Monday, February 12, 2007

I Hate Myself For Loving Valentine's Day (The Fri(Mon)day List)

Oooooooooooookay, kids. I have had just about one of the most overwhelming weekends of my romantic life that didn't involve a breakup. Certainly the first time it has involved three separate prospects, each upping the ante in some way. And, ironically, absolutely zero sex. Not even a kiss. Though it did involve a significant loss of sleep.

While I am trying to keep my emotional circuits from shutting down entirely, and sorting out what the fuck to say about it all, let's return to the familiar comfort of The Friday List, which I had the foresight or something to postpone for my use in this very moment.

Obviously, we must discuss the imminent arrival of Valentine's Day. I've had a love/hate relationship with V-Day since I was in elementary school and 2/14 was one of the days you had your social status measured (via how many valentines you got from other classmates).

You would think, given how I ranked at the very bottom, that would make me just hate/hate the Day, but I always really liked the idea of a day in which you're encouraged to express feelings you might have been holding back the rest of the year. I always hoped maybe someone secretly liked me, but was too scared to say it (given that I was a social pariah), and would use the day to break the silence. This actually even happened once, in fifth grade -- I got a handmade "secret admirer" valentine, which turned out to be from the heartstoppingly cute Israeli boy whose family was in the States for the year. He liked me! For a minute and a half before my pretty friend L. turned her attention toward him. But still, it gave me a dangerous taste of the possibilities of V-Day.

Since then I've had some fantastic Valentines (I still remember my high school boyfriend taking me out to a fancy restaurant on a double date with his parents one year. I know that sounds weird, but we were pretty serious and it felt oh-so-very-adult and intimate. Also, I tasted lobster bisque for the first time that night. I can picture the bowl of thick reddish soup with a demure white swirl of cream in the middle, and how rich and intense it tasted. But I digress.). I've had some disastrous valentines (like the time in college I sent a guy I'd been dating for just a week and a half a written invitation to dinner through the campus mail, trying to be cute and romantic, and he broke up with me before it arrived in his box.)

Mostly they've been unmemorable (as in, I literally can't remember them) or unpleasant, a clash of pressures and expectations and realities, not infrequently ending in tears. Add to that the nasty capitalist shadow-side of the holiday, and the fact that it's basically a day for people who are already happily in love (which -- why do they need a holiday?), and you'd think I'd be done done done. But still I can't manage to properly hate V-Day the way I should. Maybe it's just how much I love roses and chocolate and grand romantic gestures and the color red. Maybe it's because, whatever evidence I may have posted here to the contrary, I'm generally optimistic about people. Maybe it's because I keep hoping to have an experience that erases all those years of getting the fewest votes in the ILoveYou Olympics. But as the stores fill up with hearts and flowers -- even this year, when I'm not (really) with anyone and will be getting nothing myself -- I try to scowl but I just can't suppress a little smile. Maybe I'm just glad to think that someone, somewhere will be taking this all as an opportunity to express a good but scary feeling they've been holding back too long.

And now you know I'm a big, hopeless sap. What about you & V-Day? Love it? Hate it? Or stuck in the middle with me?


Roy said...

I haven't been a fan of Valentine's day in quite some time, but there was a particular event that pushed it over into full-on hate.

My first year away at college I had met and gotten sort of involved with a girl on the first floor of the dorm I was staying in. She was slightly awkward, and had very little dating experience, but she was interesting and cute, and there had been some flirting and such, so we ended up going on a few dates. Things seemed to be going well, if slowly, and she and I had talked about where we saw things going, and she'd said she was happy, and that she thought of me as "potentially boyfriend material."
So, with Valentine's Day coming, I decided to make a card for her. I spent hours cutting out scraps of paper and designing this card- it was, if I do say, fantastic. It was heart-shaped, obviously, and I'd cut out this scraps of red and white and pink, and decoupaged them, with a cut-out of a ruby heart in the middle. I wove lace through it to create a hinge for the back of the card, and then I wrote a little poem inside using a nice black caligraphy marker, and went over the letters with a fine gold pen to create gold highlights on the letters.
I still think it was a pretty awesome card.
I also bought a small vase and painted it, and got a rose and a small box of candy, and I had her roomie set these up in their room while she was away at class. We walked back from class together like we always did, and when she got in the room, she found the card/flower/candy, read the card, tossed it back on the table, said "Oh. Well. That's nice." Then she said she'd see us later, she was going to study and grab lunch. I just sort of stared at her, and watched her leave.
Needless to say, that wasn't quite the reaction I had been expecting.

