Now that it’s February…

There’s no good way to lead into this, so I’m just going to come out and admit it:

I love Valentine’s Day.

Oh, I didn’t used to.  I mean, it was cool in elementary school, when we would buy boxes of cards with our favorite cartoon characters on them, address them to each of the 30-some-odd kids in our class, stuff the envelopes with candy, and put them in the handmade mailboxes attached to our desks.    And my mom would always serve bagels with pink cream cheese for breakfast, put red- and silver-wrapped chocolates in our lunches,* and give us little presents after dinner. 

But as I got older, giving Valentine’s cards and candy stopped being mandatory, my mom stopped packing my lunch, and I realized there was some aspect of this holiday on which I was missing out.

I went all four years of college sans a boyfriend, and began disdainfully referring to February 14th as “Singles Awareness Day (SAD).”  One year, Monica and I even dressed up as characters from the MTV series Daria, and called the holiday “Halloween II.”  Even after I became part of a couple, I complained about Valentine’s Day being just an excuse for Hallmark and the candy companies to make money; I stood firm in my belief that we should show love to our loved ones every day, not just one day out of the year; I groaned at my sister, with her house covered in hearts and X’s and O’s.

The first Valentine’s Day I spent with the man who would become my ex-husband (France), we agreed to get cards for each other and nothing else – this was the compromise we made after I’d told him I wanted nothing to do with the holiday.  So he bought me a sterling silver necklace.  (Maybe I should have taken this as a sign that he had no respect for my wishes, and wouldn’t be inclined to in the future either.)  On our second Valentine’s Day (Wales), which happened to fall on the same night as our weekly ballroom dance class, our class had a Valentine’s Day Social, and afterwards, the two of us went to dinner.  I was still anti-buying-gifts, and still wanted to illustrate that love should be shown year-round, so I took a deck of cards and made them into personalized coupons, redeemable one per week for the following year – I still consider this one of the best gifts I’ve ever given, and wouldn’t hesitate to make a similar gift for Doug, my future child, or anyone else I felt like showing affection for 52 weeks straight.  That year, my ex got me trashy lingerie (the kind that comes in the plastic package and claims to be one-size-fits-all-Playboy-models) and a sex toy.  For our third Valentine’s Day (San Diego), my ex made a reservation at a fancy Italian restaurant, and we dressed up and went to dinner like we were expected to do.  He got me more trashy lingerie, even though we were living in my parents’ house at the time.  I don’t remember whether I got him a gift, or what it might have been, but I do remember that I got veal marsala at the restaurant.  It was delicious.

By the following year (San Diego), I had split with my husband and gotten together with Doug.  Once again, I tried my cards-but-no-gifts routine.  This time, it worked!  We went to lunch in a restaurant where a friend was working, dressing up because we could, even though the time of day didn’t necessarily require it.  I wore a green dress, the jade heart pendant my French family had sent me after hearing of my divorce, and no underwear.  Later in the day, we put on normal clothes, and went to my parents’ house for dinner, where we all shared the chocolate-dipped strawberries Doug had bought as a surprise.

For our second Valentine’s Day (Seattle), Doug and I took a tip from a customer, who said her Valentine’s tradition with her husband is to buy a bunch of appetizers from the grocery store we work in, stay home, and have a grown-up picnic.  We lit a fire, spread a fuzzy blanket on the floor, and watched A Good Year – a romantic movie about a winery in France.  I wore a red cotton nightgown and high heels; he wore a wifebeater tanktop and boxers.  But this was only a few months post-miscarriage, so we probably didn’t have sex.  (At least not memorable sex, obviously.)

Last year (back in San Diego), Doug and I both had to work closing shifts on Valentine’s Day.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, though, so at around 11 a.m., we took a baguette, cheese, salame, grapes, and pink champagne to the lake near our house.  I got a slight sunburn on the stripe of my lower back where my top didn’t quite meet my skirt.  For the first time ever, I bought a Valentine’s gift for someone I was dating.  (More accurately, I’d seen an Instant Immersion: French computer program in Costco the week before, bought it for Doug, and needed an excuse to give it to him.)  He gave me the nicest, most heartfelt-sounding store-bought card I’d ever seen.  An excerpt:

My heart knows strength, because you help strengthen it, caring because you care for it, comfort because you comfort me in times of need.

