Like most people, I hate Valentine’s Day. There’s so much pressure, so much room for disappointment, and not much spontaneity. Still red hearts and bears, long-stemmed roses and chocolates, sappy cards with sad dogs or silly kitties mimicking lasting love with tongues lolling, abound. Because Love Day is an industry, much like Christmas and Halloween, funerals and weddings. Whether we buy into it is our choice, except when a relationship’s new.
Which is where I am right now. Three months in, and I am wondering what will happen on this most detestable day. Will he take me out for dinner? Give me a gift? Admit that he actually likes me for once? And what if he doesn’t? It’s already Thursday and he hasn’t invited me out, which is not unusual, but is nonetheless unnerving. If it were up to me, I would ignore the entire affair and let the day pass with a quick phone call to my mom. But the point of fact is that he’s been acculturated to give a shit, if he gives a shit about me.
The television commercials and radio commentary keep spinning around “what to do for the woman in your life.” The displays at every grocery store are filled with red-foiled Hershey’s hearts and pink M&Ms. In other words, there’s no way he can plead ignorance, and there’s no escape. Which is why I feel slightly bad for him—because he’s got to do something. And even though he used to run into burning buildings for a living, from what I know of him, I think he might be freaking out a little. He says he can handle it, and I trust him. But I’m afraid of what I’ll have to assume if the moment passes without a little recognition.
Which is why for micro-second, I wish I were still married. Because my ex and I had it figured out. We’d stopped trying to get a table at our favorite restaurant, finding even the service in five star places completely lame. Instead, he’d make something fancy—whatever I wanted—get me a lei, then whip up some chocolate mousse, and we’d drink some wine. I wouldn’t have to do anything for that one day out of the year. It was perfect.
But in the process I had conceptually given up on 2-14. Having traded in the idealism of grandiose professions of love for much smaller, quotidian bits of affection, I weighed the mundane and frequent much more valuable. And this is why it’s sticky. Because even though I’ve decided that cupid can take a flying leap, my guy (if I can even call him that) doesn’t know that. We’ve never had the conversation about the idiocy of dreaded V-Day. Had we gotten there, he’d know that all I want is to order a pizza, watch a movie, and have some nookie. The day need not require, like going through love customs, a declaration of what’s in his heart. We can stay here, on the cusp of not knowing, at the crumbly edge of figuring each other out.
So here I sit, frightened for him, frightened for me, wondering how we’ll get through this horrible ordeal of figuring out this dumb day. Because if I don’t hear from him until after the moment is passed, I will have to stop seeing him. And not just because it will kind of hurt my feelings, and not just because my friends will never forgive him (or me: if I put up with it—they’d send me to self-esteem boot camp), but because nothing means something. And what it means has more to do with being a man than it does with being a woman—because if he can’t face the gooey, touchy-feely, discomfort of being tender and still come out unscathed, he’s not the guy I want.