Left the office in a rush, hoping to make it home early so as to have some Romance on this February 14th, got caught in the rain and stepped in a big, cold puddle crossing 8th Avenue. Sounds about right.
I don't know what kind of relationship I have with Valentine's Day. We've been up, we've been down, we've gone years without speaking, we've gotten tangled in the bed sheets. We've agreed to see other people, we've sent flowers. We're not bitter though. Never bitter. It's such an awful word, isn't it? Bitter sounds pinched and spiteful, cold. I wish I could say I have never been any of those things.
That I love my husband goes without saying. That my friends and my family - and the friends who are my family - fill me with joy and love is also a given. Valentine's Day gets tarted up in so many trashy and flashy pink outfits, gets dipped in chocolate and splashed with perfume, gets buried under flowers and gets lost in mail to such an extent that it becomes An Event when really, it could and should just be a day of love, in any and all of the infinite shapes love can take. I am past the need for flowers to arrive on my desk and past the need to have a quick answer when someone asks, "What are you doing for Valentine's Day?" In high school I wrote a hideous editorial in the school paper one year, clever but naive. At fifteen I somehow thought I had it figured out, and that since Cupid had not smacked me in the ass yet, clearly Valentine's Day was a holiday born of ire and spite and Hades' flames and bad poetry. Clearly, only the most foolish accepted it as a holiday. Clearly, I was wise beyond my years, clearly I alone was able to see the truth, and clearly, the day was shit. Clearly.
It wasn't horrible writing, but it was horrible in so many other ways, most notably so for the smug, know-it-all voice I adopted, but also for the hints of "But why doesn't anyone want meeeeeee?" that snuck in there somehow. I was 15, already embracing my bitter, inner Cathy cartoon. Hideous. So much so that Chris Baker took it upon himself to tell me in Physics class, not in so many words, to chill the fuck out.
Thankfully, that year ended, the phase passed, the editorial was forgotten. In the years since, I've had shitty days and great days, shitty relationships and great relationships, romance and apathy and tears and laughter and beer and wine and sorrow and joy.
Six years ago my grandmother died on Valentine's Day. Three years ago on Valentine's Day Kent and I had one of the worst fights I can ever remember. We left for vacation on the 15th, and he proposed to me four days after that. Two years ago we were preparing to get married and I spent Valentine's Day vibrating with anxiety and obsessing over the seating arrangements. It's just a day. But could it, should it be more? What is so wrong with that? Why all the bitterness?
It's a day meant to be about love, isn't it? Love, love, all we need is love, get it while it's hot, love makes the world go 'round, love is the answer. It's the question that's trickier...who, when, why, if, how, who again, how much, why, why why...why him, why her, why not?
How does that saying go? That Eskimos have 40 words for love? (I think it's really that they have 40 words for snow, but bear with me.) And we have four little letters to cover so much ground and span oceans and hearts and heads, all by themselves. It's too much for one word. It's too much for one person. It always has been, which is why I never think "love" without saying a silent prayer to all the lovely, lovely people who have held my hand and supported me and let me grow as I found my way back and forth and back again and to the man I married.
Valentine's Day isn't for couples. Hallmark may be for couples, but I choose to take this day to love my husband and my parents and my siblings and my friends, always my friends, equally and with passion, gratitude, joy, compassion and affection. It's a day for love, take it or leave it. And to the people who think Valentine's Day requires you be in a relationship to celebrate it, I call bullshit. To the people who think it's meant to be celebrated with only one other person, I call bullshit. And to all the people who think you need to already be happy in order to spend a day celebrating love, I call bullshit, because it's actually the other way around. Spend a day thinking about all that you have loved, all the people, places, pets, movies, memories, ideas, books, stories, cities, sounds and songs that you have loved in your life, and then lean back, let yourself appreciate - really appreciate - the million insignificant things that keep you warm in February.
Like that every night as I leave work, I head east on 33rd Street and walk directly towards the Empire State Building, which looks so sharp against the winter sky that I want to bite it.
Like that my brother is proposing to his girlfriend next month.
And that S is pregnant.
Like the perfect black boots I finally found and the purple sling-backs I never wear.
Like the walnut dining room table that used to belong to my grandmother and the brushed aluminum dining room chairs that clearly didn't.
Or the leftover lasagna in my fridge. And the dinner Kent is making for me tonight, including the cleaning-up part which he often forgets or just plain ignores.
The Gates in Central Park.
The Golden Gate Bridge.
Like Dungeness crab, sourdough bread and white wine.
Like my parents' kitchen. And their dining room, especially when full.
Like my friend Jay, who I met almost exactly 8 years ago, on his 25th birthday.
And like the way my dog wiggles and wags when I come home.
Winter coats and cashmere scarves.
Like bagels and coffee on Sunday.
Like a Saturday snowstorm.
Like an 80th birthday party, or a wedding, or an anniversary.
Like vanilla ice cream.
Like fireplaces, hardwood floors, big windows and front stoops.
Like french fries and milkshakes.
Like email and new friends and three-day weekends.
Like sweat pants and Netflix and two years of marriage.
Like all those years before I met my husband when I got to wonder who he might be.
Like the friends who let me cry when I met the wrong person.
Like the ones who stayed true when I met the right one and things got even more complicated.
Like my little family, who know who they are.