So it’s here. That day that strikes fear and dread into the heart of attached and unattached persons alike. The day of heart-shaped tchotchke’s and overpriced roses and honeymoons in heart-shaped Jacuzzis in Niagara Falls. Hallmark’s biggest day of the year.
Valentine’s Day. Ugh.
For me, V-Day conjures up memories of disappointment and hurt, of unrequited love and dashed expectations—so much so that the day has been ruined even ten years into a very happy romance and marriage.
There were the years in high school where I sat in homeroom while they handed out roses and candy grams to the lucky ladies and gents, and I wasn’t one of them. And there was the time I was in our nation’s capitol with a group of 100 students my own age on retreat and the boys bought valentines for each of the girls—a very sweet gesture—except my name wasn’t on their lists and I was the only girl who didn’t get one. Or there was the time I bought this cute little goldfish with a little fishbowl as a gift for my boyfriend of one month and he just stared at me and said, “I didn’t get you anything” (I didn’t end up marrying this guy). Don’t get me wrong. My husband is wonderful, but the damage had been done before I met him.
So in anticipation of being let down, the first few years we were married I tried to downplay Valentine’s as much as possible. I would firmly instruct my husband that I didn’t want anything and that he wasn’t to buy me overpriced, derelict flowers, crappy chocolates, or any of the other useless stuff on the market. Even if he wanted to do something nice for me, I wouldn’t let him. I would tell myself that I didn’t care and that February 14th is a day of contrived and obligatory affection (and it is), but I would still end the day a little upset that nothing had been done for me. (I know. I’m crazy!)
A couple of years ago a co-worker’s husband sent her a singing telegram. A group of a capella singers burst out into a four-part harmony version of “Let me call you sweetheart” in the middle of the office. All the ladies swooned and I immediately wished my hubby would hire singers for me. And then I immediately wished he wouldn’t. I’d hate the attention.
And that’s just my point. Valentine’s Day, for me, prompts feelings of hope and despair, pleasure and pain, security and insecurity—all at the same time. It’s bewildering since the feelings are polar opposites, and they only surface in this way on February 14th.
But perhaps the problem isn’t with those around me. I know it sounds crazy, but perhaps the problem is with me. Because it doesn’t matter how many fantastically awesome Valentine’s Days I’ve had; I don’t remember them. They don’t register and the memories roll off me like water off a duck’s back. I register all the painful times, of course—loud and clear—in all their ugly detail, albeit the ugliness of the incidents disappears a little more each year. Which makes sense if you know a thing or two about our fantastically intricate brains. A wise man once told me that it takes at least four (sometimes more) good and positive incidents for your brain to combat one negative incident. Negative thoughts are like Velcro. Positive ones are like Teflon. That’s just the way it works. So I’m going to need at least forty years of good “love-day” memories to forget the ten years of bad ones. I’m only about ten years in so far.
But it does bring up a good point. At school today I heard some ladies talking about how they’re going to “celebrate” Valentine’s by tearing up pictures of good-looking guys. I laughed and thought—doesn’t that contribute to keeping Valentine’s Day in the dumps: keeping our minds firmly planted in Valentine’s-is-Lousy-and-So-Am-I-Land? What if I made good associations instead of pining away for someone else to meet my impossibly ridiculous expectations? What if I made heart-shaped pancakes in the morning for my husband, some red velvet cupcakes to share with friends in the afternoon, and maybe enjoy a book and a lovely cup of tea at the end of the day? Some of the best days, in my opinion, involve my husband, delicious food, a hum-dinger of a good book and flavourful, piping hot tea. I can start helping myself get over—well, myself—one Valentine’s Day at a time.