One of the best things I ever wrote was a column in my high school paper about hating Valentine’s Day. Fueled by all the angst of being 17 and never having had a boyfriend, I was downright inspired. If I may say so myself, the imagery was excellent. I may have mentioned that every January, pink and red displays pop up like pimples in stores, and stuffed animals “hang like convicts” over cash registers, begging shoppers to “Be Mine.” I painted a scene of a smoky room in which a conspiracy was born, hashed out between the DeBeers diamond people, the greeting card industry, Victoria’s Secret, Godiva, and an international flower-growers cartel, Valentine’s Day was born. I railed against a manufactured holiday, I exclaimed that love should be celebrated every day of the year, I complained that people without partners feel left out. That piece won me an award from the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association. It was all true.
And yet, a year later I met my true love, and a year after that, I had my first ever Valentine who wasn’t my dad. And now? Now I kinda like Valentine’s day. I like homemade cards with heartfelt inscriptions. One year Jon gave me a glittered drawing of a train that said “I Choo Choo Choose You,” just like the card Lisa received on The Simpsons. For our first Valentine’s in Charleston, he drew me a picture of Rainbow Row and thanked me for coming here with him. I like thoughtful gifts, the smaller and sillier the better. One year, Jon gave me a packet of zinnia seeds, knowing they were my favorite flowers, but unable to find any live ones in stores. That packet of seeds made me happier than any bouquet could have, and I planted them, and grew many, many bouquets. I also like excuses to go out to a rare fancy dinner (one of our favorite places here in Charleston is FIG, you should try it). And really, beyond that, I try to avoid the manufactured-ness of corporate Valentine’s Day. I want a homemade card, a thoughtful gift, if at all, and maybe a nice dinner, if at all. I want to wear red and act schmoopy and call my husband my Valentine. I don’t need any kisses that begin with Kay, thank you very much.
So what about my angsty self who used to rail against Hallmark Holidays? I wish I could tell 17 year old me to stop flipping out. Valentine’s Day wasn’t really for me, then. And that’s fine. But it’s not like my bitterness about the holiday ever helped me land a Valentine of my own. And it’s not like I was really that unhappy– I’m pretty sure I went and saw a chick flick with my best gal pals, and we laughed our heads off. There’s more than one kind of love worth celebrating on V-Day. This Wednesday I’ll be repeating the chick flick with the chicks tradition and seeing Valentine’s Day with my girlfriends at Cinebarre.
In fact, there are lots of fun things to do if you’ve got no Valentine to call your own. Here in Charleston, you could see the Vagina Monologues at the College of Charleston, check out the Mellow Mushroom’s F-Cupid party, or go to the Valentine Sock Hop, get dolled up like a pinup and dance to some rockabilly with the Lowcountry High Rollers roller derby team (I secretly wish I could go to this event, but I’m pretty sure it’s not up my Valentine’s alley, and there will be burlesque dancers performing, so, not for us). As for me and my Valentine, I made him a card and a little surprise, and we’ll probably be staying in. Downtown restaurants will probably be insane since the big Southeastern Wildlife Exposition is in town, and I’m not in the mood to fight the camo-clad masses for a table.
Updated to Add: Check out this post on Redesigning Valentine’s Day. I agree with this part, to an extent:
Goal No. 1: Clarify expectations
Sorry single people, this day is not for you. Father’s Day isn’t for mothers and Mother’s Day isn’t for fathers… you have Spring Break, what else do you want?
Applies only to romantic love between two people, so if you want to celebrate friendship you will need to find another day.
Responsibility for displays of affection falls on both parties. Men screw up enough throughout the year to put the weight of a holiday on their shoulders.
On January 1st discuss with your partner whether you will celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sign a piece of paper if needed.