Alternate title: Giving Valentine’s Day it’s due & How I’ve been learning to like it even though I spent an inordinate amount of time hating it
For as long as I remember I’ve been a Vday naysayer or perhaps at least since it stopped being required to give everyone some kind of a card in class and I was no longer guaranteed to receive cards or candies from people.
But even when I didn’t out and out HATE Vday I did always find it a little uncomfortable. Let me be clear I am super pro-love and I hope everyone gets to feel love in some form, so it’s not because I am anti-love. It felt uncomfortable because even picking who got which card out of the box of silly kids Valentine’s felt like a great trial for me, especially when making sure that I picked the card that conveyed to that the creepy kid in class that I didn’t have any feelings other than platonic acceptance whilst on school grounds for him/her. And as I grew up it felt like a giant awful game of pretend where people conveyed feelings they didn’t have to get rewards. Which is why in my teen years my feelings went from uncomfortable to extreme dislike for this holiday. From my teenage years into adulthood; a time when the holiday more clearly became less about friendship and more about romance… it felt so fake and I wasn’t going to be fooled. Let me explain…
I saw that Vday was a holiday to guilt boyfriends/husbands into showing affection they normally wouldn’t or didn’t or forgot to, and through the form of fancy dinners, chocolates, jewelry, flowers; it was a holiday where girlfriends/wives would don their most provocative outfits/lingerie seemingly in attempt to earn that affection and perhaps also challenge themselves to become gymnasts in the bedroom to reciprocate for all the romance and gifts. For the “coupled” it felt like a wonky bartering system; guy gives romance, girl gives performance. ( I don’t know if a version of this stereotype exists outside of the non-sis/non-binary/non-hetero relationships but this what my teenage into adult years witnessed). Oh and for the long married, it often meant the woman got gifts and the man got to sleep on the bed and not in the couch that night because he didn’t forget. And then perhaps even more confusing for me was when it came to being a single adult on this particular day. Especially if you were a heterosexual single female who wanted to be in a relationship… well then the holiday took on a much more tortuous shade. In fact, I remember seeing friends, even some who would normally be proud of their single status the rest of the year, wallowing in self-pity desperate for a partner on Valentine’s. There is still a lot of truth in all of these statements however this is definitely a more jaded view. (Especially since all holidays are what you make of it.)
For years what I made of it, I spent being anti-Valentines, even when I was within a committed relationship. When my partners or friends would inquire further as to why I wasn’t into Vday, especially if I was in a relationship, I often told them, “I would always rather romance or gifts of love to come from an authentic place. I would rather get flowers on a random Tuesday because they thought of me or on a holiday specific to me or us such as my birthday or an anniversary.” And to my close friends I occasionally would add ” and I am certainly not becoming a gymnast for a box a chocolates or a necklace I could buy myself.” Mostly I spent many a year, turning the holiday into another Halloween of sorts, watching Valentine’s Day or romantic themed horror (usually campy or intentionally dark comedy) and buying myself whatever chocolates I so desired.
But to this day, my favorite Vday was what now many people would call a “Galentines” day get together. It was my first year of college, I got together with three gal pals, we met up and exchanged silly gifts and cards choosing to be each other’s valentines, (I think I got a plush dog and I cannot recall what I gave). Then we went to the food store bought all kinds of treats and cake and hung out watching my all-time favorite Vday flick (totally cheesy–as I said, how I like most of my horror movies), it was the movie Valentine circa 2001 starring David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, and Katherine Heigl. After which we went to a late night coffee shop that showcased purchasable art and often had live musicians, which sadly is no longer there. After ordering my “go-to” back then (a “Soy What” latte), I went back to chill with my ladies when I ran into a girl from high school I hadn’t seen since Junior year. She said she has just won the lottery, and was so glad she ran into us. We invited her to join us and spent another hour catching up and listening to the band. After our time spent at the coffee shop we then piled back into the car to follow this reacquainted friend into to a town that is now a hip and foodie place but back then could only be called, “shifty”. There amongst bail bonds shops and tattoo parlors was this little Resturant, that started with an I but had an O in it because I remember the O had a spiral in it. This Resturant (obviously ahead of its time because if it had opened in that town maybe 6 or 8 years later it would have been an immense success), had artsy yet delicious meals, I don’t remember what I had but I remember it being amazing and that something was flavored with foam and there was artisan cheeses. I also recall having a delightfully sweet drink which must of been a mock-tail since I wasn’t yet 21 but maybe it wasn’t? The meal finished with a desert that was both decadent and light. And all through the meal there was live music… it may have just been a guitar player but my brain recalls a harpist and a double bass. It was an amazing experience which would have been well worth the money but then the friend who invited us there was not kidding about the lottery and bought the entire meal for us! Slightly after midnight we all parted ways. Such a freaking cool night, that even as some details become fuzzy I always hope to remember. Also, weirdly as though part of a dream or an elusive mystery novel, I have mostly lost touch with all of those lovely ladies in attendance, and all three places we went that night (the food store, the cafe, the restaurant) all no longer exist.
This magical night was still all while I would say, “I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.” But really I have been celebrating it, just in my own wonky way… all this time. All these years I have made it a time of self love, self appreciation and I will continue that and also continue it in a way that shows love for those that mean the most both in the romantic love way and in the friendship love way.
So what made me turn from saying “I hate Vday” to saying “happy Vday” and being okay with that fact? Well early on in my relationship with my now husband (then boyfriend) I had a close friend inquire what I would be doing for Vday with my significant other. And I responded, “nothing, I don’t celebrate”. I of course proceeded to tell her my reasoning and though it was a while ago I still remember the paraphrased version of her response, ” I can understand what you mean about it being superficial but I’ve personally always looked at the holiday as another opportunity to show love to those you love, which sometimes we all need a little reminder.” That struck a chord, what a brilliant way of looking at it. Sometimes life does get busy and crazy and though we try our best to always show appreciation for the people we love, we can fall into a rut of taking them for granted or just thinking they “know” how we feel so we don’t always say it or show it. Since that fateful conversation, my fella and I have made it a point to do something. Nothing major maybe it’s make silly cards for one another, make dinner together, share some candies or a sweet treat. But we make it a point to tell each other how important we are to one another. And also we almost always watch the movie Valentine.
That’s great and all, but how does any of this apply to me? –random reader or possibly you asking
Well I find that Vday is a great time to show love in general… it could be to yourself with some self care, to your friends with a text of appreciation, to a family member with a card/phone call, or to your partner with whatever way you want to show your love. Just make sure you mean it because that fake stuff is for fake people.
So if you have hated Vday or think it’s commercial bs… (and maybe it is but then what holiday in the US isn’t?)… give it a chance because love is super important and sometimes we just need the gentle reminder to tell those we love that we love them. (And I mean it even if your a super manly dude and you have a manly dude friend that you know deep down you would be freaking wrecked if they weren’t in your life anymore… well you can say over a text or in person, “hey man, I’m glad you are my friend, I don’t know where the heck Id be without you so thanks.” It truly, goes a long way. And I mean it, even the manliest of buddies need to know they are appreciated. And if you are truly worried about sounding weird you could send a day before or a day after, you don’t have to send it ON Vday.)
Anyway so that’s my little PSA on Valentine’s Day which my past self would have never ever expected future Heather to have written.
So happy Vday and You GOT this!