I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. Hating a love day – now, that would be too blasphemous even for me. Besides, there’s no one in the world who wants to be loved more than I do. Yet, I just can’t help but wonder, does the way we celebrate Valentine’s Day really measure what’s in our hearts?
Second grade just may have been the highlight of the holiday for me. Oh, how I remember those good old elementary school days. Valentine’s season would kick off with a mimeographed copy of all the names of the kids in the class, proving that before bullying became a felony, the world really did have a heart. Though it wasn’t required, the class list certainly implied that valentines for all rather than the elite few was the way to go. And so, we all brought in our stack of kitschy cards and slipped them into the Valentine’s Day mailbox – a shoebox decorated with red construction paper and pink paper hearts pasted on white lacey doilies. On the big day, some future Wall Street banker would be designated Valentine’s Day Mailman and would walk solemnly to the hissing radiator under the window, open the box and distribute the love letters with genuine care.
The pressure began in junior high (as we called it way back when). The Donna’s and Diane’s started us off, sporting silver ID bracelets, the 70’s proof of having a steady boyfriend. On Valentine’s Day they pranced through the halls, hand-in-hand with their true-loves-of-the-month, smug smiles on their faces, broken hearts in their futures. We didn’t pay them too much mind; our parents called them “fast” girls and most of our real friends were mercifully unattached.
Once we hit high school, love, or the pretense of it, became a status symbol. The Margaret’s and Michelle’s emerged – the lucky girls who had a constant stream of steady boyfriends from freshman year right through graduation. We met the Debbie’s who flitted from boy to boy, carefully timing break-ups and make-ups to sync with gift-getting season. And then there was me. The only girl in the world who never had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day.
And so, I made a mockery of it, spewing caustic comments and scorning the homecoming kings and queens of the world. I hid from the day in the same way I avoided the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t going to be the only one without a kiss.
Once I secured a life-long valentine, I changed my tune. I made sure he understood how important it was to shower me with presents that professed his love. Bouquets of flowers, chocolates, jewelry, tchotchkes, just about anything would do. And in turn, I’d buy him new socks and underwear.
When our kids got to school, I kept up with the class by buying the super-savings size box of Disney valentines and gave them out to one and all. After I started working from home, I felt I had to up my game. Now I was filling little cello bags with candy hearts and chocolate kisses, tying them with red ribbons and hand-writing each and every kid’s name on a homemade card.
And then, somewhere between elementary school and high school, for no discernible reason, it happened again. I went back to being a Valentine’s Day scrooge.
I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. I really don’t. I know I’ll get tons of texts from my friends and family and friends of my kids. Social media will be bursting with poetry and pictures and videos of the most romantic wedding proposals. I’m sure I’ll smile and feel little tugs at my heart and believe that everyone on Facebook really, truly loves me.
I’ve been loved for so long it’s hard to remember being alone. But, somewhere deep inside lie remnants of the young girl who had to live without love on the holiest love day of all. And so, this Valentine’s Day, I’m heading to Chapel Hill to hang with my single daughter, my single sister and my single niece. We’ll laugh at the lovers and long for their red roses, but we’ll wallow in the love we have for each other.
As for my ever-loving spouse and sons? Well, I’ll send emoji’s to Max in California and scribble some X’s and O’s on a 3 x 5 card and leave it on the kitchen counter for Leo and his father.
Somehow, I think they’ll forgive me for forgoing the fanfare. And I hope that they know that I’ll love them just as much in March.