If you’re blissfully in love—“spoiler alert.” They usually say that in movie reviews that will give away how the story finally ends. I’m not sayin’ I can predict how yours will end…I’m just sayin’ that if you read on and any of this hits home…this might not be the day to go there. Get it? Now…go get ready for that romantic night on the town or…whatever…
My daughter falls into your category, by the way. Her beau, so afraid that her current financial situation would spoil their day, handed her his credit card—bless him, because he’s not exactly Donald Trump either—and had her go shopping for the perfect ensemble. I’m going to have to rethink my opinion of that boy if he keeps this up.
But nothing, alas, will get me to rethink my opinion of Valentine’s Day.
It sucks. Even if you are in love, quite often.
It reminds me, always, of those “forced collegiality” things some of us have to do at work. The public schools are fond of big faculty pot locks, at which we all eat ‘way too fast sitting at cafeteria tables trying to make just enough small talk to get us through the piles of carbs and sugar we’re being nice about eating even if it means going without any for a week or two, after. Or those workshop “ice breakers” that I always run to the Ladies to avoid. You know, those things where you have to walk around with a little chart that has all these little things on it like, “Has two siblings,” and find people who can sign beneath them that they are, indeed, someone who…has two siblings. You’re supposed to get to know one another. But mostly, you’re just going through the motions to show you’re a good sport.
Oooooo. Spoiler alert two: iif your day, so far, feels kinda like that…ouch. You’re starting to understand why I hate this day so much.
Now, mind you, this is sour grapes comin’ from me. I’ve been single for…’way longer than I care to admit and even when I was married, Valentine’s Day tended to feel…kinda hokey. I loved the things my ex did without prompting. The things he did when he knew I needed them or just felt like making me laugh or smile or something. THAT…I loved. But I hated the HUGE convenience store “guilt” cards he—and a few other loves of my life—ran out and got at the last minute on The Big Day, because I knew he didn’t like being forced to “say it” any more than I did. I was, in fact, guilty of the same thing—only I waited so long because I couldn't figure out what to get that wouldn't make him feel he hadn't done enough.
When our daughter was born, it got easier. We made cupcakes and homemade hearts and gave them, very sincerely, to one another. And after the divorce, I still had a wee one to make cards and buy teddy bears for. Our favorite card wasn’t homemade, though. It was one of those cards you can record a greeting on, and it became, for a year after that, our way of saying important things to each other when the need arose. We would record just, “I was really mad, but I still love you, Mom,”or, “I’m sorry I made you so mad, Sweetie—and you were right.” And then we’d place it on each other’s pillows, where it was sure to be found. I left for work teary eyed many a morning because of that damned card. I miss it. When the battery died, we didn’t get a new one. I thought saying things in person would be far better. But…in a way…saying things Hallmark never thought of with that card was a lot more fun and allowed us, sometimes, to express “that which could not be said” at last.
Over the years, though, Valentine’s Day has lost its charm completely for me. In the middle school I’m retiring from shortly, the office was piled with huge, temporarily confiscated teddy bears, balloons, bouquets and boxes of candy that the kids had bought for each other. Boys for girls, girls for boys…girls for girls. No boy gifts to boys yet—not openly. But hope springs eternal. A few office staffers got big bouquets a few days early, too.
The kids who got nothing…the staff who got nothing…and would get nothing, on The Day, either…smiled quietly. Made little comments—nice ones, about the deluge. But the eyes were always…not quite right.
Those who were going to get gifts that told them that their current “significant other” didn’t really know or care about them as much as they thought…had that same look in the eyes. James Baldwin talks about that kinda gift in one of his best novels—how you feel when you open one, and all the hope goes out of you. It’s not just that they don’t know or really love you, it’s that they chose this particular day of all days to prove it so inadvertently but emphatically. Damn.
When I was a teacher on my ex’s reservation, the school had this fund raiser for Valentine’s Day that let you buy a flower for someone you loved. And on Valentine’s Day, everyone who’d got one would find it on their desk with a little card. I always bought ALL of my kids a flower, and signed the card, “From someone who loves you…” or “From you secret admirer…” or “Just wanted you to know how much I care…” I loved the glisten in the eyes of the girls, especially, who had been dreading that day. You knew, all along, who they’d be. Maybe it was wrong, maybe they spent the rest of the week deluded and trying to find out who their admirer was. But I think that split second when they came in and found a rose on their desk was still a moment they’d cherish forever. I thought they deserved at least the one.
Some of my women friends have taken to sending or just buying themselves roses, and cooking up the dinner they would’ve prepared for someone else either for themselves or for other women and men friends who aren’t hooked up. Others sleep through the day all together—usually the ones who quip also that if Heidi Fleiss had opened that brothel for women, they would’ve been set for life. I’ve made that quip myself, to be honest—still kinda wish she had when the teary calls and sad emails start pouring in the day after VD chez moi.
It should be such a great day. But so often, it’s the day of reckoning.
It’s also the day that I keep hearing the words Bonnie Raitt sang so mournfully and achingly: “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.”
A whole lotta women are gonna be playin’ that song over and over and over again tonight. Others will be kinda wishing they had someone to play it over and over again about, just for the sake of having someone.
I suppose you could feel that way every day. But V-Day…to me…is the cruelest of all.
I’m gonna go make myself a helluvan “Un-Valentine’s Day” dinner and brace myself for my daughter to come home. I wish we still had that little recordable card. I could put something sweet on it. And she could skip that odd…”Oh, you poor thing” thing…in my eyes…as she gushed…