Once upon a time, on Valentine's Day many years ago (eleven, to be exact), I had my first Valentine's Day date. It was my first "grown-up" date. I was twenty years old. He took me to an Italian restaurant. He bought me a rose. He walked me back to my dorm room and kissed me. Later that night, we kissed more. Two days later, we were "dating." There was never a good reason to break up, so we didn't. I figured that's what dating was.
Not long after, a group of my friends confessed that they didn't like him and that they didn't think I should be dating him. In return, I chose him over my friends. Besides, I had other friends. And I had a long-term boyfriend for the first time ever. What did I need a group of judgy bitches for? In retrospect, they were more than right, even if the reasons they gave weren't truly accurate.
Not long after that, we got engaged. Because that's what you do in a small, religious college when you've been dating for a certain period of time without breaking up. My remaining friends were happy. My parents were not. They told me that my new fiancee had deliberately lied to them about when he was going to propose. I didn't believe them. He told me it must have been a misunderstanding. In retrospect, they were also right, and I believe that he did lie to them, and to me, and to many, many others.
We got married, in spite of my parents' best efforts to talk me out of it.
And then, seven years later, we got divorced. The classic love story.
I can't blame Valentine's Day. I mean, I could if I tried. I could blame societal expectations of romance and stereotypes of single girls. I could blame hearts and flowers and chocolates. I could blame Disney princes and princesses.
But it's not Valentine's Day. I'm sure I would have gone on a first date with him regardless of Valentine's Day. He would have bought me a flower and dinner and all the stereotypically romantic things that he knew to do. He would have been charming and worldly. And I would have fallen for it, because I didn't know any better. And he would have slowly tightened the snare around me, until I had no choice but to believe that I had to stay with him, for better or for worse (and worse, and worse).
I still don't think you can blame me for not liking Valentine's Day.
Because the memories aren't good. At least, the more recent memories aren't good. The expectation that Valentine's Day had to be celebrated in high style as our anniversary, and that I had to do my "wifely duties" that night even if he had to get me drunk first to do it, was always there.
And he would send me flowers at work every year. Which sounds nice, of course. And really, complaining that my husband sent me flowers makes me feel like the bitchiest bitch that ever bitched. And maybe I am. Because sending flowers is textbook romantic, isn't it? It's thoughtful. It's what every girl wants her significant other to do, right? Why couldn't I just get over myself and appreciate it instead of being such a bitch?
Because I didn't want him to send me flowers. And I told him I didn't want it. Because I didn't think we had the money to be spending on ridiculously overpriced Valentine's Day flower delivery or even on slightly-less-overpriced birthday flower delivery (and we didn't). Because I didn't like the attention of getting flowers at work, of getting fussed over, singled out. Because I didn't like that he continued to do something that I had repeatedly asked him not to do. And because really, being sent flowers on Valentine's Day or my birthday doesn't mean much to me at all. If he had to spend the money, I'd rather he had spent it on a book, or something that was more uniquely me. Something that showed that he knew me, or cared about what I wanted, instead of sending me flowers because he "wanted to," or because it was proof he was doing what he was supposed to do as a husband.
I know, I know. What a bitch. I admit it, truly.
I also freely admit that I'm a cynic. I'm not claiming to be otherwise. For all my sappy ridiculousness about Mark, I remain, in general, a true cynic. I'm skeptical of romance, of "happily ever after," of elaborate romantic gestures. And not just because I've experienced the darker side of them. I've been this way for a while. I'm the kid who wanted the library in Beauty and the Beast, not the prince. I never idealized the pretty and perfect couple. I'm a Beatrice and Benedict girl, a Ron and Hermione shipper all the way. Give me the awkward and clueless, the bantering, the odd ones out.
Basically, I'll be fine if I never have a romantic Valentine's Day date again.
But I'm also fine if you have a romantic Valentine's Day date, and if you want to get millions of daisies delivered to your deserving lap or if you want to bury yourself in boxes of chocolates from your one true love, or from that guy you just met on Tinder. You go for it.
Because although I may be a bitchy cynic, I'm also, ironically, terribly in love. And because of that, I wouldn't want anyone else to miss out on a moment of what could be something amazing. But don't wait for Valentine's Day to show someone you care. (And don't wait for romantic love. If your friends want to get together and eat red velvet waffles and drink champagne on Valentine's Day, by all means, go for it.)
Don't wait for a Hallmark holiday, or for a day that society has deemed acceptable for sappiness. Don't wait a day. Send flowers (to those who appreciate it). Write a poem. Sing a song. Buy them nachos. Compliment their butt. Watch their favorite movie, be it romantic, comedic, or slasher.
Celebrate what makes both you and the person or people you love unique and special. And do it as often as possible.
And God damn it, don't send me flowers.