I’m one of those rare birds who actually looks forward to Valentine’s Day.
It saddens me to hear people talking about how they dread the day.
“Easy for you to like it,” they’ll say, “you have a person to share it with.”
To those people, I answer, “You’re missing the point!”
Sure, Valentines Day is the holiday for lovers–so says popular culture in our society. I used to buy into that idea too. I made myself miserable.
Now I’m just too old to delude myself with fantasies of my partner turning into Prince Charming, and I’m too practical to want to spend a large sum of money on going out for an expensive dinner.
For many years of my marriage, I just couldn’t be satisfied on Valentine’s Day. Mark didn’t have a clue. Every year I’d whine and complain about how he didn’t do this or he didn’t do that. No matter how hard I tried, Mark just didn’t seem to get the whole Valentine’s Day thing. He’d stroll in the door at the end of the day, and ask if I’d like to go out for dinner or “something”? We’d go from one restaurant to the next, only to be told there were no tables available–for hours, if at all. By the end of the evening, I was in tears. Every year I hoped he would make arrangements ahead of time, and every year I was disappointed. Valentine’s Day was becoming a drag. I started to dread it.
Mark was always pretty good about bringing candy or flowers, but they seemed like an afterthought, and not a real plan. I wanted a plan! I wanted the Grand Daddy Cadillac of all the Damn Fantasy Cinderella Fairy Tales Valentine’s Day ever! I was lucky to get a mylar balloon.
One Valentine’s Day, Mark finally made reservations at our favorite little Italian restaurant. Never mind the fact that it was in a little strip mall, and I know the owner had really tried. Fake grapes and grapevines met us at the door. I really didn’t want to be in a crowded restaurant, but I didn’t have the heart to reject his plan. I mean, we weren’t jetting to a tropical island, but the man finally had a plan. As we sat there, I watched as couples filled each little candle lit table. We women were dressed in our finest little black dresses, and the men in their dress slacks and best shirts. Mark is a jeans and t-shirt man, so his appearance always looks a little forced when we go out for a special night. On closer inspection I noticed he had cut himself shaving and had a blood spot on his shirt collar. He immediately went to the men’s room where I advised him to try cold water to remove the spot. We were quite the pair.
So, there we sat, squooshed into a little corner table, barely big enough to hold two appetizer plates and two water goblets. Obviously, the restaurant owner knew this was going to be a big money night, so they packed us in like sardines. It was then I started noticing, the gifts each man had brought for his special other. Some were delivered by the waiter, others were tucked under their seats and others were hanging from their chairs in gift bags covered in roses. Mark looked a bit uncomfortable.
He leaned in and whispered, “I have your gift in the car, would you like me to go out and get it?”
“Not on your life!” I snapped.
You see, God only knows what Mark had picked out for me. I imagined myself unwrapping a pair of red panties embroidered with the words “Foxy Lady!” on the back side. Or worse yet, what if he had decided to go the practical route and he picked up a pair of gardening gloves at Home Depot? Even if he had picked out an appropriate gift, I have issues with receiving gifts in general. I get very embarrassed when I receive a gift. I’ve always been this way. Oh, I appreciate my gifts, but I’m so embarrassed by the attention of being watched while opening a gift, that I start acting very strange, and I fear I won’t be able to express my appreciation. I have witnessed some women gasp, or scream, or literally jump up and down when their partner gives them a gift. I don’t. I simply say, “Oh, thank you” or “I really like it”. Then, I want to put it away and not discuss it any further. When I’m alone, I take the gift out and then I get really excited. After I’ve examined said gift, I’m able to express myself further, on my own time, but not in that moment. I do not embarrass easily. Receiving gifts is probably the one thing in my life that embarrasses me the most. I’ve tried to analyze it, but I haven’t quite been able to get over this hurdle.
Now, where was I?
Oh yeah, so we’re sqooshed into the tiny table, and women are gasping and screaming as they receive their roses, they’re jewelry, their chocolates, or their stuffed animals. It was like a scene from a comedy movie. One after the other, women were screaming and gasping over trinkets and flowers. I started to laugh. I couldn’t help it. I laughed right out loud. In a little tiny restaurant. It was one of those gasping for air belly laughs. I felt foolish to be in this environment. Why had I ever thought I wanted this to begin with?
I leaned into Mark–who was smiling in his confusion, but laughing at my out of control laughter, and I said, “Honey, I need to be really honest here..”
“I just don’t feel comfortable, ” I said, “I appreciate you going to the trouble, but I feel really phony here.”
We then had the food packed up to go, and we ran out to the car and decided we’d never do that to ourselves again. Mark had movie plans, but we skipped those to go and hang out together at a coffee shop and talk.
I talked about my feelings surrounding the subject of marriage. Why do we move so quickly into those old traditional roles? They’re so outdated.
I wondered how this holiday had turned into some adult day filled with expectations of romance and $100 bouquets of roses.
I reminisced on the many Valentine’s Days I’d experienced in elementary school. I adored all of those cute little cards each classmate gave to me–especially the cards filled with the little heart candies, or a lollipop! It was such a happy day for me. It’s all I thought about until the end of the day when the teacher would allow us to pass out our little cards. After school, I’d run home and comb through each and every card. It was almost as good as Christmas. How did being in a relationship change this holiday for me?
I discovered that Valentine’s Day, to me, isn’t about my relationships with men, it is about my relationship with myself, and to all of the many things I love. As a matter of fact, sometimes Mark has to step out of the way, and let this crazy woman do her Valentine’s Day thing. Valentine’s Day is just another day, like all days, when I have to remember to take care of myself. I love having a special day to remind me to do just that!
Now I know I’m responsible for my own happiness–not Mark, and not anybody else. If I want a fancy Valentine’s Day celebration, I’ll plan it myself.
I spend more time celebrating Valentine’s Day in the weeks before the actual holiday, than on do on the day itself. I like to decorate and bake this time of year. What is more fun than heart shaped cakes? I like to throw out some red, white, and pink colors into my home decorating scheme. I like to romance myself! How? Crocheting hearts, long bubble baths, having friends over for dinner, making and eating chocolate, drinking red wine, reading a great book. These things are my loves! Mark can be a part of my happiness, but he isn’t responsible for it.
I look forward to Valentine’s Day. It breaks the dead of winter.
You want roses? Give yourself roses! I DO! Better yet, give your best friend roses! Don’t have any friends? Go out to a coffee shop and order yourself a special drink with extra whip on top–get it with whole milk this time! No money? Curl up in your favorite PJs and watch a great movie.
Please don’t allow not having a partner (or a willing partner) to keep you from enjoying a day of love!
PHOTOS: I emptied out the old farm cupboard and filled it with a few of my collectible goodies: old tablecloths, aprons, cookie cutters, biscuit cutters, rolling pin, etc. Kitschy? Yes, maybe, but I like it. The colors cheer me in the winter.