We Meet Again, Saint Valentine
February 1, 2013 § 2 Comments
February 14th is around the corner and according to romantic comedies, women’s magazines, TV sitcoms, and the like, Valentine’s Day should be very depressing for me, a single woman. It should highlight and emphasize how alone I am, make me feel depressed and totally focused on the fact that there is no man in sight (as my mother recently and oh-so-charmingly put it). I should apparently spend the day on the couch weeping and self-medicating by eating whole cartons of ice cream.
But the truth is if it weren’t for the pharmacy aisle dedicated to heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, I probably wouldn’t remember it was coming up at all. Valentine’s Day has never loomed large in my mind. If I am in a relationship, I think it’s a lovely additional opportunity to celebrate romance. If I’m single and feeling lonely, that is true whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not – the day doesn’t aggravate the condition.
When I was in grade school, we decorated paper lunch bags with doilies, glitter, and stickers sometime before February 14th. During lunch on Valentine’s Day we put our decorated paper bags on our desks to be used as mailboxes. Each student went from desk to desk depositing cards in the other students’ bags. We then sat at our desks and opened all the little cards while we ate the sandwiches our parents had put in our lunch boxes and drank cold little pints of milk the school provided. Some of the valentines were homemade construction paper cutouts and some were those little cards that come in a plastic wrapped box of 20. Some of the envelopes bulged with candy, and some were flat and sugar-free.
We each gave a card to every single member of the class. The Valentine’s Day card exchange was not allowed to be a popularity contest – we didn’t give cards only to kids we liked, and no one was left out. The whole exercise struck me as totally meaningless – I gave cards to each child with pre-inscribed romantic little messages like Be Mine, which meant nothing at all and everyone understood that.
I suppose I could have been outraged by the hypocrisy of it all. For example, every year I gave a valentine to the biggest bully in my class (who tortured me on a daily basis) and it struck me as absolutely absurd to give her a card with some loving little message. But I didn’t lose any sleep over it and it didn’t stick in my craw. The card exchange was simply part of our school’s annual routine – for me it was neither important nor onerous.
When we were teenagers, one of my sisters went to a school at which there was some kind of Valentine’s Day fund raiser. Carnations were sold on campus for about a dollar and the students could send a flower to someone else in the school with a little note tied to the stem with ribbon. I’m sure it wasn’t the school’s intention, but the carnation sale was very much a popularity contest – some kids had a bouquet of carnations at the end of the day, some had none. I think there was quite a bit of stress attached to it for everyone, especially for the students who didn’t receive any flowers. But I didn’t go to that school, so it was a nonissue for me.
The only Valentine’s Day I can think of that was stressful for me was the one during which I was in a failing relationship because the day so clearly illustrated how bad things between us had become. The man I was involved with decided to boycott Valentine’s Day, saying he wouldn’t be manipulated by the card and candy companies into celebrating a fake holiday. I asked him if that was what he said to his parents on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and he admitted, with a sheepish look, that no, he didn’t say that to them.
I think the Valentine’s Day boycott was most likely nonsense said to cover the fact that he couldn’t be bothered with me or with our relationship anymore. The year before, when he still did give a damn, he had given me a book of love poems with a sweet note. I’m not sure if he was sending me a message on purpose or not, but what I heard that Valentine’s Day was that making his little point about the greeting card industrial complex was more important than me. The emotional reality that I, the Valentine, came after his oh-so-trite ‘principle’ was painful for me. I felt unloved and unhappy, but ultimately that Valentine’s Day fiasco was merely a symptom of the relationship’s disintegration and it’s not like I was previously unaware that we were on the rocks. The boycott was simply an additional nail in the coffin of a soon-to-be-over romance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I once received three dozen red roses from a man I was about to go out on a first date with. February 14th happened to fall between the day he asked me out and our date. The flowers were extravagant, unexpected, sweet, and set the tone for our short romance, which flared hot and then, alas, quickly burned out (but it was fun while it lasted!).
This year I am single and I’ll probably mark the occasion by sending a few Happy Valentine’s Day emails out to friends and family and then spend the evening curled up with a good book. But then again, you never know – I have quite a few first dates lined up between now and then. Perhaps I will meet someone before the 14th and be giddy with happiness, in the first intoxicating phase of a new infatuation with someone I haven’t, as of this moment, met yet. A girl can hope!
XOXO – Evelyn
Happy Valentine’s Day! Do you have plans to celebrate? I hope you all have a lovely time, whether you go out with your Valentine, spend time with friends, or have a quiet, relaxed evening at home.