When I was single, I cannot tell you how much I hated Valentines Day.
I hated it for the reasons most single people hated it. I hated it because it was a day devoted to being in love and being in a relationship and I wasn't in one. So people making such a big fuss, restaurants, the greeting card, flower and candy industry all focusing their efforts from January 2nd until February 14th on slapping me in the face with the fact that not only was I NOT going to be the recipient of their wares, I was NOT going to have a big night on the town, I was NOT going to get some grand gesture which not only showed that I was loved, but would confirm to me that I was someone capable of being loved. No one was hiring a sky writer for me.
Instead, during those years I WAS going to be able to crawl into bed early, alone with some popcorn for dinner and torture myself by watching 'When Harry Met Sally' for the umpteenth time. I couldn't even muster up the courage to order a pizza on Valentines' Day because the humiliation of pizza-for-one on Valentine's Day, letting the pizza delivery guy KNOW I was alone on Valentine's Day, well that was more humiliation than I could bear.
Earlier, when I lived in Florida, in my wild-child years I had a whole group of gay friends and gay males in their 20's are not exactly relationship oriented, so Valentines Day turned into an anti-Valentines Day, usually beginning with cocktails somewhere too-close-to-lunch and ending in the wee hours dancing in a club surrounded by gay men who thought I was wonderful and their being gay was an added bonus, telling me that I wasn't unlovable. I was fabulous, I was just unfortunately ahem, female.
When I was living in Pittsburgh as a university student I worked part time in a restaurant (The Olive Garden) and for many years I waitressed on Valentines Day. Valentines Day, like any holiday is dreaded for the restaurant industry, because although it is super busy, the majority of people who eat out are not people who eat out on a regular basis (aka cheap tippers), so while I always banked a lot of cash on Valentines Day I had to work much harder for it than other days, serving twice as many people for half the money. It sucked on the one hand having not only to not be out at some romantic dinner with a wonderful boyfriend but to have to serve seemingly romantic dinners pushed the humiliation factor up a notch or two. On the other hand my fellow servers, bartenders and I consoled ourselves by feeling superior to the masses we served, because after all, we wouldn't be caught dead eating in an Olive Garden, much less on Valentines Day. Snap!
But as I got older each year got slightly more humiliating, not even because I was still single, but because slowly at first and then in my 30's with rapid speed, so many of my friends went from being single to being in relationships to getting married to having babies. They always had plans on Valentines Day and even if a few invited me for an anti-Valentines dinner, I would never accept.
The only thing worse than not being in a couple on Valentines Day is being a third wheel on Valentines Day.
So I opted for the popcorn dinner and When Harry Met Sally. As I careened toward 30 I realized that if I didn't want V-Day to put me in a mini-crisis every year, berating myself for not being in a relationship and worrying that I was not lovable and would never, every find anyone, while at the same time, my friends were getting married, having babies and careers, buying houses and having adult lives. It was too much, too hard, I knew something had to change. I figured out what I needed.
I needed younger friends.
Friends in their twenties didn't have these problems, Valentines Day was just Valentines Day, sure there was maybe a bit of wistfulness, but nothing which required calling being slammed in the face with your own inadequacies every February 14th.
So in all my years of being single I always dreaded Valentines Day and I vowed, at one of the many, many anti-Valentines Day parties I attended in my life, that even if I one day met someone and became a "couple", I would never turn into one of those mindless people, spending a half a month's pay on some grand gesture, or expecting that from my boyfriend or husband. I mean, let's face it, unless you are dating one of the Donald's kids or someone of that ilk, the gesture is going to be some kind of offshoot of the Olive Garden anyway. I vowed that I would never turn into one of those couples who have to demonstrate their love via overpriced flowers or heart shaped chocolates, half of which I will take a bite of and throw away because I am not into cherries, nougats or cremes.
I do like the candy hearts though. I enjoy reading those sweet sentiments and then popping them in my mouth and doing my imitation of that great white on Jaws.
When you get married or in a relationship, something strange happens to you, actually many strange things. But one of those things is that you go from someone who once had their own life, who was the master of their own agenda, had their own interests to someone who needs to "check" before making plans. I hated the checking, as it was often followed by a call back which never came or even if it did come it was full of other plans.
It's inevitable, even if you are the two most independent people on the planet, your lives merge and meld and become something different.
And sure enough when I got married, I became a checker too. Even though for YEARS I dreaded the checking, hated when my friends said they had to check with their spouses and boyfriends. I got that ring on my finger and I became a checker.
This happens again in a different way when you have kids. The experience of having a baby (or babies) changes your life so completely, it's never the same again. You actually spend the first weeks, at least I did and I am not ashamed to admit it, mourning the end of your former life, and wondering, even though your baby is the most beautiful thing you ever laid eyes on, what the hell did I do?
And just like night follows day, you go from someone who politely used to smile and nod at seeing pics of someone's babies and kids (and praying that they will soon STOP) to being one of those who will shove photos, an iPhone or your entire D drive of photos in someone's face the second someone crosses into your airpace. You actually don't care whether the person WANTS to see 100 photos of your baby sleeping, you just do it.
All that happened to me. I couldn't resist the tide. I am a checker, a photo shower and I post inane statuses about my kid on Facebook. Sure, I could help it if I wanted to but I got reeled in, the whole package.
I still loathe Valentines Day, and I am proud to say that not one rose, one jewelry box or one box of chocolates enters our house on February 14th. We don't go out for dinner. Leo and I have never celebrated Valentines Day, not once in the 11 years we have been together.
Yes, I kept my vow. But it wasn't until today that I realized why.
I thought, for a lot of years that it was some way to pay honor to my single years, to not become one of them completely. It was a way to hold onto my originality by not caving into the pressure for the grand gesture.
In some way it is. I am proud that even though in everything else I have crossed over to the dark side, that at least my pinky toe still remains in the light.
There is really another reason though, a much deeper one why I have kept this vow.
The truth of the matter is, I don't want or need a grand gesture. I have a husband I love dearly and who loves me, who loves my daughter, who would do anything for us, who lives to see us happy. A man who will do things just to see us smile. A man who serves me breakfast in bed most days, a man who would spend 3 hours driving around to different grocery stores when his daughter is home with an ear infection in order to find the last 'muppet' for her collection just to distract her for 5 minutes from the pain in her ear. I have a husband who is here for us every day no matter what. I have a husband who will do just about any ridiculous thing I ask him for a kiss and a hug.
And he does bring me flowers, just not on Valentines Day.
Pinky toe, still in the light! But if someone wants to send me those candy hearts, let me know.