Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. Ever since I was little, I remember getting giddy about trading Valentine’s cards in class and receiving little heart-shaped boxes of chocolate from my parents (maybe I just like to be spoiled but, hey, what’s the harm in that?). As I’ve gotten older, the meaning of Valentine’s Day has gradually changed for me, but it’s still remained one of my favorite days of the year.
Here’s the thing: I love love. Romantic love. Family love. Friend love. Pet love. Self-love. As an already pretty emotional being, it’s no surprise that I embrace one of the strongest and most revered emotion there is. There’s just something about that feel-good, fuzzy feeling of love, of being wanted and appreciated, that puts a smile on my face.
To be clear, this isn’t just about me. It’s true that, like any other human being, I crave love and attention, but I also want to give love to others. I like how it makes them feel and, selfishly, I like how it makes me feel, too. This is probably why I love Valentine’s Day so much — I like the idea of reminding those important to you that you love them. I also like spreading the love to others that you might think unlikely; Valentine’s Day gives a good excuse to exclaim “Happy Valentine’s Day!” to your coworkers, cashier, or Uber driver in a non-creepy show of solidarity that we’re all humans and we all want to feel appreciated.
I think we’ve lost this meaning of Valentine’s Day over the last century; through commercialization and expectations, Valentine’s Day has become less of a heart-felt holiday and more of a second-Christmas that puts a lot of pressure on people to perform. And since it’s a holiday almost exclusively synonymous with romantic love, if people fall short, the risks are seemingly higher.
I’ve been guilty of this mentality. I’ve allowed my expectations to become too high, expecting too much, and being let-down at the end of the day. I’ve had my fair-share of good and bad Valentine’s Days, and I’d like to share some my stories with you today.
Of the last ten-or-so years, there’s a couple of Valentine’s Days that stand out to me. The first was in 2017: I was in a long-distance relationship of about eight months when the holiday hit. Though I had seen my boyfriend the weekend before Valentine’s Day, we hadn’t exactly celebrated the holiday specifically, or shared sentiments. When Valentine’s Day rolled around in the middle of the week, I was hoping to be surprised with flowers sent to my dorm or a sweet text. I ended up getting neither. At first, I tried to brush it off; after all, I had just seen him and I shouldn’t expect him to send me anything long-distance like that. But I had been especially excited for this Valentine’s Day, because it was the first one that I’d had with a boyfriend in a few years, and it didn’t involved a totaled car (that story to come soon).
I ended up texting my dad, pitifully, to ask him if he was sending me flowers, as he had the previous year. His response crushed me: “I thought *your boyfriend* would do that.” It was too late to order last-minute flowers on the holiday of flowers, so my dad sent me some money to go buy some flowers of my own. I walked to the closest store which had only a few bouquets of what looked like spray-painted daises left in a water cooler. I picked up the artificial pink flowers and took them back to my dorm.
At this point, I was pissed. I had to buy my own flowers on Valentine’s Day, and they weren’t even good flowers. My roommate and friends fed into it — they were all shocked to learn that I hadn’t been sent anything. I went from apathetic, to angry, to furious, which ended up in a fight between me and my then-boyfriend.
I just remember feeling so pathetic. After all, this wasn’t what I was supposed to have to do on Valentine’s Day when I had a boyfriend, right? I’d sent him a package of his favorite candy, and I didn’t even receive a text from him. It was embarrassing and degrading to me at the time, and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. My friends were upset for me, and one of them even sent me an Ulta gift card to shop away my grief.
Looking back, I know I was being a bit dramatic at the time. Yes, it would have been nice to receive something thoughtful from him, but I had just seen him a few days prior, and we had lacked communication on what our Valentine’s plans were exactly. It goes to show that the commercialism and expectations of Valentine’s Day can lead to serious let-downs that shouldn’t even have to exist in the first place. Of this, I learned to not rely on others in terms of fulfillment (something I’ve preached on before), but it was shown to me in a way much different than before: sometimes you just have to buy your own flowers.
