I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. It just seemed so fake, driven more by commercial incentives to conform and spend $$, rather than love. I don’t say this as a bitter long-term-single; it has always been my opinion, even when in a committed relationship or in the throes of new love.
It just seems to fall into an ickily-commercial herding imperative that leaves so many feeling empty except for longing or discontent (and a good chunk of those in relationships can fit into this category).
The day always spoke to me of secret yearning, offering a chance to send a card or gift to someone you were unable to confess your feelings for, be it because of shyness or social barriers. And that is how I have participated in the past, one or two times, very self-consciously.
Don’t get me wrong, I love social rituals, but when a New Zealand friend (resident in L.A.) posted a photo of all the ‘Valentine’s candy’ his young children received at school I just saw the ugly hand of the sugar industry hungrily grasping for more $$… as if their rapacious conquest of Halloween (and Easter to come, the eggs have been in the shops for weeks) isn’t enough.
But my heart isn’t made of stone, I actually see myself as a true romantic. I don’t give my heart easily, it is precious (as are all), so I refuse to hand out cards and chocolate because it is expected/demanded.
Of course, my soon-to-be 7 year-old knows about today and drew a wee love heart on the calendar. She even made hints about making me a card. So when I was at the shops yesterday, I bought her a little teddy bear with a chocolate in a cardboard love heart. She was very happy when I gave it to her this morning, saying ‘Yay, I love chocolate’. Clever wee thing knows what it’s about as much as the retailers (the supermarket where I got my daughter’s treat has raised the price of the giant 1.25 kg boxes of chocolates leftover from Christmas they are struggling to get rid of from $15 to $20 for the day…they were $40 at Christmas).
As for me, my most memorable Valentine’s was 22 years ago when I awoke covered in flowers beside a former girlfriend. It was, on the surface, a very romantic scene. But I was panicked and perplexed as the night before I had gone to sleep after a passionate encounter with a secret lover in the very same bed. I could not work out what had happened. Yes, we had drunk some wine but I am not one to drink too much or ever lose track of what is happening. How had my former lover got into the house (and my bed)? Did she know about the secret lover? Had they conspired? Was there a hand-over?! As my unexpected bed-mate slept I was left with plenty of time to consider the various scenarios that had played out in the early hours of Valentine’s Day.
(As a side note, this took place right across the road from where a notorious and passionate encounter unfolded a few weeks ago unknowingly in full view of a bar full of eager observers/voyeurs who posted pictures and videos online making the secret passion ‘news’ around the world. I doubt they are having a good day today).
After my would-be par amour awoke I found out she had climbed the fire escape outside my bed room window while carrying the flowers in her teeth. I showed my appreciation for her stunning gesture in an appropriate manner, but my heart lay elsewhere.
While I have been happily single for the last few years (too battle-scarred? too long-in-the-tooth? too old to bother? contentedly free of yearning? still swimming in grief?… take your pick, I can’t work it out), over the last week I have begun to yearn for someone to turn to in bed, to enjoy and be near as the day ends (and begins). It has made the moments when I close my eyes and seek sleep a little panicky.
Maybe I am ready to love. I know it is around. But it won’t come out of a chocolate box or a bunch of flowers. At least, not today.
Later that day…