I used to love Valentine’s Day. When I was a kid. Because when I was a kid, it was fun. You bought Valentines. You put your name on them. You passed them out at school, to everyone, because everyone made their Valentines Day card pouch. You had those silly elementary school parties where you stuffed yourself stupid on junk food and got to spend the afternoon watching Disney movies instead of doing math problems. Then, if you were at my house, you went home and your parents gave you Valentine’s Day presents and then you watched them open theirs, your mother made a fabulous dinner, and you retired onto the couch afterward, watching Alfred Hitchcock and Superman reruns on TV Land before going to bed.
I started hating it in High School. In High School it became a competition to see who was going to get flowers that year versus who didn’t. You waited until the middle of the day when the front office looked like an extension of the local florist. And then they’d start calling names to come pick up their flowers from their boyfriends. One by one, girls would go to the front to get their flowers, each with a bouquet bigger than the other. I was the tall, skinny, awkward, acne-ridden freshman and sophomore. Flowers did not get delivered to me. I’d sit there, doing homework, doodling in my homework planner, or otherwise writing letters to my out-of-state friends, and I’d pretend not to care. But secretly, it mattered. And it mattered a lot. Not that I would have admitted that to anyone then. Or even to myself.
And then, finally, there was the Valentines Day in 2000. I’d been seeing a guy for months. Met him at camp. I was happy. I was turning eighteen in a few more months. We were going to get married. He was poor. I didn’t care. In January, toward the end of the month, he left me for a twenty-eight year old woman with a two year old son. That, in and of itself, was horrifying. At seventeen you are not supposed to see twenty-eight year old women (ancient, by your standards at that age) as competition for your nineteen year old boyfriend. That just isn’t supposed to happen… But it did. And I was devastated for months. Like for serious, I didn’t really even get out of bed except to go to school for months after. Valentines Day 2000, watching the girls go get their flowers that day, that was painful. But what was even worse was that he called me that night… and he wanted to get back together. I loved him. Deeply. I agreed immediately because that was all I really wanted. Two hours later, he called to say that she had shown up at his house and he’d changed his mind. Devastation again, made worse by the fact that I went to visit him the following weekend where he gave me my Valentine’s Day present – a large, stuffed white bear that I kept for years. I finally gave it away to Goodwill last winter… it had spent most of the previous decade in a box.
After that, for years, I’d get dumped on Valentines Day. It was like a curse… I could be in a great relationship, and it would all come crashing around my ears on that day, or on that weekend. So naturally, I wasn’t a fan.
Combine that with the fact that even when I was married, we never celebrated it – my husband had to work every holiday, Valentine’s Day was no exception. There is no stop to the gambling on holidays – they overschedule because they think they’ll be busy. I’d spend that day home, cooking, cleaning, freezing because of the winter, watching all the pathetic Kay’s Jewelers commercials on TV, listening to people talk about all the fun stuff they were doing with their significant others. And again, I’d pretend not to care. Secretly I did. Not because I loved him. I question, now, whether I ever really did. But because I felt left out. Everyone else was having these great experiences. Mine were nothing but memories of being dumped unceremoniously around that day or, if not getting dumped, sitting by myself most of the night in that big lonely house with two cats, waiting for my husband to come home, strip so that his ever-growing gut would pour over the front of his too tight pants, and watch TV as he ate copious amounts of junk food until bedtime where he would go, attempt to fuck me (if I was lucky), fail, and pass out after crying a bunch.
That said, there’s such thing as conditioning. After years of not getting anything for Valentines Day, you start to expect nothing. And honestly, I was kind of okay with that when, after the divorce, I was on my own on that day. At least if I were alone, I wasn’t sitting around thinking about what I COULD be doing if my significant other just had a better job, or could keep it up, or whatever. At least when I had my own place, I wasn’t having to watch flowers being delivered for everyone except me. And I had my vibrator. That was more dependable than what I’d been exposed to for the last six years.
