Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

February 14, 2008

Casualties of V-Day

Ahhh, there's nothing like a forced Hallmark holiday to dredge up memories of failed past relationships, put unnecessary pressure on current relationships, and cause melancholy for those who happen to be unattached on February 14. I've been a casualty of Valentine's Day in each of these ways, and I'm sure you have as well.

Let's start with dredging up memories of failed past relationships, shall we? Easy enough for me, especially since I just got off the phone with one of them - Only Child. As cheezy as it is, our "anniversary" (the day we made our relationship officially exclusive by half-jokingly drafting up a relationship contract) is on Valentine's Day. Let's see, if we were still together, it would be our 8th year.

Our tradition was to "renegotiate" our contract. We even had a draft tacked up on the bulletin board when we lived together. The idea was that we would review it each anniversary, revise it as we saw fit, and then reaffirm our commitment by signing the document and pledging another year. It was all a joke of course, but deep down, we all know there is some truth in everything - especially for women. This was as close as I could get to an "official commitment" from Only Child and I tried to pretend it meant something. But it didn't (and neither did the marriage proposal, setting a wedding date, buying a dress and putting a deposit on a reception hall). Now he and I are friends who can laugh about our busted relationship and wish each other a happy V-day with our significant others. But that took a few years.

The worst part of Valentine's Day is, of course, the ridiculous amount of pressure the holiday puts on current relationships - new and well established. When I was younger, I resented the hell out of the day. Probably because I was deeply entrenched in my Unavailable Dirtbag phase. This consisted of dating guys I liked to describe as "blank walls"; they were pretty much there for me to project my own emotions onto - otherwise they contributed virtually nothing to the relationship -- and I liked it that way. Let's just say I wasn't all that emotionally healthy back then.

But this phase of mine makes for some entertaining Valentine's memories, particularly when I think back to my Senior year in college fling with Allman (named for his hairy resemblance to Greg Allman - long blonde hair, pork chop sideburns and a goatee. I know it sounds gross, but this was the height of the grunge era and he was actually quite handsome under all that hair). Allman was a big time stoner. He was so "laid back" that sometimes you wondered if he was there at all. But I had unusual access to him that no one else did (or so I liked to think) so it felt "special" to me. He was actually quite sweet, a talented musician (though too shy to play in front of others), peaceful (always walked away from a fight - which I loved), and very smart (this was an Ivy League school after all, and they don't give stoner scholarships).

But our "relationship" was a joke. As nice as we both were, neither of us was in any place to be building any sincere connection. Try as I might to get him to "talk" about how he felt about us, I was always a little relieved deep down when he successfully danced around the issue. Instead we just "hung out" (a legitimate relationship status that seemed to only exist during college - am I right?). His frat house window was across the street from my dorm and we would talk on the phone every day while leaning out of our windows and making distant eye contact across 112th street. We met up at the bars, smoked up in his loft, and generally avoided anything more serious.

And then came Valentine's Day 1994. By this point I had given up on trying to establish something official with Allman. But when V-day comes around, you can't help but face all those annoying questions again. I'd never had a boyfriend on Valentine's Day and had no idea what to expect if I did - let alone with a guy that didn't even fit into any proper "boyfriend" category.

So instead of talking about it, making plans, or even agreeing not to make a plan at all, guess what we did? We completely ignored it as if the day did not exist. And I don't mean that we kept things status quo by still having our daily phone call or anything. No, we just both silently agreed not to speak at all that day. No phone call, no meeting up, nothing. The day was a black hole. So on February 13 we did our normal thing. On February 15 we did our normal thing. And on February 14 we both disappeared. And we never once acknowledged it, even after the fact. Now that is either the most dysfunctional thing I've every experienced, or quite possibly brilliant.

When I consider my present situation with Wine Guy (10 months together, our first V-day), I think about how far I've come towards being a healthy person capable of real intimacy. But, alas, the pressure that I allow this day to put on my relationship still stands proud. I want to not care - and God knows Wine Guy wishes I wouldn't. But when you get that "What are you and [Wine Guy] doing for Valentine's Day?" question, I get all nervous like we are supposed to do something or there is something wrong with our relationship. So we decided to have dinner (early before the rush) and go to a movie - something we rarely do.

I also made him a wonderful gift. Normally I avoid V-day gifts and just propose the day as an opportunity to spend time together. But the fact is that I have a LOT of spare time since I'm still on disability, and I wanted to do something special for him to thank him for all his wonderful support during my recovery. So I made a customized recipe binder for him that I know he will love (and I hope he doesn't read this before I give it to him).

And the final emotional toll that Valentine's Day takes on many of us - causing melancholy among the unattached. The vast majority of my Valentine's Days have fallen into this category. Well, the unattached category anyway. I always tried very hard not to be melancholy about being alone on V-Day. Actually, now that I think about it, Valentine’s Day was probably the one day of the year when I didn't feel sad about not having a significant other. Why would I want to inflict all this awkward, forced romanticism on my boyfriend or myself anyway? And why does Hallmark get to tell me when to "feel love?"

Wine Guy suggested (as most men probably wish they could) that we agree in the future not to acknowledge the day at all. My gut says, "Hell yes!" And I will probably agree to it in the future. But this year, I just couldn't do it. I admit I have a conformist spirit and I just couldn't look my mom in the eye and say, "Wine Guy and I did absolutely nothing for our first Valentine's Day together." But today is our last first Valentine's Day, so perhaps I can find the strength to rebel in the years to come.

Enjoy your day - whatever you do or don't do.



Melissa said...

Michael and I don't celebrate V-day. Our "non-tradition" started much like yours and Allman except we ended up staying together. Probably a year or so into our relationship we mentioned that we never celebrated V-day and that we're both fine with it. But this year Michael surprised me by saying he wants to take me out one night this weekend for a late V-day date, and you know what? I like the idea! It made me feel all warm and special. So maybe we're all turned around on this issue. Happy to be of no help!

mimi of 'sexagenarian and the city' said...

do i infer that you went to columbia? please go to one of yr class reunions and come visit...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love this entry and your blog. I host a relationship webisode- 3 minutes, 3 times a week. People "ask me anything...anything about relationships". And my real job is that I am a famous matchmaker. We just launched 3 months ago and we are getting alot of traffic and I am so excited to get more. Would love it if you would check it out, maybe write about it and call me a "fellow trooper"

Michele said...

My hubbie and I really did just ignore Valentine's Day this year and I honestly didn't care. We were both so busy with child and work and everything else, not to mention the fact that were' broke, that we just let it go. I realized that I honestly don't care anything about this Hallmark Holiday anymore and I don't want to waste anymore time and money on it.