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.


Lou said...

Great post J.

Valentines isn't such a big deal here thankfully. Is it actually a holiday there? As in a day off work?

abefrellman said...

Nice work...but surely we can do better than Dove??


V funny post Jen. Being the casting Agent on Girls with Low Self Esteem would be my dream job.

& you can't be too hard on your ex - it is the thought that counts!

At least you don't get sent punnets of weeds - women huh?

I wish you a happy one

Simon said...

I blame the Americans. It wasn’t much of a thing in Britain until the contagion spread from the US. Mercifully it doesn’t seem to be on the same scale yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Very amusing summary though.

Havock21 said...

Not bad Jen, not too shabby at all.

OH and BTW, how come thats a pic of boobs up side down????

Flinthart said...

I fuckin' hate the American hysteria over V-day. It amounts to bugger-all here, and I'm glad of it.

I don't need a Hallmark-approved Official Day to tell the people I love how I feel. And I certainly don't need or accept the idiotic pressures that apparently are meant to come with it.

That's my take, of course. YMMV -- I believe that's the appropriate net-abbreviation.

yankeedog said...

Well, I'm the one that has fallen for Valentine's Day hook, line, and sinker. But I remember my single days-and having the exact same feelings about the day myself.

The Distinguished Senator from Tasmania (Flinthart) is right, too-if you love someone, you shouldn't need a 'day' set aside to show it.

Well written post, Jen.

Steve said...

In my high school, they sold flowers and you could have them delivered by members of the Student Council (or honor society, I forget who exactly sponsored it as a fundraiser), white carnations for "I like you," pink carnations for "grr, baby" and red for "please lose your virginity to me." Or something like that.

Everyone forgetting, of course, that carnations are the pot roast or meat loaf of the horticultural world.

The really desperate girls would all get together and have white carnations sent to one another, anonymously, so that it seemed like they all got something. I pray that my daughters never have to deal with that kind of pressure.

yackydoodle said...

oh I get to be guilt ridden all week because now I find out I am somehow to blame for this because I work for the pharmaceutical industry......

TheLubeFaerie said...

For years and years it meant nothing at all to me and then I met my husband on JS because of nasty little candy hearts I had written dirty things on. Now I can look forward to it. I love that first pic~

TheLubeFaerie said...

Actually you should blame it on Chaucer.

chexiemar said...

Ugh, Valentine's Day. Agreed. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going to turn down gifts or anything of the sort....but I think it would be much more meaningful if somebody surprised me, say, a week BEFORE Valentine's Day. It would feel less...forced. You know, like they're not doing it simply because that's what society expects of them.

Most people seem to have a "plan" for Valentine's Day, and the plan is as such: Boy brings Girl flowers and some token of affection, usually a piece of jewelry. They share a meal, preferably by candlelight. Girl dons best slutty lingerie and....fade to black. And you know, there's nothing wrong with any of that. But I hate the fact that a scenario like that is EXPECTED, and if you don't have that, or if you don't provide that, you're a failure. It goes for both guys and girls. Girls expect that fairy-tale evening, and when they don't get it, they're disappointed. And guys feel like they HAVE to do that or they suck.

I don't know. I just feel like there's way too much pressure on both sides, and it ruins a holiday that might have once had a decent intent - one that WASN'T about competition and ridiculously high expectations.

...also, being a pharmacy tech, I take offense to the statement that this is all due to the pharmaceutical industry. Valentine's Day? Screw that, we take advantage of EVERY holiday. Cholesterol meds for Thanksgiving, antidepressants after Christmas spending is done, anti-anxiety meds for V-Day, and of course, lots of antibiotics for St. Patrick's Day and Mardi Gras. We're all inclusive, damn it.

chexiemar said...

Oh, and in regards to OUR Valentine's Day plans...I'm pretty sure I've got some vanilla-scented candles, but you're out of luck on the guitar thing. Hopefully you will accept my humble offering of junk food.

Therbs said...

Luckily in Oz we don't have the same pressure. That's an amusing post.
Love the "You figure it out" tag. Just gave me an idea.

Therbs said...

Luckily in Oz we don't have the same pressure. That's an amusing post.
Love the "You figure it out" tag. Just gave me an idea.

