You know the ones. The boxed sets covered in popular cartoons that you folded in half and passed out to every kid in class. The rich kids attached theirs to mini candy bars. The kids with edgy parents bought real cards from the museum store in Boston, and my Mom was the worst because she would just buy whatever box of Valentines she found lying near the cash register. Which is why in 5th grade I had to hand out Care Bear Valentines to everyone.
Which was insufferable.
Anyway, I would always shove all of my Valentines in my bag and wait until I got home to look at them. There, in the sanctuary of my bedroom, I would pull out all of my crushes Valentines, (yes, I said "all." I had crushes on everyone, even at one point my 45 year old math teacher,) and I would pore over the Star Trek/Animaniacs/Ren and Stimpy love letters searching for a clue that they loved me back.
I would try to decipher if "May The Force Be With You, Valentine" meant that Tim really, really liked me and wanted to support me in my future dreams and desires. He was basically wishing me strength and love. Or maybe he was telling me to go my own way.
Or maybe his Mom filled out his cards for him at random.
This ritual was exhausting and usually ended in tears and prank phone calls. Because even back then I was a walking "Desperate Housewives" reality show.
When I grew up and actually had real relationships and not just ones in my head, Valentines Day became this Thing that was still ritualistic and exhausting. Some guys were into it, some guys forgot it existed and gave me a gas station rose and a slurpee by way of apology. I always felt like I had to figure out what THEY felt about the holiday so I could be the ultimate cool girlfriend that appreciated everything-or-nothing-or-whatever-you-want-I-love-everything-you-do!!!!!!!
One boyfriend rented out an entire room in a restaurant and set up a romantic dinner. I was touched by how over the top he was, but also extremely uncomfortable and did this thing where I put green beans in my mouth to make me look like a walrus. (I was 19. I didn't have a firm grasp of comedic timing quite yet. Or... still.)
One boyfriend ignored it completely, and then felt bad and gave me some conversation hearts that he had in his pocket- half melted and covered in lint. Cool man. I love these.
And one boyfriend took me out for burritos that we ate in his car and then to see the movie the Spiderwick Chronicles. And, that was the best Valentines Day yet, so I married him.
I'm almost 30 now and have had a lot of Valentines Days. And, it took me about this long to figure out how I really feel about it.
It's the worst.
Don't get me wrong. I love love, I'm not going to throw a dozen roses out of the bed for eating crackers, and I eat chocolate basically every 5 seconds. But, I don't need a specific day to tell people I love them or surprise them with a chocolate foil wrapped trout.
You know what day I find really romantic? February 15th. The hoopla is over, restaurant reservations are suddenly available, and ALL THE CANDY IS ON SALE.
Tell me you love me then. Give me a folded Star Trek Valentine then. Or maybe just make me a martini and tell me how gorgeous I am all-day-every-day-all-of-the-time.
Now that sounds like a perfect Valentines Day to me.
(The author will be spending her non-Valentines Day with a bowl of macaroni and cheese and zombie movies. Because nothing says "I love you" like brains. Because you need brains to say "I love you." Everyone knows this.)