Single Awareness Day? I Think Not
As with most psychologically damaging experiences, it started out when I was a child in elementary school. Every year, we had to decorate a box we’d brought from home. Everyone else had really nice boxes, which they covered with really cute things and looked adorable. I, on the other hand, did not. I got whatever crappy form of cardboard my mother could fish out of the garbage can. And I sucked - as I still do today - at crafts in any shape or form, so my decorating didn’t do much for the overall effect in the end. Then I had to put my name on it and set it on my desk, a form of ultimate humiliation, and then hope that more than one of the students in my class of 28 would feel more generous towards me than they had the year before. Actually, it wasn’t too bad most years; the teachers usually required every student to give a valentine to each classmate. As if that would make the nerds like me feel better.
Then Valentine’s Day came. The beautiful, popular girls would bring valentines with treats attached to them. Well, the ones that they brought for their beautiful, popular friends had treats attached to them. The ones for me were usually small cards that had odd sayings on them, the ones you know they picked out of the store-bought package last. I could tell that they had quickly scrawled their name on the back, so they could get “credit” for following the every classmate rule. Apparently, the rule didn’t mention that every valentine had to be created equal. As for me, I was given no option but to bring homemade cards. Remember what I said about not being crafty? Yea, it’s not like they were works of art. I dutifully brought them to school and inserted them into all of the gorgeous boxes in the classroom. More humiliation.
At the end of the day, I’d take my box home. By now, it would be falling apart, and I would struggle not to drop anything from it while also juggling my schoolbooks (yes, this was before backpacks were used), as I walked the mile from my school uphill (no, not uphill both ways, not barefoot, but yes - often in the snow), around the horse racing track, past the orchards where bees swarmed back and forth across the road, past the livestock slaughter house that smelled - well, like a slaughter house - and the canal, to the mink ranch at the mouth of Payson Canyon where I lived with my mother, two older brothers, and an evil step-father (okay, he wasn’t necessarily evil - not to me, anyway).
Once at home, I’d savor the four or five candy conversation hearts someone had been kind enough to share with me, and I’d dream of the day I grew up and had a real life sweetheart of my own. Imagine reading a little card that says, “Will you be my Valentine?” and having the sender actually intend for me to think that they sincerely liked me. How odd and utterly fantastic that would be!
Fortunately, my mother finally decided my stepfather was being too evil to her and she left him, taking my siblings and I away from that hateful place. Of course, I still suffered from a low self-esteem and kids still picked on me. But I managed to work my way up from nerd to somewhat normal and have a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day the year I was 16. His name was Michael, he was gorgeous, and I’ll never forget him. He was a typical teenage boy, which means he didn’t care much about that sentimental holiday in February. I was so excited when he came over to my house that afternoon. I gave him the turquoise and coral ring I’d bought for him with my babysitting money. He said thank you and kissed me. I waited with anticipation, but there was nothing Valentine-like from him to me (sniff.)
Time passed, and I forgave him. I even married him. Over the years, he has become much better at “remembering” things like my birthday in December, followed by Christmas nine days later. We celebrate his birthday in early January. Then it’s our anniversary at the end of January. By the time February 14th rolls around, coming up with gifts for each other borders on the edge of being actually painful. For the first few years, I would still try to make go of it. He didn’t. So, for many years, I cried every Valentine’s Day. Then one February, while I was frantically assisting (okay, forcing) our three kids through the torturous experience of signing all of the cards they were giving to their classmates at school, Michael vocalized what he’d apparently been thinking all along: “I’m glad that Valentine’s Day is just for kids”. For kids? If that were the case, then why didn’t I enjoy it when I was a kid, and why didn’t our kids enjoy it now?
Somehow, I have no pity for the friends I have who post on Facebook how depressing February 14th is for them, because it is what they term: Single Awareness Day. Buck up, friends. Valentine’s isn’t for the un-single, either. And though I love my sweetheart dearly, I must say that he was wrong - it is not for children. Conspiracy theorists will insist it was created for the benefit of Hallmark, candy companies and floral shops. Maybe they are right, but I detest conspiracy theorizing, so I refuse to get on that band wagon.
What is Valentine’s Day for? I don’t know. I only know what it’s not for me. And I’ve found that it is much more enjoyable once I learn to accept that, which I just might do one of these years.