ruby said...

the commercialization of the whole shebang really ruins any romance of valentine's day for me. plus, the *pressure*! i don't want someone doing something sweet and romantic for me because of what the calender says--i want hir to do if and only if ze wants to, when and only when ze wants to.

plus, don't we single folks have enough crap floating around in the culture trying to make us lonely? i have some friends who try to use the holiday to show love to all the people in their lives--but why wait for one day a year to do that?

which leads me to ask, ladyred: doesn't having the one day where you're "supposed" to express this stuff make it a lot easier for people to hold it back? shouldn't we be encouraging a social environment where it's easier to express those good and scary feelings anytime?

greenyQ said...

as a quirkyalone and a romantic grrrl, i [heart] v-day only when i'm truly single and have a fat phat crush. for me this is the most fun. mooning over someone all day at work then being with my post-work self at home-peaceful-home cooking up a vegandelicious meal complete with dark chocolate (w/ ginger crystals, please!) , organic red wine, candles (yes red) music by india arie, and romantic letter writing to my best west coast pen pals. which is to describe my juicy luxurious plan for Heartday 2007. no consumerism. no pressure. all delight and personal indulgence. i am such a brilliant date for myself.

although the aforementioned crush (only) vaguely recalls my existance on planet earth, i have a Huge Skip In My Step when i think of her. mmmmmmm. such fantastic fun. truly.

also i dig the vagina monologues season of the Vaginatines Day.

Jennifer R said...

I get dumped for Valentine's Day. Lots.

So...yeah, I'm a hater.

Elana said...

My Valentine's Day history is pretty interesting, if I do say so myself.

Two years ago I'd been dating this guy for two weeks when v-day rolled around, and we decided not to make a big deal about it, so we planned on cooking dinner together and just hanging out.

On our way to the grocery store to buy stuff for dinner, I went into a skid and totalled my car... both of us were fine, my car died an undignified death, we spent the rest of the evening waiting for a tow truck (and making out in the back of my new wreck. Hey, it was cold...).

When we got back to campus, my then-boyfriend told me she was actually a transwoman, and she found out I was bi and had no issues with the whole thing. But still a pretty big day.

We broke up a couple of months ago, and this is the first v-day since then that I don't have anyone to celebrate Car Crash Day with. And to top it all off the ex and I are still closely in touch doing the on-again-off-again thing...

Maybe I'll write myself a love letter while eating lots of good chocolate and making myself my favorite dinner (and not driving anywhere, at all) :)

I can't bring myself to hate Valentine's as much as I should either... even though I hate the Hallmarkization of the whole thing, there's still something nice about a day that celebrates love and romance passion and reckless expressions of feeling and big gestures (which I like in spite of myself). Just because all those things can go awry doesn't mean celebrating them is a bad idea. There needs to be a place on the calendar for extravagance, sometimes.

I might feel differently when all my friends are being couple-y tomorrow though.

ladyred said...

But roy, have you given up on thoughtful and vulnerable romantic gestures altogether? Because it seems like it's not V-Day's fault she was such an ass to you -- it's just one of the risks of putting yourself out there. Could've happened on any day of the year.

I'll confess I tend to agree with greenyQ, though -- I think I like valentine's better when I'm single, with or without a crush. When I'm coupled, it just feels like a lot of pressure to buy shit and feel a particular way on a particular day.

Still and all, consider the number of holidays dedicated to war and colonization and white guys: Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Columbus Day, Vet's Day, Thanksgiving -- that's just off the top of my head. If we're going to have official state holidays, isn't it good to have one that's at least in theory devoted to promoting love?

(Oh, and Elana -- happy Car Crash Day!)