Having been single for the first twenty years of my life, I grew to hate Valentine’s Day. Here was a card that, like Mother’s Day, was invented just to sell flowers and cards. I used to think that, if couples needed to wait until one specific day of the year to do something special for each other, then maybe their relationship wasn’t so special.
At the age of twenty-five, I was dumped on Valentine’s Day after we celebrated it together and I spent a lot of money on her. We won’t discuss whether I deserved to be dumped because I totally did.
At the age of twenty-two, I made a friend whose birthday was on the thirteenth, so I would celebrate that instead. (I lost touch with her for around fifteen years, but I always celebrated February 13 for her.)
While married, Valentine’s Day became just another day, as we focused our celebrations on the dates that mattered to us specifically, i.e. our anniversary, the anniversary of the day I left New York to be with her, and, as the years progressed, her religious holidays.
I did have a Valentine’s Day on an undisclosed year of my life that is one of my fondest memories. It started out playful and flirty and hit kind of an ugly point, but we brought it back together, and that night, while she slept, I think I fell in love with her (but I never told her—one of the greatest regrets of my life).
As I’ve gotten older, and I’m already looking at forty-five in my rearview mirror, I’ve come to realize what Valentine’s Day is really about. It’s about giving out those little cards to everyone in your class, even the ones you hated, the ones with the puns and your favorite superhero on them. It’s about those candy hearts that say, “Be Mine” and other phrases I can’t remember anymore, the ones you were supposed to give the apple of your eye, but you just ended up eating it yourself. It’s about pink streamers and cutting hearts out of construction paper, and the red sheets always running out before you can get to it. With the exception of my nearly perfect Valentine’s Day outlined above, this is the Valentine’s Day I want to celebrate—kids who have no idea what romance is being creative and funny to each other, passing each other pieces of paper that advertise a fast-food version of said romance.
When you’re with your beloved, and you’re irritated that none of the restaurants have any space for couples, and you forgot to make reservations. The ones that do have openings jack up their prices for the day. You just spent over a hundred dollars on flowers and chocolates, and you have no idea what to talk about on a date with someone you’ve been living with for years, just remember when that girl you definitely didn’t like, especially not like that, handed you a card that had Aquaman on it, and it said, “I ‘sea’ you, Valentine” and long for those days. I generally don’t think that things were better when I was a kid, but in the case of Valentine’s Day, it totally was.