Growing up, my parents belonged to a religion that believed all holidays were pagan, and celebrating pagan holidays was strictly forbidden. When it came to handling holiday celebrations at school, my siblings and I each have our own unique stories about either secretly partaking in these celebrations, or having to sit in the office while classmates delighted in pagan traditions. By the time my parents got to me, their fifth child, they’d gotten a bit lax when it came to meeting with teachers at the beginning of the school year to explain our religious beliefs, setting the perfect scene for me to secretly partake in all classroom holiday celebrations. I would come home from school pretending my class didn’t have a party, hide my candy in my closet, and suspiciously sneak away to eat said candy in said closet. Not lacking admirers, I’d often get gifts as well, which were more difficult to hide and I’d almost always get caught, interrogated, and end up having to return the gift to the giver (or find a better hiding place). So this became my experience with gifts, a source of embarrassment and shame; not surprisingly, receiving gifts is NOT my dominant love language.
By the time I got to high school, my parents had pretty much given up on religion, and the tight reigns of my siblings’ teenage years were long gone. My boyfriend sophomore year was the type my father knew he couldn’t forbid me to see because I’d do it anyway, and the teen romance would probably end up going on way longer than if he just let me be. So he let it be (with a watchful eye), and the romance ran its course, but not before the most embarrassing Valentine’s Day experience of my life. I’m pretty sure we had broken up at this point (or I’d tried to break up with him)*, and I get to my locker first thing in the morning to see a gigantic smiling face, a gazillion flowers, balloons, and a GINORMOUS white teddy bear with a heart embroidered with some type of sentiment stitched between its hands. Oh, the horror. As the school song began to play, signaling five minutes to get to first period, I quickly shoved the flowers into my locker to rush to class. This teddy bear, however, on account of its ginormocity, did not fit in my locker and accompanied me to every class, along with the balloons because they didn’t fit either. In a school with over 4,000 students, getting from class to class in under 4 minutes was challenging enough without carrying a life-sized bear and balloons. Without fail, upon entering class, my teachers felt the need to make the type of snarky comment high school teachers like to make, forcing me to relive the embarrassment each period in front of a new group of my peers. Not to mention the sinking feeling in my stomach when I had to walk into the class I had with my smarty-pants crush. The CTA ride home alone in dirty-slushy city snow, the oversized card delivered by the post office waiting for me to arrive, all of it was way too much to hide, and clearly the universe’s way of punishing me for years of secretly keeping gifts.
Subsequent Valentines involved:
- My dad picking me up early from school to get my driver’s license
- Going to church with a boyfriend and his mother
- Working at a flower shop and preparing everyone else’s floral arrangements (while single), which resulted in the next two points…
- Using my lunch break to bring my grandmother a bouquet of flowers
- Bringing flowers and cheap wine home to celebrate friendship with college roommates
- Listening to my college boyfriend’s basketball game on the radio — this happened more than once, as they always seemed to have away games on Valentine’s Day
- A colposcopy followed by lots of laughs and dinner at Cafe Central with my sisters, while pretending I didn’t care my non-boyfriend was completely ignoring me
- Trying to find the perfect Valentine’s Day card sans the word “love” or anything else indicating my actual feelings
- Impromptu “Let’s meet for drinks at Longman & Eagle,” turned 7-course meal because that’s all L&E was offering on Valentine’s Day (duhhhh)
- Having my students decorate goodie bags and
bribing thempassing out candy for good behavior and scholarly deeds all day
- My first attempt at making filet mignon and homemade gravy in the tiniest kitchen on the planet, thwarted by my amazing boyfriend’s completely valid late arrival ‘
That pretty much brings us to today, where the only thought put into celebrating was a conversation that basically went:
“So, should we like, go out to eat or something?”
This is me acknowledging Valentine’s Day, a day of secret candy, evil gifts, and random events that could’ve happened any other day of the year. Or, for a large number of people, the day House of Cards returns to Netflix.
*Best friend, and eye-witness to the events described in this story, confirms the “relationship” was indeed over by Valentine’s Day, making the gifts even more ridiculous and cumbersome and I quote, “I think we were like, wtf … we do not want this”