Most people spend the whole year either looking forward to or dreading Valentine’s Day, depending on how secure they are in their own relationships, or lacks thereof. I mean, it makes sense. We’re top-heavy, as a species. We require a relatively long gestational period followed by twenty some odd years of unconditional positive regard and coddling.
We spend the first decade of our lives almost entirely dependent on those around us for the most basic of life-sustaining support so that our brains, arguably the top organ on the organ priority checklist, can become brilliant and learn all of the things, and set us up with a good foundation to navigate the world as fledglings and beyond.
The only way you’re getting a middle aged man or woman to wipe your crack every day of your life for two full years is if you’re so cute they want to puke and die every single time they look at you.
It’s the only way.
That whole process works out better for some of us than others.
It stands to reason, then, that we would set aside an entire day each year to the celebration of social constructs like love and interconnectedness, which is the only real thing standing between actual life life and life in the third chapter of an apocalyptic fictional dystopia.
We are a species dependent upon love, in one form or another, to literally survive.
Even as we age, depending on our temperaments and experiences, on the ways we’ve handled what we’ve encountered so far, still we feel that bubbleguts feeling when we embarrass ourselves in front of coworkers and peers, or put our adult relationships on the line for things that seemed important at the time but turned out to be the evilest of red herrings.
I think, though, that there’s a holiday, at least here in good old Pennsylvania, that should really be afforded more of the spotlight this month and, lucky for you, it’s already over. So this drastic personal change I’m about to ask you to make? You’ve got a year, friends.
The holiday that February forgot, the one to which I’m so obviously, obviously referring, is of course Groundhog Day.
Now, as a woman of very heavily Germanic origin, I should probably disclose that I’m likely genetically predisposed to holidays centered around semi-psychic mammals whose behavior is believed to prognosticate the weather.
My people have been doing this weather lore thing since the 16th century. This is kind of our thing.
I also live under two hours from the throbbing emotional epicenter of the holiday, for me, which is Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. You may be aware of that fact because you are from Pennsylvania and are thus born with this information encoded deep within your unmolested psyche, waiting to be activated. Or, you may be aware of Punxsy because you’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray.
If you’re over the age of twelve and the latter of those two things is not a statement of fact in your case, you now have an assignment.
I expect you to have seen and adored the living crap out of the movie Groundhog Day when next we meet.
Because we can’t be friends if you don’t love the movie Groundhog Day, because the movie Groundhog Day stars Bill Murray, and Bill Murray is a national gosh darn treasure and my movie husband, so you will be required to at least concede that I am right in all cases in my evaluation of both Bill Murray and the movie Groundhog Day.
Glad we got that settled.
Now why? Why would I love a movie so much when it hit box offices around my tenth year of life, and starred Bill Murray, and was about Groundhog Day, you ask?
Okay. Class? I know I said there were no dumb questions but.
That’s kind of a dumb question.
Now, as I was saying, I live under two hours from the town in Pennsylvania best known as the place where little rat mammals predict the future. There’s a celebration there every year to honor the beast. People gather in the frigid wee hours of the morning, appearing like zombies out of the arctic mist at 6 a.m. to see the hog named Phil withdrawn from his tree stump at – I crap you not you guys – the ceremonial grounds known as Gobbler’s Knob.
Okay. So this is why I will be single my whole life.
Punxsutawney? It’s just some little town in Pennsylvania. It’s not a place you vacation to.
Unless it is.
Because it’s Punxsutawney, and Bill Murray was in a movie about it, and they’re doing weird stuff with groundhogs at dawn once a year, man. If you do not get, on an intuitive, like fundamental level why that is not numero uno at the very tippy top of my weird vacations bucket list, you will never get me.
So the movie, it’s a movie that’s set in Punxsutawney, on Groundhog Day, but that’s just a happy coincidence. I live near nothing. I live in the middle of a forest. There is nothing here. The vacation bureau is going to hate me because that’s not true at all, there are tons of things to do here, but you have to like nature more than people to want to do any of them and the vast majority of people don’t want to vacation where they can’t also expect to be able to make full use of their cell phone 100 percent of the time at every elevation within the county.
I know I’m about to sound like a real nasty woman, with gross things like opinions and stuff, but I’m comfortable with risk taking and I have faith that you’re cool, reader, and you can take it.
Any bro can plan a romantic weekend trip to Paris or New York, and recreate the finest details of their love’s most favorite movie in the whole world.
But the ultimate, like most spectacularly romantic surprise vacation I could be offered would be to stay in Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day. So the old candlelight and long stem roses isn’t going to get you far with me.
The Eiffel Tower’s cool and stuff.
But I want my profile picture to be me sitting on the stump at Gobbler’s Knob.
No. I’ve never been there but I’m just, I’m confident you guys. I’m certain as hell, in my guttiest guts, that spending a weekend with a human being I don’t want to punch in the soul by the end of it, and getting up at the butt crack of dawn to walk to Gobbler’s Knob and freeze our hineys off would be pretty much the only thing that could heal my tattered heart.
And I’m talking the whole deal. I want the old timey-est little bed and breakfast in the whole town. I want there to be no hot water, I said no hot water, sir, under any circumstances, on Groundhog Day itself. I want to bid on you in an auction and spend three hundred some odd dollars to have you walk me back to my room.
I want Chris Elliot to be a looming figure in every single memory I will promise to cherish until my dying day.
I want to order nothing, not one single thing at all, all weekend long, but sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist and every last toast is going to be to world peace, homie. I want to be so immersed in the cheese, and the puns, and the disingenuous seriousness that the locals openly vomit whenever we enter a room.
I want Bob Dylan as your alarm tone.
That movie was so cool because on the one hand it was about a manipulative narcissist exploiting a vicious rift in the space-time continuum to land a lady otherwise unlandable to him if not for an intellect incapacitated by fate.
Still a feminist.
But on the other hand, it’s about a guy who lives his whole life in this crusty outer layer of personal funk until he meets someone who puts him in a vice and forces him to molt and he comes out a still kinda funny looking but more emotionally mature and ultimately just better human, at his core, for his desire to be everything that she would love.
I’m not into romantic comedies, so I don’t know. My basis for comparison may be lacking here, but I can’t think of a more perfect love story than one that leaves the main character a better version of himself for having encountered love.
There’s something about a surly, grumpy man who’s socially traumatized and afraid to leave his bunker that is absolute catnip to me.
I am well aware that it’s the reason for my most pendulous and worrisome life choices, Freud, but thanks for piping up.
And I know life is not the movies, and I don’t even want it to be like the movies because I’m like a discount cactus at the garden center, damaged but adorable, and I’m always going to need a little bit of arid stress to thrive, so I’d ruin the entire plot of any romcom I was plopped into.
But if you’re a masochist, and intent on subjecting yourself to the existential cesspit that is a romantic movie this Valentine’s Day, maybe make it the best one in the whole world.
And then spend the rest of your year like Phil, unhitching your giddyup. Finding behavioral patterns that always lead to you feeling icky but which you can’t seem to stop perpetuating. Bad habits. Bad ways of being in the world. Learn to anticipate them. Plan to try and dodge one like a speeding train by the end of June. Check in with yourself every now and then. Are you changing? Are the things that frustrate you regularly? Are they changing?
You never know what amazing thing might be sitting just outside your field of vision if you could only de-fog your windows and conceive it.
Or just wipe the slate clean and start watching those around you with fresh eyes. See your wife or your child as if it’s the first time. I know you can’t, but try really hard even though you’ll never quite achieve it. Strain to see all those tiny little ticks and quirks that made you love them the first time.
Renew your membership.