You see, I have spent most of my adult life as a single person. From the age of twenty to the age of thirty-four when I shocked myself by tying the knot, I was mostly unattached. Wait, let me rephrase: sometimes I was attached and I sometimes I was not. However, during the attached times I was not with the kind of man that might, oh, I dunno, do anything to acknowledge a day like Valentine’s Day. As a result, I have grown to hate this romantic, yet heavily consumerist holiday.
Unfortunately for me, I have clear emotional recall of what it was like to be alone on that day – several times over. Let’s say one of your workmates gets flowers at the office from her somewhat douche-like boyfriend. You don’t even like the guy. You might even think your friend is too good for him. But on Valentine’s Day, he suddenly becomes appealing on many different levels because he pulls it out with a bouquet delivery.
Then, you start to hate your friend for being happy about her flowers because a) you have just been dumped, b) you have just dumped another in a series of poor relationship candidates or c) you have been alone for quite sometime and hate all happy, pro-valentine couples.
Yes, I’ve been bitter. Haven’t we all? These things happen.
I didn’t always hate Valentine’s Day. As a matter of fact, in grade school I loved it. I think it’s easy when you’re a kid to get caught up in, “how many valentines did you get? “, and the whole time in your head you are doing the math and thinking, why didn’t I get that many?
But I was different. I didn’t care that much about the number of cards that were dropped into our custom made delivery boxes. What concerned me was the box itself. I loved the annual assignment of creating the box that would receive the messages. Ideally, I would find a cigar box to dress up, but that didn’t happen every year. Sometimes I had to use a shoebox. I would gather together the ingredients: glue, lace, construction paper, markers, glitter, etc. with reverence. Then I would proceed to go to town on the design, attacking it with a collaging technique that I have been perfecting since Kindergarten.
During the scheduled delivery time when all of the kids in the class walked around dropping their valentines into the boxes, most would show off their cards. Whether it was a Hello Kitty job or superhero themed, the focus was on which card they had chosen to embody their Valentine’s Day persona. The card would be extended toward my smartly decorated box, and I would be asked, “What do you think, aren’t these cute?” To which I would respond, “What do you think of my box?” I don’t have any clear recall about which valentines I ever chose to give out.
Bottom line: when I was a kid, I liked to cut things apart and glue them onto other things. This still holds true.
Due to my hard romantic luck over the course of my singlehood, being a married person on Valentine’s Day holds no magic for me. My expectations have been lowered through many years of negative conditioning. If Tim never even thought to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I could care less. I don’t drop hints about gifts. I don’t circle pictures of jewelry in the weekly newspaper ads and place them on my partner’s pillow (although this did eventually work for a girlfriend of mine, and she still has those diamond stud earrings).
I don’t lament over whether I will get milk or dark chocolate as a gift (not fond of the milk kind of chocolate), because I don’t expect a gift. I don’t have to sit at my desk in an office full of women and wonder when the bouquet will arrive, because I don’t care and I don’t expect him to get me flowers.
But here’s the thing: he remembers. He hates it too – this annual overexposure to heart shapes, the color red, candy and flowers. He is against the Hallmark pandering. And yet, he manages to do something thoughtful for me every year. Here’s what is crazy: I am always surprised. After nine years of marriage, I still don’t expect Tim to ante up with any kind of gift. He does it because he wants to, not because I expect it.
Also surprising is that he goes the traditional route: he gets me flowers. The difference? He circumvents the ready-made bouquets and asks permission to walk into the flower cooler. Then he puts together a bouquet for me himself. He is an artist, after all. The result is never anything traditional, but it is always lovely. He will pick a Gerbera daisy for me over a rose, and leans toward wild looking blooms. It works every time.
bitter no more.
Although happily married and therefore alone on Valentine’s Day no longer, I still haven’t completely embraced this holiday. It is true that I no longer cast a jealous eye toward a co-worker for getting those sappy gifts. Instead, I am mature enough to smile and be happy for that person. I’ve grown.
My life has been made easier with the right partner in it. I was terrible at being single. I made horrific choices in men and I didn’t get that it was my poor self esteem driving me to make many of these decisions. I lamented the fact that I was not happy, but wasn’t smart enough to know that my happiness was within my own control. I know that now, but would never want to strike out on my own again. I need Tim in my life. I need husband-made flower bouquets once a year, shared smiles every day, and all of the other trappings of our relationship.
I don’t know that I will ever be that enthusiastic about Valentine’s Day, and that is okay. I think about the people in this world that feel alone or unloved on this day. I’ve been there. What I have to say to those that are alone is this: focus on decorating your box. Keep improving those little details and get ready to receive some messages of love.
If you are open to that, you won’t be alone forever.