From my college adviser, I picked up the habit of wearing black on Feb. 14. While I'm sure many singles do, especially if they're bitter about it, I know that I am personally responsible for my friend J. doing this on Feb. 14 with some degree of frequency. She's now married to a very nice fellow she met shortly after I met the Genius, but she still does it some years, I think to express solidarity with those who are single and unhappy about it. Perhaps also to protest against a holiday that, let's face it, is almost exclusively commercial.
Valentine's Day isn't so bad when you're a kid. At my school, every kid in the class brought in a valentine for every other kid in the class and there was probably some sort of cookie or some such involved. Plus, I always got some sort of little present and a box of those Necco sweetheart candies from my mom. But when I moved to Florida and went to a public middle school, Valentine's Day was rough. For starters, those were painfully awkward years for me - I had planes and angles where curves would later be - and very few kids in my grade were nice to me, whereas plenty were downright awful. I was a new kid and I had a very hard time fitting in. But some kids, precocious effers, were already dating, or at least "dating" in middle school terms. Honesty, I'm not sure what that entailed. But some girls would be walking around on Feb. 14 with teddy bears or flowers or balloons - some definite sign that there was a boy who thought they were special. And I started to feel like kind of a loser because none of the boys thought I was. I mean, looking back, I can see that it was a dumb thing to care about at 12. Far more girls, at that stage of the game anyway, were like me and had nothing than had a gift to flaunt. But as 16, 17, 18 rolled around, I felt bad on 2/14 every year. My mom always got me something - even after I went off to college and moved to New York, God bless her, she sent me something. Including the year I studied abroad. Thanks, Mom.
The year I was 17 was particularly rough. I was working at the grocery store and had to watch dozens of guys coming in and buying candy and flowers and cards and knowing that no one was shopping for me. Plus, I had recently fallen head over heels for one of the cashiers. Who had a girlfriend. He came in and bought a little white teddy bear for her. On his way out, he ran into me in the parking lot (I was a bag girl). We talked for a few minutes. He gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, "Happy Valentine's Day, dear." The saddest part of that story is that for years that was the best Valentine's Day I ever had.
One year - I swear it's true - I had a gig handing out Hershey's kisses in Times Square. I was part of a team of "cupids" who donned a bright pink set of coveralls, little feather wings held on by elastic and hats that looked like Hershey's kisses. Because I'm sometimes a masochist, I also picked that day to quit coffee cold turkey. And I had to show up at 6 a.m. What was I thinking? I was thinking that this day always sucks anyway; a caffeine headache really wouldn't make it that much worse
I have been luckier since I passed the quarter century mark. The V-day I was 25, I had just had a good first date a few days before. I can't remember if he called me on 2/14 or, I think, maybe 2/12, but it was clear there would be a second date, so I didn't feel bad, for a change. The next year, for the first time ever, I had a date on Valentine's Day. With a guy I'd just started seeing, so it wasn't a big deal or anything, but it felt pretty good. That was also the last time I ever spoke to my college adviser. "John, I have a date!" I told him. "Well, that is news," he replied. That ended up being rather short lived, as did all my "relationships" until EG came along. By the following Valentine's Day, I'd met him, and it really hasn't sucked since. It didn't feel great the year we were apart, but even then, I could believe in love because it had actually happened to me.
I don't think it's ever come up here before that Valentine's Day 2008 was our first official date in 14 mos. Or, as I think of it, our second first date. Today, we've been back together for two years. Not like it's been perfectly smooth sailing, especially at first, but the water's been calm for a while now and I feel like a very lucky woman.
I know most of our (half dozen or so) readers have a special someone, and I wish you all a very Happy Valentine's Day. For anyone who doesn't, today is just a day. Hold your head up high and know that you're pretty damn awesome and if you want there to be someone who appreciates that, sooner or later there will be. But if you happen to go to the grocery store, or the movie theatre or something today? Don't wish the cashier or whoever a Happy Valentine's Day unless she says it first. Maybe she just doesn't want to think about it.