(I always suspected I was a good influence on him.)

In less than two weeks, Doug and I will be spending our fourth Valentine’s Day together, which officially makes this my longest relationship ever.  I’ve been eyeing the hearts and X’s and O’s for weeks already, coming to the strange and satisfying realization that at some point, I actually started to love this holiday.  It’s still just an excuse for the card and candy companies to make money, but sometimes we need an excuse to spend our money on those things; I still believe we should show love to our loved ones year round, but with life tending to get in the way, sometimes we need a reminder to do so.

As for my sister?  She’ll be so proud.

*On Saint Patrick’s Day, we’d get green- and gold-wrapped chocolates.  I remember the day I learned that what my mom was actually doing was buying Christmas candy on sale in January, then dividing it up by color, and spreading it out across the two subsequent holidays.  It blew my mind.  That woman is a genius.

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17 Responses to Now that it’s February…

  1. Carol says:

    My best firends and I, back in high school, started a tradition of eating our fav snack while reading Cosmo in the sun..skipping school when it falled on a school day. Night was dedicated to my mom and dad, a dinner filled with love. I’ll never forget my HS sweetheart planned something after me telling him what I do and DON’T do on this said “holiday”. I was a ultra bitch needless to say. So this year I mearly mentioned to Jake of yearly traditions and planned dinner with my girls, hoping he’d get the hint without crushing his big heart. What he doesn’t know is I to am kinda excited this year! I made him a mix tape and a suprise outfit before bed. 🙂 YAY US!!

  2. Sara says:

    I don’t want candy for Valentine’s Day. I want candy for the day *after* Valentine’s Day. Why pay full price one day, when you can get it at least half off the next day?? And, in my opinion, candy tastes even better when it is on clearance! Then again, I’m happiest when I get things on clearance or freakishly cheap.

  3. Squeak says:

    “I still believe we should show love to our loved ones year round, but with life tending to get in the way, sometimes we need a reminder to do so.”

    This has always been my take on it, or else that it’s an excuse to do it, and I’ll take every chance I can get. I have ALWAYS loved Valentine’s. It’s either an excuse for me to give my partner some token of affection, and opportunity for me to coo at my coupled friends doing adorable things for each other, or at a minimum, an excuse for me to bake for someone bummed out by Single’s Awareness Day.

    And your mom is brilliant. I would buy her book.

  4. Dawn says:

    So VERY proud if you, but not just for coming around to Valentine’s day. xoxoxox

  5. Erin says:

    I told you that I conceeded valentine’s day if c did the same for Halloween. And he half-assed dressed up and went out last year so I guess I gotta pay up.

  6. Arohanui says:

    Ha, ha. I like the “SAD” interpretation. Very funny. Valentines is only just starting to be a thing in NZ. I think I have had one Valentines card my entire life. I suspect these holidays are best enjoyed by those in love…

  7. Elphaba says:

    I’ve never been big on Valentines Day or holidays in general other than Christmas. We’re going for dinner to our favourite restaurant this year. Last year it was right after the miscarriage and I can’t for the life of me remember what we did. Probably cried.

    “I do remember that I got veal marsala at the restaurant. It was delicious.”–this totally reminds me of the “yadda yadda” episode on Seinfeld when Elaine yadda yaddad sex and said she mentioned the best part–the lobster bisque.

  8. slcurwin says:

    I’ll take Valentines day simply because deep down I’m a romantic…just not the same kind of romantic that most people are. I don’t get in with the gifts and cards (I dont do cards for any occation) but I like the excuse for cheesy bonding time. I have in the past been known to send my hubby a silly gift to his Warcraft character though.

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  10. Saundra says:

    You have inspired in me a blog post, my love.

  11. Pingback: Happy Valentine’s Day: a photo essay | Bakery Closed Until Further Notice

  12. Pingback: Timing, and other perfect things | Bakery Closed Until Further Notice

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