I have been unmoved by this holiday for most of my life. The last time I remember really enjoying Valentine’s Day was third grade. We brought shoe boxes to school to be decorated with fuzzy, heart-shaped pom-poms and stickers. On the big day we came to school with our little Valentine’s Day cards in paper sacks. The teachers let us place our cards into the shoeboxes of each student and then we waited with great anticipation.
After lunch the PTA moms showed up toting cookies, cupcakes and cherry Koolaid. We were released from the struggles of academia and fled to our boxes. We ate the sugar snacks and drank the syrupy drinks until we had red mustaches above our lips. It was a happy time. If you were as
lucky unbelievably blessed as I was, your daddy would have a special box of chocolates and a card waiting for you when you got home. (He was a man who really got it when it came to Valentine’s Day. That is someone else’s story, for another time).
Unfortunately I grew out of Scooby-Doo Valentine’s and decorated shoe boxes, as we all must. Fast forward about 25 years.
I have never been given the ‘special woman in your life’ kind of gifts: the traditional formulated gifts of chocolates, jewelry, flowers, stuffed things. Somewhere between the Koolaid mustache of third grade and being a 34-year-old woman with a divorce under my belt I began telling myself I was an ‘anti-gift girl’.
I have always found Valentine’s Day very nonsensical and commercialized. Even in my twenties I didn’t do “Singles Awareness Days” and I didn’t feel sad about going home to read a book after my shift ended on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want chocolates (Unless we are talking fine dark chocolate, no thanks), I didn’t want flowers (Weren’t they prettier in the ground? Why are they on my table, in an old juice glass? So weird.), I didn’t want stuffed animals (Seriously, it’s cute, but I am a grown a** woman, what am I supposed to do with this?) and I didn’t want jewelry, because jewelry is complicated and weird and emotionally – really heavy.
Armed with strong conviction I began carrying this torch into each relationship and ‘somehow’ became the anti-gift girl. I thought about it for too long tonight and I cannot tell a lie – there were tears. Self-pitiful and downward-spiraling tears. Not tears to be proud of, at all. When I realized that 15-year-old girls were receiving these ‘special woman in my life’ gifts that I have never received (for Valentine’s Day or any other occasion, might I add) I felt very sorry for myself. Here, in numerical list, is the progression of my self-pity tornado:
- Realize no man had ever given me the standardized gifts one can pick from the formulated ‘special woman in my life’ section of the mall. Tear a little.
- Think more about the fact that all he had to do was drive to the mall and point at a glass case – that is not much effort! Tear falling has commenced.
- Think about other holidays/birthdays when nothing at all was given. Now crying is hard enough to alarm sleeping feline.
- Think more about the times that an obligatory gift was stuffed into a bag at the last minute, against the hours you had spent thinking of and looking for the perfect one for him. Hugging angry feline whilst ugly-cry tears and snot land on angry feline’s fur.
- Question my validity as a person capable of and worthy of love. Try to decipher if I have actually been such a horrible person in each relationship that I didn’t deserve consideration or thoughtfulness. Inconspicuously wipe face onto feline, get scratched across the right hand.
- Due to scratch pain, briefly snap out of pitiful hurricane of ridiculousness. Release feline to bathe off the remnants of my ugly cry.
- Feel like a total idiot for ugly crying over the formulated ‘special woman in your life’ gifts. Try to apologize to feline as if she will respond in kind.
After conferring with a handful of friends, I realized I am very much a gift girl. A story a friend of mine told me impacted me enormously. She mentioned she has kept a ‘lovely collection’ of empty jewelry boxes. I didn’t understand the point until she explained that during what had become a rather ugly break up session with the giver of those extravagant gifts she was asked to look at all thing things he had done for her and all the things he had bought her…didn’t she want to be with him? My dear, dear friend threw all those baubles at him and he left with them in his pockets. She kept the boxes as a reminder that being with the wrong person is just wrong. Any gift given from the wrong intention or the wrong person is always going to feel wrong.
I am the wrong man’s worst nightmare. I don’t want a little velvet box with a sparkly thing in it from anyone at this point in my life. The expensive, small, shiny things still scare me with their weight. I don’t fit the formula of flower+chocolate+jewelry = happy woman. I would prefer a $20 gift that took a man’s thought and effort to pursue than a $200 gift that he pointed a finger at through a glass case on his lunch break earlier that day. Anyone can accomplish that.
I am in awe and overwhelmed with happiness for my friends when I see them receive gifts from their men that speak to their specific tastes and who they are as a person. Star Wars themed Vans, a sweater from the arch rival of her husband’s favorite team, a framed photo he snapped on vacation or a pretty tea pitcher from Target just because he saw her look at it longingly. Those things take a lot of thoughtfulness, consideration and tons of love.
In my past it has been easier for me to deny that I like receiving things than to expect someone to put in the effort for me, as I would for them. I thought I had to choose between compromising who I am and I compromising on something I really wanted from another person. That’s just dishonesty with yourself and I am really ready to leave that behind me.
*One last thought…something that makes me truly sad during this crazy time of hearts, flowers and little baubles in fancy boxes…there are men and women out there with BIG love and tiny bank accounts. They can’t afford even the $20 thoughtful thing without having to rob the gas tank or the grocery bill. Bless those people. Their love isn’t any less than the man locking the tennis bracelet around his lady’s wrist. Remember that your kind, uplifting words and sweet, gentle actions are something people never tire of receiving. There is always a ‘You’re the love of my life’ or ‘You are so beautiful/handsome’ lying around where you can reach them and a soft kiss (or a not-so-soft one) is always closer than the mall. Those are just my thoughts…from a Reluctant Cat Lady and a reluctant gift girl as well.*
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone – may your wait for dinner be short and your dress not too tight to enjoy it.