I have always hated Valentine’s Day. Hated it. Hated it with a burning passion. Why? Because after the grade school festival-of-sugar parties (which, honestly, were pretty great), it’s all downhill.
When I was dating in high school, it always felt like running this gauntlet of pressure-filled unspoken expectations.
Here’s a gift card for Pizza Hut because I know you like pizza and I like you, you know, like LIKE-like you, so I wanted to get you something because you’re my boyfriend, so… Happy Valentine’s Day, and oh my gosh I just really want to die right now…
That was usually the point where the boy would pull out a flower from behind his back and say something like, “Yeah. Me too. Uh, Happy Valentine’s Day and stuff.” Then we’d go back to playing broomball, a winter sport involving ice rinks and paddles and resulting crazy shin bruises, which was the foundation for all of my high school romances. The broomball, not the shin bruises.
In college, a boyfriend sent me flowers through our school mail system and forgot to put my name on the card, so the College Post Office employees filled in the blank for him. That was the Valentine’s Day I was called in to receive a package of long-stemmed roses as… wait for it… TURD FERGUSON. I was mortified. He was in hysterics. Yeah, that relationship didn’t last much longer. I’m pretty sure he’s a doctor now. Let’s hope his charting habits are better than his love-note writing.
The years I was single, I dubbed Valentine’s “Singles’ Awareness Day,” wore all black, and blasted loud, angry music from my car windows.
Late in college, my now-husband Daryl asked me on a first date just two weeks before Valentine’s Day. No pressure, right?
A week later he stood in my living room looking so nervous I thought he might be breaking up with me. “We’re going to need to talk about the obvious…” he said, delicately. “Valentine’s Day is next week. There’s just no way it won’t be awkward.”
“How about we just go out like we normally would and don’t make it a thing?” I offered.
“YES,” he said. “Let’s do that.”
That was the first sign of many that were meant to be together. We both thought–then and now–that Valentine’s Day was a little silly. A Hallmark holiday that muddied the waters of budding relationships for no other reason than to make a buck.
So on our first Valentine’s Day as a couple, we went out with friends to see the movie Hitch. Low-key. No big deal.
A few minutes into the show, Daryl worked up the courage to put his arm around me for the first time. I sunk into the crook of his arm and nestled into his shoulder and could tell you exactly nothing about the beginning of the movie because I was so flooded with happy hormones.
Then he proceeded to leave his arm there, compressed between my back and the movie theater chair, for an hour and a half. Eventually I noticed that he hadn’t shifted position in awhile. I glanced over at him. He looked pained.
“Daryl?” I whispered. “Is your hand asleep?”
“Um, yes,” he admitted.
“Then move it,” I said. He did.
We truly are the romantic type.
But even though I’m pretty anti-Valentine’s Day, I am very pro-telling people you love that you love them. Valentine’s Day can be a great reminder for that.
Most years Daryl and I remember to share a “Happy Valentine’s Day,” comment with each other at some point in the day and that’s about it (like I said, we are serious romantics), but this year with a new baby on the way, a dissertation near completion (can you hear the hallelujahs!?), and the general busyness of life with a toddler and dual vocations, we’ve decided we wanted to get back to the heart of what Valentine’s Day could be: a reminder to tell those we love that we love them and why.
This year, we are going to write lists for each other of the things we love about each other–deep things and funny ones, profound things and simple ones. Then we’ll read them to each other, because there is something really powerful about hearing someone tell you why they love you. It’s free, it’s meaningful, and who among us doesn’t need a little affirmation?
The really fun thing is that we can do this for people who aren’t our spouses, too. Single, dating, married–anyone can tell those they love that they love them and what it is they love about them.
I’m going to tell Daryl that I love his preaching, his strong arms (asleep or not asleep…!), and all the times he fills my car up with gas.
I’m going to tell our son that I love how brave he is on the playground, how kind he is to the new kid in class, and how easily he laughs. [I’m also going to buy him a box of the usually forbidden goldfish crackers because he’s three years old, and those gross orange fishes communicate love to him in a way no words ever will.]
I’m going to tell our neighbors across the alley, the ones who are always good for a chat, that we love being their neighbors. [And no, I’m not going to ring their bell and read them a list of things I love about them because how seriously creepy would that be…? Instead I’m going to leave them a couple of beers (this is their real love language) with a lollipop for their daughter and a note that says: “Roses are Red/Violets are Blue/We Really Love/Awesome Neighbors Like You.” Unless that is creepy, too? I must think on that…]
I’m going to reach out to my single friends and tell them why I love them, because Valentine’s Day can be kinda rough.
I’m going to keep letting go of the pressure of a Hallmark holiday and instead use it as an excuse to make some phone calls I might not otherwise make.
I’m also going to eat the entire box of See’s chocolates that Daryl bought and hid from me (but not very well, because I fooooooound them!). Because, I mean, come on – anti-Valentine’s Day or not, no pregnant woman is going to turn down chocolate.
Plus, he bought a cheaper, non-Valentine’s Day box, because chocolate tastes just as good when it isn’t shaped like a heart. He knows me so well.
Who do you love?
Will you tell them?