Chaz said...

Dirk, so Natalie will be getting NOTHING special this weekend eh? :))

Jen, good post and you're right allot of this fervor is programmed into us at school.

Barnesm said...

I will give you my careful and thoughtful response to what I really think about V-day after speaking with my_reson_for_living and being told what it is.

Knifeboy said...

Wow. What a great post, Jen. Thank you. Really.

Girl Clumsy said...

Jen, I didn't realise you'd been married. To a... well, I won't say what I'm thinking out of politeness.

My beloved Wah just gave me a tiny little glass giraffe he picked up in Sydney last weekend while we were at Taronga Zoo. He even created a diversion to go purchase it without my looking. What a sweetheart.


I am SO bad at Valentine's Day. Tomorrow I must go out and get him something nice. No idea what though.

I'm not too fussed by V-Day at all - or by our anniversary really. It's nice to mark the occasion, but I don't feel jipped if I don't get roses or chocolates or a one hour massage by a burly Norwegian named Pioter.

I remember once getting an anonymous VDay card when I was about 15. Nobody ever owned up to it. I could really only pin it down to one bloke, and he professed complete ignorance. So I've never found out for sure.

As someone who never had a boyfriend in high school because all the boys I liked never liked me, it's kinda nice to know that perhaps there WERE boys who did like me, but never said. Also makes me feel very stupid for being typically girly at said time, and not recognising nicer fellas.

jennicki said...

Lou: Thank you! It's a pretty deal here, but no it's not a national work holiday. It is one of the busiest restaurant days of the year, though.

abefrellman: I looooove Dove chocolate. But I'm also an equal-choco-tunist.

Lerv: Thank you. I can definitely see you as the agent, producer and director of the Girls with Low Self Esteem.

Simon: I apologize on behalf of the US citizens who've spread VD onto your country.

Havock: Thank you! And thanks for pointing out that pic looks like upside that's all I think about when I see it. As if I wasn't thinking about boobs too much anyway.

Flinthart: What is YMMV?

yankeedog: Thank you!

Steve: OK, I admit my best friend and I used to send each other candy grams in high school, and sign our respective crushes names to them. Sadly, we had crushes on members of a popular boy band so we wrote those names on them. I'm really ashamed I just admitted that.

yackydoodle: You're forgiven. Only because Xanax is the only way I can travel by air.

TheLubeFaerie: That is so sweet you met your husband via JS by way of dirty candy. I do love naughty sugared up things.

(And I blame Chaucer for everything.)

chexie: I am looking forward to loads of junk food and funny movies with you tomorrow.

Therbs: Thank you good sir. Yes now I can laugh at the "you figure it out" note. Not so funny as an angsty fifteen year old.

Chaz: Thank you!

Barnesm: I always appreciate your thoughtful responses via your_reason_for_living.

Any zombie V-day stories? Boy Zombie treats Girl Zombie to some extra saucy brains?

Knifeboy: Thank you!

Girl Clumsy: Yes, I was married. Young. I'd like to emphasize "young," please! ;D

Your Wah sounds like a keeper! Gives me hope for future Valentine's Days.

Steve said...

By "really desperate," I meant "the girls who only had eyes for Jordan Knight." But at least that's better than one of the Backstreet Boys.

abefrellman said...

I used to work for Mars (M&M/Mars to you) and used to get cheap chocolate that they couldn't otherwise sell. Not much Dove ever turned up, but there were plenty of Mars lite (Milky Way) bars, peanut M&Ms and Strawberry Milky Way (3 Musketeers) bars to last me a lifetime.

Tristram said...

That's about the most honest entry about Valentines I have read so far, I was thinking it was going to be another bashing of the "Hallmark Holiday"

But no, you gave honest reasons for your dislike of it written in an amusing way and admitted that you still have hope that it can be as you imagined.

It can, I had the same overall feelings as you about Valentines but when you're with the right person, that changes and it means something.

For me it's about making the day special for her, I don't need a day to do that, I like to think I do it every day but this particular day I like to use to really push the boat out.

Once you find the right person, he will make the day as special as you want it to be.

Trust me