Wednesday, February 11, 2009
My Valentine's Day Massacre
Every time Valentine’s Day rolls around I think of how silly everyone gets over the holiday, and I’m grateful that I get through the day without getting sucked in to the drama and anxiety of it all.
This is a self-induced lie of epic proportions, on the same level as telling myself that no one noticed the Hitler ‘stache I sported for a half day at work after putting new toner in the copier and then rubbing my nose, or reassuring everyone around me that I’m fine going dateless to a wedding and sitting at the singles table, listening to the bride’s musty great-aunt Miss Havisham go on about her fifteen cats back at the mansion.
I am an equal-opportunist when it comes to Valentine’s Day. I don’t discriminate based on relationship status. Regardless of my coupling situation, I have always found the holiday to be an anxiety-and-guilt-ridden stress fest. If you are single, for example, the day represents everything that is wrong and unlikeable about you—no one loves you, or will ever love you. And on top of that, you feel the need to make plans with your girlfriends at the very least, because if you find yourself alone that evening, you may start reading The Bell Jar or worse, submitting an audition tape for Girls with Low Self-Esteem.
It’s not much better when you’re in a committed relationship, either. Your expectations, all of them, are thrust rather unfairly on the man of your current dreams. He may be taking you out for a romantic dinner, but is it enough? Is it what you hoped for? Did he have 3,000 red roses, a poem, a song written for you using the three guitar chords he learned in college? What happened to the vanilla-scented candles? There were candles in your vision, remember? Did he propose? Oh he’d better…not. That’s so tacky and predictable, proposing on Valentine’s Day. But he’d better have a ring. A princess cut, and not from the mall, either…
…but I digress.
Everyone directs the blame on the greeting card companies (this means you, Hallmark of Terror), but I really believe it’s the pharmaceutical industry that profits from the holiday…all holidays, actually. Perhaps buying stock in Xanax is a savvy financial move right before Valentine’s Day.
It starts when you’re young. Remember the Valentine’s Day parties at school? I would hold my breath and pray when my classmates started passing out their cards. I still recall the relief I felt when I’d walk back to my seat and find red, white and pink cards scattered on my desk. For god’s sake, even Ralph Wiggum got a Valentine.
It doesn’t end there. When you get older you’re not just worried about getting any Valentines, you‘re now concerned with how much and from whom you receive this colorful booty. The number of Valentines on your desk is in direct correlation with your level of popularity at school. And beyond that, it’s also who sent you the cards (which, at the high school level transition to the “candy grams”). You value the Valentine from the coolest girl in school over the one your parents snuck in your lunch box. And of course, there is The Crush.
First and foremost, you hope The Crush sends you—and only you!—a Valentine. I recall one particular Valentine’s Day where my crush gave me a card. It was a postcard, actually. The front of it inexplicably had a Revolutionary War image, with what looked like George Washington and Co. standing around some sort of grassy knoll. The back of the card was blank, except for my crush’s name scrawled in tiny letters.
I swooned. That night the card went to bed with me. I studied the image with Boyz II Men playing in the background, wondering what romantic message my crush was conveying to me.
I never figured it out. If only I’d paid better attention in history class.
This was the start of a line of disappointing expectations I had of boys and Valentine’s Day. One year my boyfriend presented me with a gorgeous pair of amethyst earrings. In a velvet box and everything! I was beyond excited—until I learned he’d stolen them from his stepmother.
Another year I had a dozen beautiful red roses delivered to me. My new, infinitely more mature boyfriend had written on the card, “I love you,” but redacted “love” with a black marker to the point of near illegibility (I studied hard enough to make out the faint lines of the word though. That alone made me swoon) and with the flourish of an arrow pointing to the blackened word, he wrote “figure it out yourself.”
My enthusiasm for the holiday was undeterred, however. I knew once I was in a serious, adult relationship things would change for the better. I would look forward to years of romantic Valentines from the love of my life.
Instead, for seven years the holiday came and went unobserved. The one and only time my husband acknowledged the holiday was our last year together, just three months before we broke up. He came home from work, about eight hours after his shift ended, and gave me a teddy bear. I was touched at the gesture, until I found out later he bought it at a gas station after spending the night naked in bed with another girl. (“We didn’t do anything,” he insisted to me, exasperated. “You act like I cheated on you or something.”)
The truth is, as much as I tell myself and anyone who will listen that Valentine’s Day is a silly holiday that means nothing to me, I am always, always, always hoping that this year will be the one, finally, the one, that lives up to all of my romantic expectations.
And somehow I don’t think I’m alone with my wishful thinking. I don’t think I’m the only girl still chasing that silly, elusive hope—that one that makes you stop flipping channels when you come across Sleepless in Seattle on TV or makes you turn up the radio when a disgustingly cheesy Bryan Adams song plays.
I hope all of you have someone to cuddle up with on Valentine’s Day this year. Or, barring that, I wish you a good movie, a great friend and some Dove chocolates to get you through until next year.
Posted by Jennicki