I’ve been seeing red — red hearts, that is.

Valentine’s Day hoopla has been a happening thing since mid-January. Don’t get me wrong, like most women, I enjoy being romanced with red roses and dark chocolate — particularly dark chocolate.

However, it seems to me that Valentine’s Day has become another marketing opportunity – a sellable holiday. The true meaning is lost between cards, floral arrangements, teddy bears, heart sweatshirts, mugs, or heart —— (fill in the blank) These gifts are designed and marketed in the name of love.

But, is this love?

William Shakespeare describes love as: “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”

The group The Playmates’ song “What is Love” describes love as: “Love is five feet of heaven in a ponytail.”

The movie “Love Story” espouses, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.”

There are those who say love is unconditional.

Widowed twice, I have been lucky (or unlucky as some would say) in love. I feel lucky, however. It is through the cracks of my broken heart that loved flowed back in — freely —even today. Although I am no expert, I know a little bit about love — and I differ with the aforementioned statements.

William Shakespeare’s take is a tad off-setting, don’t you think? Folks will enter into a relationship full of hope, love and devotion. While the rice or birdseed is thrown, the future looks rosy. Then it doesn’t. Over 40% of marriages end in divorce — the U.S. has the sixth highest divorce rate in the world.

Why’s that?

Do folks simply fall out of love with each other? Do outside forces run amuck and taint the marriage? Does love blind one to the red flags — even as we are tripping over them? Perhaps communication is nonexistent. Maybe the fun just stopped or the “alteration” proved unhealthy.

The group “The “Playmates” simplistic view is laughable. “The five feet of heaven in a ponytail can change over time, right? The lyrics also express that the gal with the ponytail “sways with a wiggle, with a wiggle when she walks.” Good Lord! The gal may be five feet tall, but perhaps her girth has changed, her ponytail bobbed and the wiggle may now be a waddle.

This simplistic view of love crisscrosses all genders. The Chiffons hit “He’s so fine” is another example: “He’s so fine, He’s so fine, the handsome boy over there, the one with the wavy hair. I don’t know how I’m gonna do it but I’m gonna make him mine.” And she does.

The handsome dude of yesterday may become bald and over time acquire a pot belly. We change physically as we age and our love should change too. Mature couples don’t fall into love, they step into love and its challenges.

Some folks crave that “falling in love” feeling, better known as infatuation. These feelings are fueled by hormones as powerful as cocaine. Ignoring the danger, (or maybe inviting it), the relationship may be heading down the road of perdition.

With mature love, you know you are in love — even when her ponytail is gone or his wavy hair is just a memory.

I don’t know what Erich Segal was thinking when in his movie “Love Story” Ali McGraw’s character says to Ryan O’Neil’s character: Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Are you kidding?

Do you know a marriage or relationship that is so perfect that each partner never disappoints the other? If that’s the case, it sounds like one person condescendingly is telling another person what love means. What kind of person has the hubris to go through life feeling that they need never apologize?

But wait — some folks do apologize when their partner is on their death bed. Perhaps, this is more about absolving the offender than having to do with genuine regret.

Love is not always unconditional. Like a seesaw, a healthy relationship is balanced: boundaries and conditions are set and met. Without balance, one partner will be on the downward side of the seesaw — not a fun place to be.

Love cannot be bought or sold. Sometimes, one partner enters a dalliance and decides to throw his relationship to the wind. Is this love? Probably not. One can buy sex partners and in some cultures marriage partners.

At times, love is a need. Employed in a women’s center, I saw a good number of physically and emotionally battered wives (and husbands) walk through the door. The sad truth was when push came to shove and it was time to press charges or leave the abuser, the abused partner didn’t. It was always the same: “But I love him (her).” Love or need?

Lastly, here is a description of love that I can buy into, written by an expert and higher authority :

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

So, there you have it: the unsanctioned and sanctioned interpretation of love.

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.