Single or attached, this is the holiday-cum-months-long-card-selling-ploy in which "they" try to stuff your highly individual and boundless love into a small, heart-shaped chocolate mold. In which love is colored red and pink and festooned with doilies. In which love is equated with buying useless clutter and delicious but fattening bonbons, not to mention, if you are unlucky enough to be a twenty-something woman who reads fashion magazines, frilly underwear. (If you are attached, editors will include this directive with their instructions on "6 Sexy Ways to Rev His Love Engine"; if you are single they will categorize this advice under the aegis of "treating yourself". Either way, heeding this advice is a lose-lose because in both cases you end up with frills wedged between your butt cheeks. My advice: take the underwear money and invest in something that will improve your quality of life, like jammies. Or IHOP.)
For many years, my preparation for Valentine's Day has involved bunkering down to survive the onslaught of reminders that you don't have a boyfriend and it's probably because of some fundamental personality flaw that everyone's aware of but you. I tend to make Valentine's Day, and a lot of other things, either black or white: either you have a mushy, romantic evening with your one true love who showers you with presents and adoration, or you drink late into the night- in the company of a group of other desperate, bitter singletons, if you're lucky.
But anecdotal evidence suggests, as usual, that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Last year, I had a sweetheart and we went to a monster truck rally, then walked the several miles up Broad St. back to my apartment. The monster truck rally was, well, let's just say there's probably a reason their primary audience is nine-year-old boys. And the walk back was lovely and sweet, but no more or less so than other lovely and sweet things that Spangles and I have done. The year before that, when I was single, I went to Copabanana and had nachos and margaritas with a friend and her friends, who all turned out to be very nice and funny, and we got free promotional tank tops for Absolut vodka! Then one year in college I participated in "V-day," which promotes awareness to end violence against women and girls (which I wholeheartedly support) by getting on stage and using a lot of different words for "vagina" (which, to be honest, I felt weird about.)
So anyway, you can't entirely blame Valentine's Day. It's not the holiday's fault if we choose to think that its fullest expression can only be achieved by young couples who are passionately in love going to dinner in a fancy restaurant. Maybe I even feel sorry for Valentine's Day and all the venom it's been subjected to over the years, all the parties that have been thrown for the purpose of cursing its existence. Maybe people like me are to blame for distorting it into this crazed, candy-gobbling, black-or-white Holiday of Judgment of Self and Others.
After all, it usually turns out to be just another day in the life. So why not use it as a chance to take a look at the people in our lives we love best, be grateful for them, and find a way to make them feel special. Not in an icky way, but in a way that reflects our unique brand of awesomeness. And let's not leave out receiving love, either. Let's rejoice and be glad at being loved by one or many, when we can, while we can.
So let us close, on this long-suffering and long-suffered holiday, with words from Her Wiseness Elisabeth Kubler Ross and co-author David Kessler:
Our lessons in love come in all forms, from all kinds of people and situations. It doesn't matter who we are, what we do, how much money we make, whom we know. We can all love and be loved. We can be there, we can open our hearts to the love around us as we give love back, determined not to miss the great gift.
**PS: I just heard from Spangles - he's catching an earlier flight so we can be together on Valentine's Day. It's a St. Valentine's miracle!**