I hate Valentine’s Day. I really do.
Don’t get me wrong, I like that we symbolically sort of start the year off with a holiday about loving others, and who doesn’t like after holiday sale candy? But the day itself? That dreadful, awful day? No. Never.
And there’s always two statements I hear when I say this. Either someone thinks I’m a bitter spinster that no man ever wanted, or I’m the Valentine version of the Grinch and I just need my chocolate heart bon bon to be filled with pink roses and unicorn bubbles. But the truth is that I hate it because I’ve spent my life wanting to love it.
My toxic relationship started with the holiday not long after February 17th, 1984. That was the day I was born. Through family struggles, being taken in by my grandparents, growing up alone without my four other siblings, and always wondering why my family didn’t love me, the holiday of love- a mere three days before my birthday- always reminded me how alone I was. My grandparents tried the hardest they could. But the damaged kid who loved Disney movies and dreamt about happy endings slowly turned into a quiet and bitter teen with few friends who preferred books over relationships. Soon Valentine’s was never mentioned, and my birthday all but turned into a day where I either went to work or stayed in bed.
Becoming an adult didn’t help matters. I’d moved to Miami to be with my family after my grandmother died of a long battle with cancer on Christmas Day. I quickly learned that, even though I had been a baby for most of the problems that had happened between the adults in my life, they blamed me in many ways for staying with my grandparents and not coming home. I should say ‘home,’ as I barely knew any of them as a kid ANYWAY, and rarely saw them until the age of five, when we moved out of state. I ‘came home’ at 19. As a thirty something now, I realize they still needed to deal with their own feelings, but they put them on me because I was easy to yell at. But I tried very hard. For a long while. Even to the point it was detrimental to my own health. And every time my birthday came around, my mom would happily decorate and make a cake and enjoy her ‘Valentine Baby’s’ birthday. And for a small while it felt nice. But then it would quickly pass and I went back to being… a problem for everyone.
After a while the novelty of me wore off and my birthdays just ended up being work days again. I was like a shiny toy a child no longer plays with because they became bored with it. Sadly, you become used to it.
I’d had no boyfriends in my teens and it seemed like I was doomed to repeat that in my twenties. Not that I found many men in Miami to be very attractive anyway. They were all mindless party boys, obsessed with clothes and money. I’ve never found any of that attractive. I came from California, so everyone thought I was weird. The more time passed, the more I felt like I would be alone forever. And then the abusive alcoholic happened. And other things.
I hate Valentine’s Day.
The lowest point of my life, abuse coming from several directions, I stumbled onto the most glorious and beautiful gift I have ever been given. Probably just as broken as me in some ways, but in others- so, so strong. A weight to support me. A brilliant mind to engage me. Witty, sarcastic, fiercely protective. A friend. A partner. To him Valentine’s didn’t matter, because he had to show me everyday how much I meant to him. Not in grand, large ways. But in small, meaningful ways that reinforced his genuine care and commitment. With him I slowly started to realize that I never wanted those large bouquets of roses, or the balloons, box of chocolates in big red hearts, or any of that overpriced crap. I wanted what the little girl in me had always wanted. A safe place where I was allowed to love someone without the fear of losing them because of abandonment or judgement. He broke the ice around my heart with his warmth. And I am so very grateful.
And yes, I still hate Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look past thirty years of failed expectation and crushed hope. But the sting has lessened now. Because now I know what real love is. And nothing in that cellophane wrapped package can smell or taste as sweet as real life. Not to me.
After ten minutes of talking to him I remember clearly thinking to myself that I could marry this man. We’ll have been married 5 years this July.