I’m sure I’m not the only one who has the same story, the same tale of heartbreak and woe associated with Valentine’s Day. The only difference between you and me is that you probably let it go and went on to enjoy Valentine’s Day, or maybe the pain of February 14th, is as ingrained on your soul as it is on mine. I do have my reasons for my strong abhorrence of all things red, heart-shaped, and the entire month of February. And if you stick around long enough, I’ll tell you why.
As a child I loved Valentine’s Day, it was a day for candy and stuffed animals, my two favorite things. My mother always made sure that every year I had a Whitman’s Sampler and a stuffed animal of some kind. The mailman was my favorite, and by tradition, I had to eat it first. I always saved those nasty cherry cordials until last along with anything that resembled coconut because it’s a chocolate ruin-er.
My hatred of Valentine’s day didn’t start in my childhood it started in High School, where all the great anxieties and hang-ups begin. I was in 9th grade, at an all-girls Catholic school, when it was announced that as a fundraiser the boys’ school would be able to send the girls flowers for Valentine’s day. Well, you can guess the pandemonium that that revelation caused. In the days leading up to it, all sorts of school girl romantic daydreams filled my head. Could I have a secret admirer? Would I get a rose? The answer, a hard no.
I was the only girl in homeroom without a rose. Some girls had full bouquets and here I was, poor pathetic me with zip. Now hindsight and the common sense that comes with advancing age tells me that I couldn’t have possibly been the only one without a rose, but it felt like it. Walking down those hallways, seeing all the girls with their flowers hanging out of their school bags, I felt like a loser and an extremely lonely one at that.
Every Valentine’s Day in high school passed in the same way. Me, having lofty romantic notions of some guy I met in passing sending me a rose at school on Valentine’s Day, but it never happened. By my Senior year my mother, feeling sorry for me, told me to just ask one of my guy friends from the neighborhood to send me one. I thought that was the most humiliating idea in the world. Instead of going to school that day, I just stayed home. By that point I was old enough to realize that I had a choice, I didn’t have to celebrate it, I could just opt out, and so I did.
College was a different experience for me. My Freshman year, I had quite a few friends, most of them were guys. There was one that I was close to, we’ll call him O. O, and I talked all the time about everything. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had had the slightest crush on him, but I knew it would never go anywhere. But on Valentine’s Day, he showed up at my door with a card and a tiny Whitman’s Sampler, to which he had already opened and removed the offending cherry cordial. It was on that day I learned that love takes all forms and it wasn’t just romantic love that was celebrated on Valentine’s Day even though that’s what the world would make you think.
Sophomore year was a horse of a different color. I was nineteen and finally had my first boyfriend. To say that I was looking forward to Valentine’s Day would be the biggest understatement of the year. Now K didn’t go to my school, nor was he in the same city as my school, he was back home. So for Valentine’s Day, I went all the way home to see him. We didn’t go out for Valentine’s Day; he was busy with school, so he said. I accepted that because I was a doormat and was so happy to have someone, anyone look at me that I accepted anything he said as gospel. But he promised that he would come and see me before I went back to school, and he did. He came to my house the night before and brought me two gifts for V-Day. It was a pint of Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream because I was obsessed with it at the time and a Shania Twain CD, Come On Over. That night when he got home, he called me and told me that he, “didn’t have time for a girlfriend and that we would both be better off seeing people we went to school with because long distance relationships are too hard.” I was devastated. I spent the entire ride back down to D.C. listening to the Cranberries and lamenting my life.
In hindsight, he made the most of a bad situation and was at least a gentleman about it. I’m sure K knew he was going to break up with me long before V-Day. Instead of being a jerk, he decided to at least attempt to give me a good Valentine’s Day or at least something before taking his exit. I went back to school to find that my BFF (who was male) bought me a three foot long stuffed dog and I had candy and cards from the rest of my guy friends. It was then that I finally decided to give up on Valentine’s Day and we parted company for good.
Sure, after that I dated some more, got engaged, broke it off, got engaged again (to someone else), got married. The first husband wasn’t romantic at all which suited me just fine. It took the pressure off for anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. We exchanged cards, maybe a gift, and watched TV. We would eventually divorce, and I would get remarried.
My husband is romantic, I wouldn’t call him a hopeless romantic, but he’s close. He’s the guy who hides the ring inside your dessert. The guy who hires a plane to carry a message while you’re lounging on the beach. He’s hot air balloon rides at sunset, picnics on the beach, carving your names into a tree, and carriage rides through Central Park in fall. He’s the guy that I wished for in high school. The one who would have sent me a bouquet of cheap plastic roses had we even lived in the same state back then.
It’s crazy how life works sometimes, you finally get what you’ve always wanted, but you’re too jaded and soiled by the jerks who came before to appreciate it. I try to enjoy Valentine’s Day for his sake. I put on the happy face. I try to pretend like I don’t hate every minute of February but I still do. Because inside, no matter how much time has changed the outside, I’m still that young girl who feels like she’ll always be on the outside looking in, hoping that she’ll be the one with the rose and never getting it.
I’m not telling you all this for you to feel sorry for me. It’s quite the opposite. I’m telling you all this because I need to let it go. I need to exercise the demon that is my hatred for all things romantic and V-Day related. I need to embrace the romance I do have in my life, even if it did take twenty years to get here.