Valentine’s Day? Bah, humbug.
I just wish I could say that with more conviction. The truth is, every Valentine’s Day as long as I can remember, I’ve longed to have a classic romantic evening with the man of my dreams. I’ve never succeeded. I’m 62.
I don’t know why the Valentine energy has its claws sunk so deeply in me. My father had trouble remembering birthdays; February 14 had no significance for him at all. My mother didn’t mind.
“I know a lot of men who make their wives miserable for 364 days of the year and expect to make up for that by giving them roses, chocolate and a fancy dinner. I want someone who treats me well all the time,” she said robustly. “Your father does. That’s far more important.”
In theory I agree with her. I’m sure Valentine’s Day benefits florists and candy makers, restaurants and jewelry shops. It’s a ridiculous custom for many other people.
So why can’t I overcome my longing for romantic fulfillment with the perfect man on that one day? I suppose it must just be pop culture, the same fairy tale notion that envelopes wedding days.
When I was in university, living in residence, Valentine’s Day meant that the Porter’s Office was so crowded with bouquets of flowers, usually roses, that the Porter often got squeezed out. My roommate was Frosh Sweetheart, a kind of first year beauty queen. Her side of our room spilled over with flowers. She chose the man she liked best and went out for the evening, leaving me in a room that smelled like a funeral parlour. My boyfriend lived a two hour drive away, was poor and had no car. He phoned me. I was pleased, but it wasn’t the classic romantic evening I craved.
I have dated men who made a fuss about the day. The problem is, either they were men I just didn’t fancy or my mother was right; they were moody, controlling and manipulative. Valentine’s Day celebrations came with a price tag: stay in the relationship, be grateful, ignore everyone and everything but him. I could never pay up.
Maybe I’ve just been unlucky.
Men I’ve loved didn’t notice Valentine’s Day. My husband, the man I loved most, didn’t believe in spending money on cut flowers, or chocolate or expensive jewelry. He’d give me a flowering plant in the depth of January to remind us both that spring would come eventually, but he did not give special gifts on Valentine’s Day. In those years I used to make a gorgeous dinner, pour wine and make it clear I wanted to make love on February 14. He would lead me to the bedroom with a sly grin and make me breakfast the next morning. Those were the years I didn’t feel I missed anything on the day. But he died young. By the time I was ready to consider my romantic options seriously again, there weren’t many left.
My last lover was in Scotland and one of the blank faced kind when it came to romantic celebrations on February 14. I think we went out to the pub for a beer and a game of dominoes the last Valentine’s Day I spent with him. He probably won, too. When my visa ended and I had to return to Canada, aged 54, I came to Vancouver, a new city for me, knowing that romance was unlikely. I’ve had eight years of celibacy so I suppose I was right. It’s not so much that men aren’t romantic; they just don’t see me. I’ve become invisible with age.
So to compensate for the longing I have never quite overcome, I’ve decided to pass on ‘romance’ and focus on love. I buy a bunch of spring flowers for my aunt and some cinnamon buns for my cousin and her family and remind myself how lucky I am to have people I love in my life. It doesn’t quite take the bah! out of Valentine’s Day, but it helps.