Yesterday morning, my dad very sweetly asked my mom,
"Will you be my valentine?" My mom promptly answered "yes" and they beamed at each other.
If you don't know my parents, you would think it's just a cute display of two very short people who have been together for a very long time and still have romance. If you do know them, however, you would have been shocked... and a little disturbed.
Don't get me wrong; my parents don't hate each other, but they are that classic old Chicano couple who fight and complain about each other and get on each other's nerves, despite the fact that they love each other dearly. My dad is 74 and my mom is 67, and at this point, romance isn't much for them. Think of a cross between the Costanzas from Seinfeld and the Romanos from Everybody Loves Raymond and there you have the folks. My dad, who was forced to retire after having a stroke 15 years ago, loves to aggravate my mom. She, in turn, loves to yell at my dad. It's what they do for fun, in addition to Sunday lunches at Applebee's. I accepted my parent's relationship a long time ago, so these rare displays of, well, love really throw me for a loop... and it got me thinking about Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day, or Singles Awareness Day (as my friend Michelle puts it) has always been an odd holiday for me. One of my earliest memories of Valentine's Day was in the first grade. I was in a real pickle. All of the pre-made cards said stuff like "be my valentine" or "I like you, be mine" and other such things that are actually really inappropriate for 7 year olds. I was horrified. I couldn't give the boys that I didn't like cards that said "be mine" and I'd be damned if I was going to give a special Valentine to the boy I actually did have a crush on. What to do?
I went to my mom with this dilemma and she had a fabulous idea - we'd make valentines! She bought construction paper and paper doilies and we made valentines for the whole class. I was so happy and relieved, and I was even able to covertly add extra glitter to the "special" valentine. As I got older, the panic wasn't about giving valentine cards to the whole class, it was about who I had a crush on; was he going to ask me to the Valentine Dance after school? Was he going to buy me anything? Should I have something ready just in case? The years when I didn't have someone on that day, I'd sorta stomp around, muttering Cupid is Stupid and being pretty dumb about the whole thing.
In retrospect, I was just buying into the hype that my happiness and self worth was based on whether or not I had roses and a stupid bear to lug around all day from class to class. What a waste! Later, Valentines day was always a hit or miss. Waiting two hours for a table at Outback Steakhouse doesn't exactly scream romance, nor does going to a movie and then going home because we have to get up early and go to work the next day. Flowers picked up at a grocery store on the way home aren't exactly thoughtful and insightful and chocolate is only going to make me unhappy in the end.
This Valentine's Day, I'm single for the first time in about 10 years (two relationships and a lot of grocery store flowers later) and I have to admit, it's a pretty good feeling. There's no anxiety, no pressure, no wondering if I'm going to be asked to the dance and Cupid certainly is not stupid. These days, love is a precious commodity not to be squandered and Valentines Day doesn't hold much for me... I do have a sort of ideal day, however. Homemade pizza, wine, great music, a good movie, no gifts or flowers, a handmade card and doing it all over again in the middle of June, or an afternoon mid-November, just so I would know that I am loved year round.
I think I'll make my mom a card and hang with the folks on Valentines Day. Oh, who am I kidding? If I get asked to the big afterschool dance, I'll be there!
Next time: My Funny Valentine