Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day, My Love . . .

Today is, of couse, Valentine's Day. We know this because Hallmark told us so! And Hallmark has been telling us so for about 1,000 years and they tell us just often enough that every man, woman and child in the world feels like today is the ONE day of the year that we must spend money - on red, pink, chocolate and floral things - to tell the one(s) that we love that we love them. Right? Right!

I'm a sucker to the holiday. My last name means love, for Chrissakes! I have to embrace the horror of the holiday.
I didn't always get the holiday though. I remember all too well being a (fat, pimply and overcompensatingly insecure) kind in high school. There was always some class or club that sold carnations outside of the hallway at lunch time. They were moderately priced. You could choose red, white or pink. They would go so far as to market that you could send the white to friends, pink to crushes and red to loves (like the average 14 year old really knows love (no offense, state of Kansas (they marry young here - for the unaware). I would always send one or two to someone - generally my beloved Melissa - and would never understand why that didn't leave me (or her) feeling any more fulfilled as a person.

It was then that I decided how "stupid" this holiday really was. I raged against it. I barely attended the Valentine's Day semi-formals for the rest of high school (groan) and I barely wolfed down the stacks of pink, heart-shaped pancakes that my mother made us every Valentine's Day (I mean a boy HAS to eat (a 3,000 calorie) breakfast before school). I went off to college convinced that I would personally destroy this "holiday" . . . and I tried damned hard.

My freshman year we had "lonely heart's night" on Dana, One West. Lots of champagne and an overpriced dinner. Sophomore year we repeated the fete on Dana, Two East. Lots of champagne, some rum and some cafeteria food. Junior year I took my friend Danielle on a sorta' date (we had Italian food and went to see a play at the Long Wharf theater). Senior year I took the train from DC to Quinnipiac to be with my friends (whom I loved and missed) and got caught up on all the drama I missed (I won't name names but there was a friend of mine that hooked up in the shower with a friend of a friend's (now) wife and the fallout with the mutual friend that was in love with the boy in the shower (lonnnng story)).

Needless to say - I softened my position on Valentine's Day quickly.

I realized that it was not about romantic "love" - it was about love. It was about taking one day a year to remind people that you love them. Something you SHOULD do the other 364 (365 on a leap year) but don't. I tried to take full advantage of the chance to show my friends that I loved them on Valentine's Day. What a disaster that is when you are filling your life with booze, food and depression meds.

Then - along came Valentine's Day 2004. I had been dating this "girl" - Joy - for about six months. I was madly in love. We were talking marriage already (had been for months) and I was sure that I would do anything I could to make this girl happy. And I had my first EVER "real" Valentine's Day (I'm not kidding - we ended the night with sex and everything (sorry to be so blunt, Mom). I realized that the real spirit of Valentine's Day was . . . again.

It was a chance for me to try - for one friggin' day - to not be an egocentric, self-loathing, blow hard bastard to the woman I loved and wanted to spend my life with. As if that one day would make up for the other 364 (65 on a leap year) days of me just being "me". And God LOVE Joy for loving me for "me".

It is hard for me to think back to those days. I would get winded walking up the stairs. I would shop online because I was too fat and tired to get her love trinkets on foot. I would make sure that the real focus of our celebration was dinner . . . and dessertS! It is weird to think how distracted I was by food. How much my life centered on food. How everyone else just sort of fit in around my food. I'm digressing - this post is about my forever love (not my former love).

Anywho - I've grown a lot over the years since our first Valentine's Day. I've changed. I'm a better man. I'm a more deserving man. I'm a man that is proud of himself. But I still enjoy this one day a year that I can look back at the other 364 days (I've made the extra day on a leap year clear by now, right?) of the year and thank her for standing by me and supporting me and loving me and challenging me and making my life as full and wonderful as it is.

If you don't know Joy - I mean really KNOW Joy - you wouldn't get it. You just wouldn't. But if you know Joy . . . if you are one of the lucky ones that has gotten even that first taste of the real, beautiful woman that lies inside the beautiful shell . . . you know exactly what I'm talking about here and you know - almost too well - how true it is when I say that I owe her this one day every year. And 364 more (yep, the leap year thing too).

It is that love for her - that sense of duty and responsibility - that allowed me to sit through He's Just Not That In To You just a few hours ago. Let me say again now (to get me through the next year) - I love you, wifey. And I would do anything to prove it . . . but no more Jennifer Aniston movies for a while, k?!

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