physically driven love that we read about, which appears to start out so great but often ends with that messy break-up issue.
Reagan has a phrase to describe these relationships. He calls it a love for those of only “ordinary luck.”
Real love is something different. It is about a level of sacrifice and commitment that can never be expressed in one day, because it could never have developed in one day.
And that brings up the second interesting point from the letter. Why does he say his Valentine Life started on Mar. 4, 1952?
It’s interesting that he would choose it as the starting point, because they had been dating since 1949.
But Reagan picked that day for a reason. It was the day of their wedding.
He understood the importance of that moment in his life. Their previous dating experiences and engagement built up to the marriage moment when their commitment to each other began on an entirely different level.
This idea has serious implications in a college setting.
If you feel strongly about someone, focus on trying to get to know that person better. But at the same time, have the maturity to put things in a long-term perspective and think about what love really means.
True love, the kind that started on the Reagans’ marriage day, can’t be built up in a few days or in a few interactions in the organizations you are involved in.
There is nothing wrong with Valentine’s Day, if put in the proper perspective. It is a day to focus on and cherish those who are important in your life.
As all days come and go, this year’s Valentine’s Day is now over.
And that gets to the third and most important point in Reagan’s letter. Some of us may never have the extraordinary luck to find a Valentine Life. But if it is obtained, a Valentine Life does not only last one day.
A Valentine Life is forever.
Charles Gray is a College and Wharton senior from Casper, Wyo. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Gray Area appears every other Wednesday.