I really don’t like Valentine’s Day. Let’s just get that out in the open.
Of course, I’ll also admit openly that over the course of my life, I haven’t had much to celebrate, and I’m sure that has played a big part in why I don’t like Valentine’s Day. Sure, there were the elementary school Valentine’s Day celebrations, and I got my share of paper mass-produced Valentine cards from classmates stuffed into a big envelope on my desk. (Do they still do that in elementary school classes?) I didn’t have the experience of sitting there being the only kid with no Valentines in my envelope, like what happened to Ralph on the Simpsons. Most, if not all, of my classmates at least gave me a card each year. But as an adult, Valentine’s Day is just another day for me, except that the rest of the world conspires even harder than usual to remind me that I’m alone. And calling it “Singles Awareness Day” doesn’t help either, so you guys can stop doing that now. But there is more to it than that, and I think that my point can be illustrated if I break down the specific circumstances and events of every Valentine’s Day that did involve having someone to do something for. There have been precisely three such Valentine’s Days, and I think my point will flow better if I go in reverse chronological order.
Last year, 2014, things appeared to be moving in the direction that I was going to have a special someone. In January, I had met a girl at a mutual friend’s birthday, and almost immediately she was writing me long multi-paragraph messages on Facebook. I took her to a Kings game, and by the time I had known her for two weeks, she was texting me every day asking how my day went at work and telling me about her day. She seemed more interested in me after two weeks than Acrux had been seven-plus months into our relationship, a few years earlier. After our second date, I brought up the issue of what was going on, and she said we were “very casually dating” and she was interesting in seeing where things went. I was too. Valentine’s Day was a few days after this second date, and I remember feeling greatly conflicted about what to do. If I tried to do something elaborate and romantic after just two dates, it might seem like I was rushing in, going too fast, I’d scare her off or she’d think I was a creep or something. But if I did nothing, I might seem uninterested. I decided to send her a card in the mail, something of the not overly smothering “I’m really enjoying spending time with you” variety. On the following Sunday afternoon, that would have been the 16th, I got a text from her saying that we had gone as far as we could have and there wasn’t anything there. I asked if I could at least know why, and she gave some equally vague BSified answer. Whatever. KMA. I don’t know if she got the card. I don’t know if I should have done something more, or something less. And maybe I’m misunderstanding girlspeak again, but I kind of felt like since we had had the conversation earlier that week that there might have been something there, I at least deserved a phone call or a face-to-face conversation.
To this day, I still don’t know if the mutual friend with the birthday party ever knew about this. It wouldn’t surprise me, since the mutual friend is a woman, and girls talk about stuff, but I do remember distinctly that I saw the mutual friend during the time all this was going on, and she didn’t ask me about her or mention her in any way. I kept trying to figure out if she knew, and she didn’t say anything to let on that she did. The mutual friend isn’t someone who I see often these days. But I did go to her birthday party again in 2015, and the girl who dumped me by text was there. I successfully ignored and avoided her. I didn’t want to talk to her, and we had nothing to say to each other. The girl didn’t stay very long, so it wasn’t that hard not to talk to her.
In 2011, I was kind of seeing someone who I’ve code-named Aurora; I mentioned her previously in the same post I linked to above. That time period included Valentine’s Day, and a few days before, the mutual friend through whom I had met Aurora reminded me that Valentine’s Day was catching up and listed off all of Aurora’s favorite types of flowers. I felt a bit overwhelmed by all this. Buying flowers has always been a completely alien world to me. I don’t buy flowers. I’ve never bought flowers in my life. I don’t know the process or the protocol or what to look for or anything. I don’t remember if I mentioned this to Aurora, but I do remember I was still conflicted about if I was interested in her like that or not, and I didn’t want to do anything to lead her on if I wasn’t sure that that was what I wanted, having been on the receiving end of such a dynamic enough times in my life to know how much it hurts. I do remember, though, that Aurora made me a card with a message that seemed understanding and accepting of my confusion as well as my dislike of the holiday.
The only time I actually had a full-blown ambiguity-free girlfriend on Valentine’s Day was 2006, with Vega the Nice Ex. I had been at a basketball game at UC Davis, my alma mater, and before the game I was browsing the campus bookstore. I found a little teddy bear that said “Someone At UC Davis Loves Me.” Vega and I had an adorable little inside joke about deer, so in a fit of craftiness, I bought that teddy bear, and I gave it antlers using toothpicks and glue. She loved it. But through the whole process, I felt dirty, like I had violated my principles by buying a Valentine’s Day gift. I’d been very vocally anti-Valentine’s Day for so long, and here I was doing something cute and sweet and mushy. (At least I didn’t get her this teddy bear instead.) But it also felt nice to have someone to share those inside jokes with.
There is a common thread in all of my Valentine’s stories that, I think, cuts to the heart of why I dislike this holiday for reasons that transcend being almost perpetually single. Each time, I felt pressured to do something simply because of what the calendar said, and each time, I was left wondering if what I did was enough or was appropriate. The media inundates us with caricatures of bumbling men forgetting that it is Valentine’s Day and rushing to the store to buy something for their wives and girlfriends so that they don’t end up sleeping on the couch for a week. Love shouldn’t be like that. No one should have to buy the love of their significant other. If you really love someone, you should show them every day, not feel pressured to perform because Hallmark told you to.
Being bitter about being single certainly isn’t helping the situation, and it isn’t going to help me be anything other than single any time soon. I’m trying not to be that way. But I also don’t want to be in a relationship where I feel pressured to perform because of what the marketing departments of the world try to make us think is important. And I still don’t like Valentine’s Day.