My friend Ryan suggested that I write a post rampaging against Valentine's Day. I told him that I didn't think I could add much to the conversation that everybody doesn't already know (it makes single people miserable, it makes coupled people all pressured and weird in case they're not doing it right, it's an invented/retail-oriented holiday, blah blah blah), and that my reasons for hating V-Day were really my own unlucky experiences with the holiday rather than some larger and more interesting point. But I thought about it some more, and writing about my unlucky experiences seems like it might be a fun exercise. If you're not interested, no need to read on.
I don't know if you remember what middle school "dating" was like (or if it's even still like this), but my experience with Gavin Gibson* was representative. He played the tuba, and I played the flute, and it went through my friends to his friends that I thought he was sort of cute, so he passed the word to ask me out. I passed back that I said yes, and then we were Going Out. This consisted of him meeting me at my locker after school and holding my hand as we walked out to the buses. I remember that he never said anything to me, that we wordlessly held hands for six or seven minutes a day, dry-throated and sweaty-palmed, and that this was Going Out With Someone.
Needless to say, I was a little disappointed in the relationship. Of course I hadn't a clue what I wanted from him, but I had a vague idea of throbbing hearts and being dipped whilst dancing and maybe, like, red silk? Or roses? None of this sprang into existence once I was Going Out with Gavin - he was cute, and reliably on time to meet me at my locker, but little else. Well, he played the tuba competently enough.
Valentine's Day rolled around. We had managed to start speaking to each other on our hand-holding trips, and I think the fiasco part of this story got started thusly: he asked me what I wanted for Valentine's Day, and I half-joked that I wanted a kiss. He half-joked back that he wanted one too. I shared this with my mom, and she said that I should get him a novelty Hershey's Kiss, an oversized one, about the size of a small grapefruit. She thought this would be adorable, so she went and bought it for me, and on the day itself I handed it over to Gavin, wrapped up in red paper. He gave me a long, thin box. We went our separate ways at the buses before unwrapping each other's gifts.
When I got home, I found that he had given me a beautiful sterling silver necklace with a pendant in the shape of a Hershey's Kiss. In a velvet box.
My mom was horrified. She felt terrible that our gifts to each other had been so uneven, that I (or really she) had spent about $4 while he had spent much, much more, but she also found it inappropriate that a boy of twelve or thirteen was giving a girl jewelry. Meanwhile, I felt really weird that he had given me something so serious, when he barely ever said anything to me and all we did was hold hands, I mean did he really like me that much? How could he possibly like me that much? I definitely didn't like him that much.
So it was awkward. I tried to give the gift back to him but he didn't understand. A week or so later, I passed the word through my friends that I wanted to break up with him, and he stopped meeting me at my locker. And that was my first coupled Valentine's Day.
Three or four years later, in high school, I was dating a nice enough guy a year above me. Let's call him Arthur. He was sarcastic and funny, if a little insecure, and at a New Year's party he gave me my first French kiss, which was unbelievably horrible. I'm rushing through this story where I took my time with the Gavin story because it still bothers me that I behaved so badly here.
As January wore on, I was starting to notice that Arthur's friend Fabio was much more handsome and suave and interesting than Arthur was. (He wore tasseled loafers at age 16, but that was a consequence of the school I went to. Partly.) To make a dramatic high schoolish story short, on the very day of Valentine's Day I heartlessly broke up with Arthur and started going out with Fabio instead. This would prove to harm me far more than anyone else, in ways I couldn't have predicted, but Arthur was genuinely upset and later turned the lash of his sarcasm on me anytime we were around each other.
Fabio took me out to dinner shortly afterward, more or less to celebrate V-Day, and I, prone to spoonerisms even when not nervous, accidentally said "line wist" instead of "wine list". He proceeded to make fun of me for this, on and off, for the rest of the evening. He was so relentless that I still remember exactly what I said, nearly 20 years later.
These two stories are not the only ones.
For me, Valentine's Day has always meant humiliation and crossed wires and disaster. These are personal reasons to object to the day, so I pretend that I object to it because of the retail and the way it makes people mostly feel insecure rather than good, but really it's because it always reminds me of poor Gavin and "line wist" and acting like a shitty person.
It's not all bad. I've had some lovely Valentine's Days since I started seeing Matt. He proposed to me on V-Day, actually; we were snowed in and watching an Astaire/Rogers movie. He's bought me some beautiful bouquets. But nothing really wipes out the early stains the holiday has left on my li'l ol' heart.
*Name changed slightly, but it was equally alliterative and weird.