Things looked up a little, though, after I moved to Florida. Gatsby gave me an electric blanket for the Valentine’s Day we were together. I wasn’t getting dumped. I wasn’t being showered with affection, in fact he was telling me he wasn’t “sold” yet, but by then I’d learned to take whatever I could get. The following year, before Valentines Day could ever even roll around, I bought tickets to fly up to Columbus, Ohio for a goth masquerade ball which was being held the weekend of Valentine’s Day. I figured, at that point, if I was single… well… at least I’d be distracted. And the goth theme really seemed to sum up how I felt about that day.
I didn’t anticipate being in a relationship with Botboy when I bought those tickets. I didn’t expect anything out of him at all, really, since he was where he was right then, we hadn’t been together that long, and anyway, I was heading north. Materially, I didn’t get anything. I sent him some “coffee”, and some of the other stuff he’d asked for. He was getting stuff he wanted. I was getting stuff I wanted. It was good. It arrived, for him, exactly when I wanted it to – on the weekend I’d be gone so he’d be nice and distracted and wouldn’t miss me too much. But it was during that plane ride that I got the best Valentine’s Day gift I’d ever gotten. Whether he meant it or whether it was the alcohol talking, I do not know. And I may never know. But he told me he loved me. He never said it when sober. I never asked him to. Mostly because I was afraid of the answer he’d give me when he was sober… if what he’d said when he was drunk wasn’t the truth, I didn’t want to know.
And I guess that’s when I really realized… it’s not about the flowers. It’s not about the chocolates (it’s REALLY not about the chocolates). It doesn’t really have to do with any of those things. Because I’d gotten a gift the year before, and it had been nice, and I used it on my bed all the time. But without any real emotion behind it, it was just what it was: a blanket. And I suppose you could argue that Botboy’s words were just that: words. Especially since, now that I look back on it, I don’t know whether he meant any of them or not. But without actually having to give me anything, without having to send me flowers, without having to give me expensive pieces of jewelry, he said something to me that I’d really needed to hear. Something that I hadn’t heard with any kind of conviction in nearly five years. And I believed him. Whether he meant it or not, I believed him. Because I needed to. And what’s more, I loved him too. I still do (and he knows that). And, for the record, I am still afraid to ask whether the feeling is mutual, because I’m afraid of the answer. Yes, I’m chicken shit. Sue me.
This year, I’m on my own again. At least mostly. Now I’m waiting for Botboy to come back (back as in back from his adventures) again, but things aren’t the same as they were last year. I’m okay with that – as I’ve said before – I’d rather sit here and wait for the possibility that I can have what I want, since the alternative is not waiting with the certainty that I’ll never have it. I’ll be alone on Valentine’s Day weekend. There may not be flowers. There may not be electric blankets. There may not be words typed to me over gchat while I am thousands of feet in the air and the speaker is a world away. Would I rather it were different? Of course. But not in that I want to make plans to go out and do something fancy for it. Not in the essence that I want to have some crazy gift exchange.
But there will be food. There will be painting. There will be… well… whatever I want there to be. I won’t be sitting around here, moping, calling it “Singles Awareness Day” the way that some of my friends do. I won’t be depressed because there is no reason to be. It could have been different, of course, but it’s not. And this time, it’s because I actively chose for it not to be. I could have gotten a date. I don’t have to sit here by myself if I don’t want to. But in truth, other than Botboy, there is no one else that I want. And pretending otherwise is not fair to them. Or to myself. And anyway, before he left, I told him I would wait. And, whatever happens at the end of this “midseason break” as I’ve taken to calling it, I will wait.
So I’ll sit in my house on Friday night. I already bought myself a Valentines Day present. Candles lit, as usual, since it also happens to be a full moon. I will probably walk several miles. I will likely watch something completely un-chick-flicky on TV later – maybe stuff about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre… And that will be that.
All in all, not such a terrible way to spend it. I mean look at it this way… I’m not getting dumped… See? Things could always be worse.