I know it’s kind of sacrilege to admit, especially for a romance writer, but I kind of hate Valentine’s Day. The cynic in me calls it a Hallmark holiday, invented to sell greeting cards, roses and chocolate, and, although I love all those things, I dislike the obligation Valentine’s Day imposes to fork ‘em over.
Remember grade school, where the hand-decorated brown bags hung in a line on the wall just below the chalkboard, like a string of ballot boxes waiting to receive everyone’s vote? Most peoples’ moms insisted their kid bring enough Garfield or Ziggy valentines for every student in class, complete with baggies of pastel conversation hearts taped to each card, but one or two students—let’s call them the “popular boys”—brought only a handful of valentines, for the chosen few. I’d sit in my bedroom after school, stuffing my face with sweethearts while counting and re-counting my twenty-two valentines, trying to figure out which four kids in class had boycotted me, (Public school, baby. Large classes the whole way through).
High school introduced the fundraiser aspect to the unofficial popularity contest known as Valentine’s Day. For weeks in advance of the big day, the marching band, or the pep squad, or some other student organization would set up a booth outside the cafeteria to sell rose and card delivery on the big day. My girlfriends and I would go broke sending the darn things to each other, so nobody in our circle would suffer the indignity of sitting through an entire class without a rose delivery or walking the halls without at least half a dozen flowers in her hand. I still remember my friend K receiving a rose during AP Biology, giddily reading the card, folding it, then pulling it out and reading it again. Dude, it was from me. Would you like an Academy Award to go with that rose?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve experienced some really great Valentine’s Days, and a few truly amazing ones. My sister went into labor with her first kid—my oldest nephew—during Hub’s and my first Valentine’s Day together eighteen years ago. I cut our evening short and drove from Pepperdine to San Pedro in the wee hours of the morning so I could be there with her, my brother-in-law, and my mom when the little guy made his big debut. It’s a moment that still chokes me up, even though my nephew threatens to hang up on me nowadays when I say, “I can’t believe you’re almost eighteen. I remember when you were born!” A couple years later Hubs and I enjoyed a special dinner at Raoul’s in NYC so beautiful and tasty we still talk about it sometimes. We even went to Maui one year. It’s all good.
I’ve done some reasonably romantic things for Valentine’s Day too. One year when Hubs and I were both working like indentured servants, which, thanks to student loans, we pretty much were, I bought a package of Hello Kitty activity valentines at the V-Day headquarters, (a/k/a CVS) during a rare lunch break and mailed off one a day to his office. Each small card contained a maze, or a riddle or a word puzzle. He called me every day when they started to arrive and pretend to be completely stumped by the thing. One afternoon he took up a whole ten minutes on my voicemail narrating his way through a Hello Kitty maze. Stupid, but funny. I sat there, alone in my office, laughing my ass off like a crazy woman.
I guess when it comes right down to it, I like a pretty card and a box of chocolates as much as the next girl, but I like it twice as much when it’s just “because.”
How about you? Is Valentine’s Day a big deal, or just another day?