Valentine’s day will soon be upon us. Some men buy flowers or jewelry to show their affection while others feel it is a holiday that continues to exist so retailers can capitalize on love. The conspiracy theorists may be right. The U.S economy has a crush on the holiday. In 2017, a survey from the National Retail Federation projected consumers would spend a total of $18.2 billion on their significant others. In 2016, consumers spent over $19.7 billion on cards, clothing, jewelry, chocolate and romantic dinners. The pressure to make the day special can be paralyzing to some and so perhaps we could learn something about expressing love from our feathered friends, penguins.
Yes, that’s right, penguins. The Southern Rockhopper penguin may look like a player with his spikey hair and tuxedo but he is a committed monogamous partner. According to one study, these penguins do not spend much time together. However, the bonds formed are strong enough to tolerate separation. Using GPS trackers, 16 penguins from a colony in the Falkland Islands were tracked over the course of a mating season. The data showed that males arrived at the nesting site approximately six days prior to their female partners. Perhaps to spruce up the nest! They also stayed roughly six days longer than the female. That being said, the love birds only spend about 20 to 30 days together each year. When they part, the average distance between them is about 1,500 miles. It is unknown as to why these penguins separate for such long periods of time. Maybe they subscribe to the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” theory.
Time apart is not for all penguins. The Gentoo penguins choose to show their affection with a pebble. Once this penguin finds the love of his life, he goes in search of the perfect pebble to present to her. If the female penguin is wowed by the smooth stone then she places it in her nest to signal she accepts the proposal. A very different rock from the kind human males offer their potential life mates.
While searching for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift this year, perhaps we can take a cue from these penguins. Their “love” can endure challenges such as many miles apart from each other and the gifts they choose are simple yet thoughtful. Personally, I would prefer a thoughtful gesture that demonstrated love rather than a shiny piece of jewelry.