Valentine's Day is a holiday for romantics, meant to be soft and sweet. You may receive candy and flowers from a loved one or a family member who wants you to know how much they care. Too many years of having one's Valentine's Day hopes dashed though, can lead to a backlash against the holiday. Fans of anti-Valentine's Day can make one stay in alone on February 14, resolutely ordering pizza or Chinese and avoiding all things pink or festooned with red ribbons and winged cherubs.
I had been in a relationship for many years, and had experienced many Valentine's Day misfires. Our first Valentine's Day together involved a bouquet of roses. He spent the two weeks building up to the holiday declaring his hatred for the mandatory affection-showing, the stupid heart-shaped boxes and the societal pressure to make sweeping gestures of love. I saw his point, and so expected nothing more complicated than a kiss on the sacred day. I was surprised to receive a note that the front desk of my apartment had a package for me, and went down to find a lovely crystal vase filled with purple flowers, my favorite color. There was no note and so I assumed it was from a family member who didn't want me to miss out on the holiday as other women in my apartment building were receiving balloons and chocolates by the case.
He was dismayed and confused as to why I wouldn't believe the flowers were from him. I felt as if I had been jerked around emotionally. Ultimately, though, I did appreciate the nice gesture.
Eight years later, he would throw this minor hiccup into the shade with his V-Day bungling. We had been together so long that I no longer expected hearts and flowers on February 14. It was enough to see "I love you" scrawled on a note telling me he would be home from work late or come home to find that he had typed "I heart you" into a document I had left open in Word on my computer.
I was shocked when he came home bearing slickly-laminated bags from a certain women's lingerie peddler, shiny and aggressively pink. It was exciting to be remembered and, dare I hope, thought of as a sexy woman after so much time had passed for us.
I opened the boxes and found a frilly babydoll chemise in a bilious sea foam green color, with matching ruffled panties. While it was cute and enticing, it was so obviously Not My Style that I was left nervously fingering the tissue paper, frantically trying to think of something to say. Finally, I asked, "Wow. What made you choose this one?"
I thought perhaps he would say, "I thought you would look beautiful in this color," or "I thought it would be sexy to try something new. I really like this style." I wanted to hear something that would indicate that he was thinking of me, of us. I couldn't see that by looking at the gift itself. I held my breath waiting for the answer.
"I don't know. I went with Julie, she picked it out. It's pretty." Julie was his manager at work at the time. She was at least 15 years older than I, and a woman prone to wearing spike heels and low-rise black pants to work that gave customers just a hint of a peek at thong when she bent over to get a bag from under the counter. Her age and personal style was well apart from mine; I would never have thought to ask a co-worker to pick out my girlfriend's gift in his place.
Didn't he know me? Didn't he care enough to try hard to choose a gift for me?
In the end, I would have preferred that he not give me a gift at all. I do think it puts too much pressure on the gift-giver to choose something "perfect." He was probably too nervous to go into the store himself, and so grabbed the first woman he saw like a lifeline of help.
I didn't blame him for doing it, but I couldn't help be a little disappointed. I gave him my gift, a poem about him that I had written and framed, and kissed him.