Doing something for yourself on Valentine’s Day is more important than what anyone else could ever do for you. I like to think of Valentine’s Day as a kind-of self-care holiday as well. That’s why, on Valentine’s Day of 2016, I went to get my nipples pierced. (I know, you might not have been expecting that line, but I promise that’s as risqué a this blog gets.) I was a freshman in college at the time, single, and had been wanting my nipples pierced for years. I had a friend who knew a guy who would pierce my nipples for cheap (broke and eighteen, this was a great idea to me at the time), so I asked my dad for money, of which he thought was for food. Yes, that’s correct: I promptly lied to my father for money so I could get my nipples pierced. Ah, to be eighteen again.
My friend picked me up from class and took me to the piercing shop, and I did it. I’m not going to get into the details here, but just know that it’s painful as hell to get your nipples pierced. But it’s also oddly empowering; it’s like: “Hey my tits are out in public and someone’s sticking a needle through them because I am paying them to, and I feel badass as f*ck.”
I stayed that night with my friend as we drank wine and watched Nicholas Sparks movies. My nipples were sore for a week, but, damn, were they cute. I kept those piercings for three years, before I lost a barbell in one and the hole closed up and, not wanting a mono-nipple piercing, I took out the other. I’ve been contemplating getting them done again (with my own money this time), because they felt just that empowering. That day was probably the most empowering, freeing, and exciting Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had.
And then we have the polar opposite — Valentine’s Day 2015.
I was seventeen and spending the evening with my high school boyfriend at his house. We hadn’t planned to do much other than spend time together, as normal. I was perfectly happy with that. We had sex and almost immediately went to go get a pizza (ah, to be young again). In our post-sex, pre-pizza high, we ran down to his truck to go pick up the cheesy pie waiting for us in town. We were both giddy, happy — young and in love. He put his car in reverse and slammed on the gas. About a second passed when I realized my car was parked behind his truck (for background: he had a weird driveway with multiple outlets, so I wasn’t always parked behind him), but the thought was merely fleeting as I immediately felt the impact of his truck and my car.
We both jumped and climbed out of his car to assess the damage. His parents had watched it all go down from the giant window in their living room and the both of them were running outside to join us. I didn’t think we’d hit my car that hard so when I saw the hood of my car, almost entirely compressed up to my windshield, my breath completely left my lungs. I started panicking, but I tried not to let it show. His parents were very reassuring, telling me they’d take care of it, but all I could think was: my dad’s gonna f*cking kill me. I somehow managed to get “dad” and “call” out of my mouth before my boyfriend and I got back into his truck and began the three-minute drive back to my dad’s house. I called my dad on the way, as he had his then-girlfriend over for Valentine’s Day. “Hey Dad,” I said, my voice shaking, “*My boyfriend* and I are on the way over. Something happened.” I quickly added a, “I’m not pregnant!” as I heard the wavering uncertainty in his voice. We arrived at my house shortly after I hung up.
I let my guard down as soon as we walked in the door and began sobbing; in fact, I was so upset, my poor boyfriend had to be the one to tell my dad what had happened. My dad took the information calmly, and our two families figured it out: I had my car back within a few weeks, at no expense to me. My dad was always a superstar with that kind of stuff, but it’s funny to hear him talk about it years later: “I didn’t dislike *your boyfriend*, but what kinda idiot just backs into a car in his own driveway?”
That year I learned to just appreciate the little things: like a working car, for instance, and to show love and forgiveness to those when drastic accidents happen. Now it’s just a funny story I like to tell to people, as it’s always a jaw-dropper.
This Valentine’s Day is different for me. It’s the first one in four years that I’ve been single, but I’m happy about it. There’s no expectations, no waiting, no let-downs. I can just do what the hell I want to do to make myself feel happy and loved. I had an amazing impromptu Galentine’s celebration yesterday with my best friend that consisted of Thai food, French coffee, stationery, and skipping a class. I have a birthday dinner for a close friend this evening, so I can *technically* say that I have Valentine’s plans, my class was cancelled this morning so I got to sleep in, and I feel super cute today.
At the end of the day, I think I prefer Valentine’s Day when I’m single. My mind is more occupied with spreading love rather than receiving it from someone specific, and I’m not preoccupied with the “what if’s”. I can just live, but with a little more love.
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! I hope someone makes you feel special today, but I most especially hope that you do something to make yourself feel special as well.
Photo Courtesy of: Unsplash