Do you have a Valentine?
Let me tell you about that time when I didn’t. It was funny really, in retrospect.
I was in my roaring twenties, and for the moment, between boyfriends. It is all a little foggy now that I am ancient, and no longer out catting about with young men I was courting, but I do remember some things.
As it was back in the day, I went into my local watering hole where whoever might be would make for good company. Kind of like Cheers, but I was more like a larger version of snarky Karla Tortelli, but on the stool and drink consuming side of the bar. More and more couples streamed in the door ordering silly drinks with suggestive cherries in them. They canoodled in intimate booths and I was left confused by the odd change in the room from a normal pub night. People were paired up, and my single friends weren’t there. Huh, I said in my inside voice, and proceeded to order my usual.
When I finally noticed the sad paper hearts all wrinkly and hanging from the ceiling, and the little bowls of last year’s heart candies I realized… it is February 14th.
How did I miss that? Was I in denial about it because nobody was sending me a dozen roses anyway? I didn’t think I was sad or anything, just between men in my life. It was fine.
I was into my second Harvey Wall-banger (see how old I am?) and I began musing about who I might have wanted to swap spit with that night. It could have been that Bill guy if I hadn’t already decided he was too focused on watching football. Besides, I could no longer bear how he constantly mispronounced words. It is “Espresso”, not “EXpresso” dumb-ass.
I then let my mind wander to Mario. Italian Mario, who not only knew his way around fancy coffees, he was a man of many other talents. He was not however, Valentine material. The man never met a mirror he didn’t love, and the gold chain and speedo look kind of blew it for me that Summer.
As I ventured along a leisurely list of people I might go to the phone booth and call, I decided I had probably already spent a little too much time alone at the bar. I had been busy thinking deep thoughts about romance and regret, but now my time there was bordering on sad and creepy.
I didn’t have a car, which is a good thing because I was frequently inebriated and the 80’s were my jam. If you don’t know what I mean, then you are too young or too old to get it. So I took the subway home trying not to dose off as I watched couples groping each other awkwardly in train seats not built for two butts.
Across from me was a sad young man, probably about 20, picking the petals off a dozen roses, slowly, systematically, sadly. I was riveted. He was rumpled, a little greasy, and his eyes still had leftover tears in them. I wondered who broke his heart. I felt like I was witnessing one of the saddest episodes of his life, and I hoped he would eventually forget the pain that the person he bought the roses were for had caused him. He had not chosen his Valentine well and was now vulnerable, and in the sights of a slightly tipsy older woman.
I briefly considered turning his shit night into a great story for his buddies, but then decided I would be mature and let him learn an important life lesson about love and tragedy that night. (Actually, that last bit was bullshit, I got sidetracked by a distracting neon sign and forgot to make a pass at him.)
The next day, I went to work. Other than a few bubble burps and watery eyes, nobody saw any signs of what I was up to the night before. Later that day, I watched the tableau of coworkers clumping in little groups at the water cooler. There were shrieks of delight about sparkly new rings, and sniffing and consoling of wounded lonely hearts. It was all a bit much frankly.
How did February 14th become ground zero of such a vast plethora of emotions? All the loneliness, joy, heartache, rage, longing, passion and other feelings that don’t even have a name. It is all a tumultuous hurricane with cheap cards and overpriced roses. The pressure to do it right is just too much.
The whole Valentine’s Day thing is currently only being held up by Hallmark, florists and waxy chocolate companies. (Seriously, why do gas stations sell cheap red boxes of chocolate? Oh wait, because men… never mind)
On that long ago Valentine’s day I didn’t regret having nobody, and in fact, I am pretty sure it was my last time on my own on February 14th for my whole life. Seriously, I have been shacked up, married and married again the whole time since then. Yay me.
I am truly happy with my current Valentine of over 20 years, but I sometimes think back on the time when I was perfectly content to sit at a bar and watch other people’s dramas, and snicker to myself on a late night subway train.
I guess the message is this: write your own Valentine story this year. If you have somebody, do something that makes them happy. If you don’t, try riding public transit and watch the show.
(If the young man in the subway that night is reading this, you were totally hot and I hope you found somebody that deserved you.)