When I was a waitress back in the day, I had to work Valentine’s Day. I worked at Applebee’s, so it wasn’t exactly high-end dining, but still the tables were filled with couples who couldn’t afford better or didn’t know better. I was single, exhausted, and in no mood for romance, so on every check, I happily wrote “Happy VD!” in red marker. Sadly, a manager eventually caught on and made me stop.
But really, that sums up my opinion on Valentine’s Day.
In high school, you could pay $1 for a color-coded card that would be delivered to your paramour of choice during classes: red for love, pink for friend, and white for secret admirer. The popular girls got all the reds, the nerdy kids sent each other lots of pinks, and the cute boys got lots of whites from all the girls too shy to ever talk to them. Looking back, I do remember getting at least a few pink ones every year – thank god – but hating the entire process. It elevated general high-school cruelty to a heart-shaped art form.
In college, I always wore black as a defense against all the ridiculous women who dressed in red from head to toe and just bawled their eyes out if they didn’t get overpriced flowers or boxes of chocolates. One year, a friend of mine stole an entire bucket of carnations from outside a store, stood in the center of campus, and handed them out to every woman who passed by. He was a sort of romantic Robin Hood, but with long red hair and a crazy smile handing out flowers to all and sundry.
In married life, we sort of ignore it entirely. Our first Valentine’s Day together, we both snuck out of the house to, ahem, run a quick errand. Turns out, we bought each other a book, which I think sums up both our practicality and our compatibility. I put a kibosh on flower because I hate roses. He put a kibosh on going out to dinner because he hates crowds and feeling rushed.
Married with children is a little different, but in some ways, it is a distillation of my holiday feelings. The kids have little parties at school, but once home, my daughter trades in all her candy for a book. (Her choice, I swear!). I did wear a holiday-appropriate shirt, it was still black and it advocated for gay marriage. And while my husband and I did go out to dinner, breaking tradition, it was only because the kids were away with their grandparents and it seemed silly to waste the opportunity to get a meal that did not come with a sundae. We choose a small restaurant, the day before the holiday, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
And that is the biggest lesson I wish people took away from this stupid, Hallmark created holiday. Love isn’t about planning the big moments; it is about taking advantage of the little ones.
(And for another take on the holiday, and one that stole much of my thunder and possibly the best line ever in “emptying the dishwasher is as romantic as a Shakespeare sonnet” check out http://marymeanmommy.blogspot.com/)