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I’n trying. I really am.

February 11, 2011

Chris has a fantastic Valentine’s Day weekend planned. He took the day off today, and tomorrow night we’re going to the symphony.

He’s already given me a great present.

He’s being super nice.

I’m trying to put a good face on it.

I still hate Valentine’s Day.

I didn’t used to hate Valentine’s Day, but seven years of breakups on or around February 14 sounded the death knell of my ever cavorting with lace hearts and chubby cupids.

If I made conversation hearts, they would say, “Let’s be friends,” and “I’m happy for you.” They would say “There’s no chemistry,” and “I think I might be gay,” or “Hey are you gay too? Oh.” Definitely there would be some that said “You’re not my type” and some that would say “You are definitely my type but not my religion.” There would be one conversation heart, a shriveled gray one that said in barely perceptible script, “I have a wife,” and a whole bunch of conversation hearts that said … nothing at all.

I hate Valentine’s Day. It’s not just that it’s mawkish, and forced. I hate it because you can’t win, especially not if you are a guy. If you buy your wife or girlfriend roses and chocolates in a heart-shaped box, you’re unoriginal and paid too much for flowers and chocolates, and if you deviate from the script, you have an almost certain probability of missing the mark. If you are a girl and try to do something nice for you husband or boyfriend, he’ll be disappointed if it’s not X-rated, and if it IS X-rated, he’ll either think you are a floozy or else you’ve opened a can of worms or, if it’s not a can of worms, he’ll secretly think it’s nothing special. Then there is the special hell of being single on Valentine’s Day, and, while I don’t know from experience, I can imagine that there is a whole level of misery associated with being gay on February 14, the day one gay friend described to me as “Heterosexual Day.” Inevitably the day ends in tears.

Chris and I have a tradition of un-celebrating Valentine’s Day by heading out to the seediest bar we can find for cheeseburgers and beer. I have a sneaking suspicion he would rather celebrate in a more traditional way, especially the way that opens up a can of worms, but he likes the part where he doesn’t have to pay through the nose for flowers and chocolates and a prix fixe dinner where the prix is fixed up to the stratosphere for bad chicken in a bad sauce and then tiramisu in a heart shaped dish, and both of us failing to not laugh at the cheesiness of the other couples in the restaurant. I love being married. I love my husband, and I also love that the biggest drama in my love life revolves around breaking wind beneath the covers, and the clichéd words earnestly uttered frequently by everyone who happens to be part of the marriage that I am in, “You are taking me for granted.” The married person writing this essay is married. It’s true.  I’m not trying to be a happy-smug-married person — in fact, I’m trying hard here not to be a happy-smug-married person,  but breakups are horribly painful, and I’m glad I don’t have to endure them every few months, and I hate Valentine’s Day for precipitating them for so many people.

Three weeks after we discovered that I had cancer, we were driving down to Houston to start chemotherapy. We had just learned that not only did I have cancer, but my cancer was bad, and I was probably going to die within a few months. We were in a phase of our marriage where the conversation hearts were mostly the ones that said nothing at all, but we were talking about it, and I started crying in the car. “I hate this,” I said. “This is horrible. I have the breakup feeling. I HAVE THE BREAKUP FEELING. HAVING CANCER IS LIKE THE BREAKUP FEELING. THAT IS SO WRONG!”

I’m glad I don’t have cancer any more. I’m glad I have a husband who loves me, and whom I love. I’m glad I have two healthy children, and the likelihood that I will live to see them grow up. But I also know what it feels like to slip through the looking glass.

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  1. Holly permalink

    I liked Valentine’s day as a kid. My mom would give each of us girls some special little trinket or chocolate in pink or red or a heart shape. I really liked the faux-diamond heart shape necklace from Sear’s Outlet that she gave each of us three girls one year. And one year my dad made different heart-shaped pins for each of us. He cut hearts out of copper with a tin shears, rounded the edges, sprinkled some kind of enameling powder on, glazed the powder in the toaster oven, and welded jewelry pins on the back.

    But I agree with you, Valentine’s Day sucks for adults. The best and I think only Valentine’s Day present I ever got as an adult was a card from an ex-boyfriend (who at least wasn’t seeing anyone either). We couldn’t get back together (I was the wrong religion) but it was a nice gesture of remembrance. Valentine’s Day should be changed into some kind of day of non-romantic love and gratitude; that’s the only way to redeem it as a holiday.

  2. Gale permalink

    Daniel and I’ve never done much for valentine’s day. I usually get a box of chocolate and I’ll get him something small if we do anything at all. Ashley LOVES valentines and all the goodies that r out there. We r putting cards together tomorrow and I’ll get her something for Mon, but we def don’t really acknowledge it. We save all that effort for our anniversary/my birthday. :0)

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