Hey reader! By the time this is posted, my girl and I will be on the beach in Barbados getting tans. This whole trip will be pretty special to me for a number of reasons. It involves a lot of firsts; this is my first time visiting Barbados since I was eighteen years old, my first time bringing someone I’m dating, and the first time the rest of my family will be meeting her (she’s already met my parents and my brothers). I’m also hoping my 95-year-old grandmother will be there. She’s my oldest living relative, having lived long enough to see four generations be born. So it means a lot to me going back, and I’m glad that Amps will be by my side for it.
Actually, one of the big reasons I even booked this trip for this week rather than in March like I originally planned is because this is the week of Valentine’s Day – the Day of Love. To be honest, even though I’m happily spoken for these days, I’ve always dreaded Valentine’s Day because, more often than not, I spent it alone. That was… unpleasant, to say the least. Watching all those couples get lovey-dovey in the streets, on the train and in restaurant windows; it was enough to turn anyone into a V-Day Scrooge.
As a teenager and a younger man, I didn’t do very well in relationships, to the point that it became a running joke in my crew. So every February 14th, I felt these conflicting emotions of depression, feigned indifference, envy, admiration and anger.
That’s not to say every Valentine’s Day was a downer, though. I had some pleasantly memorable ones as well. Like the year I bought my girlfriend at the time a bottle of perfume from Sephora. She wore a pretty red lace negligée that accentuated her ample cleavage and had sprinkled rose petals on the bed. Very sensual. Another year, I went all out. I went looking for a recordable card, but I couldn’t find the kind I wanted, so I made one from scratch, using card stock, Scotch tape and a recordable module. Then I bought the woman’s favorite candy and had her favorite flowers delivered to her house. When I came over after work, I cooked dinner. I’d like to think she still remembers it fondly, because up to that point, nobody had ever gone to that much trouble for her.
Growing up, I always felt like I, as the man, should do the most for his woman. I had this preconceived notion that Valentine’s Day should involve flowers, candy, soft music and a candlelight dinner, followed by slow, tender lovemaking.
God, was I naive. I was so caught up in making Valentine’s Day perfect that I bent over backwards, often at considerable expense, to do it. Yet, when I was a free agent, I would slouch, look at all the infatuated couples with disdain and claim that I didn’t buy into that commercialized bulls**t. It’s hard to find pants that fit when you’re that big of a hypocrite. To my credit, when I was with somebody, I never waited until the last minute to do whatever I was going to do and thus avoided the inevitable mad dash caused by forgetful men who raided drug stores, confectioneries and sidewalk vendors, trying desperately to salvage their surefire chance to get laid.
Valentine’s Day puts many men in a catch-22, and in my case it was one of my own making: I was opposed to the capitalist stranglehold on Valentine’s Day in principle, but at the same time I didn’t want my woman to feel left out. I imagined that February 15th began some sort of pissing contest between girlfriends, with women measuring imaginary penises to see who had had the best Valentine’s Day. If I couldn’t give my girlfriend the best V-Day, at the very least I could put her in the running. Looking back, I was rarely put on the spot to do this, at least not explicitly. It seemed to be always implied that I would do something. Last year Amps and I had a relatively low-key holiday; all we did was go out to dinner and drink champagne at home. This year it’s a romantic getaway to the Caribbean. Already, I’m dreading next year, because I’ve always felt like I was in this imaginary competition to do it bigger and better than I did the year before. After you take your woman out of the country, how do you top that?
The answer is: you don’t. Stop trying. Immediately. I’m trying to learn to stop outdoing myself and measuring myself against imaginary rivals. As for external influences, there is no reason why your woman or anyone else should make you feel like you’re not doing enough if you’re doing what is within your means. Forget going broke trying to keeping up with the Valentine’s Day Joneses. Even if you fall short on the special day, a “substandard” V-Day does not invalidate everything you’ve done and will do for your woman for the rest of the year. The truth is, every day is an opportunity to show your love for your significant other, and usually the little things speak much louder than the big things. February 14th just seems like a chance for many people to go over-the-top in their expressions of love, and it shouldn’t be. At best, the day should contribute to the atmosphere of a romantic evening, where every gesture is heartfelt and symbolic. It shouldn’t be ostentatious merely for the sake of impressing others. It should be a high point in a functioning, stable relationship.
I’ve learned that part of what makes a relationship last is quality time, and that spent during Valentine’s Day, in a way, qualifies it even more. That is what makes the day special, not the money spent or the gifts given. The year I went all out, I spent maybe a hundred dollars. The money spent isn’t worth nearly as much as the thought put into your efforts. After I did all that, the woman gave me a collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, because she knew I liked them. That meant a lot to me. Let’s face it, reader; odds are, if you’re in a relationship for the long run, eventually you’re going to have a Valentine’s Day that doesn’t quite match up to the others you’ve had. It’s not the end of the world, especially if your relationship is good to begin with. For my part, I am trying not to be afraid of the year when I’m off my game. I like to think my relationship is strong enough to deal with far worse.