People are generally baffled by my mad love for all things holiday. St. Patrick's Day? I will dress in green from head to toe and make corned beef and cabbage. Thanksgiving? I will take 11 hours to create the perfect dinner from scratch. April Fools Day? Words cannot describe the shenanigans that shall ensue. But for all of that, Valentine's Day has always been one of my favorites.*
*Shocking, considering that my relationship history is horrifying enough to make Quentin Tarantino cringe.
While I have not been living like a Carmelite nun for the bulk of my adulthood, I have never had a Valentine. Never. For whatever reason, my relationships either started after or ended before February 14th, and when I was married, my husband Gil referred to it as "a stupid Hallmark holiday" and staunchly refused to acknowledge it in any way.*
*Reason #583 why he is my EX husband.
This year, I fully expected Valentine's Day to be as it usually was: heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast, love notes in the short people's lunchboxes, and half-priced chocolates on February 15th. That was my thought. So, I did what any self-respecting woman would do, threw on a fabulous red dress, gathered my craziest friends, and partied over amazing food and a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity. The next morning I was tidying up the detritus from last night's
debacle party when my friend Rachael stopped by.
"Where were you last night?" I asked, handing her a cup of coffee as she slumped against the kitchen counter. "I thought you were coming to the party after work?"
Rachael sighed deeply, blowing on her coffee. "Yeah. . .I was. I just. . .couldn't."
"What's wrong?" I queried, sliding a plate of muffins toward her. She took one and began picking at it absently.
"I just. . .I just couldn't be around a bunch of people celebrating love when I think it's a steaming pile of crap."*
*Rachael's boyfriend of one year recently broke up with her. For one of Rachael's co-workers. On Rachael's birthday. I'll give you a minute for the full trifecta of douche to set in.
I patted her hand reassuringly. "Rach, you need to let this go. You're smart and funny and beautiful. . .you know this was all his deal; this had nothing to do with you."
She sighed deeply. "I know. It's like. . .one minute I'm cool with it and all zen and shit, and then five minutes later I want to smash the front of his truck with a baseball bat."
"Whoa, ease up there, Carrie Underwood," I said gravely. "let Jesus take the wheel."
Rachael gave a shaky laugh, then buried her face in her hands and sobbed. I stood behind her, stroking her hair as the short people came in from the yard.
"What's wrong with Rachael?" M. cried in fear.
J. poked his face next to Rachael's bowed head. "Are you crying?" he whispered dramatically. "Why are you crying? What's wrong?"
"OK, OK, " I stated firmly, ushering the short people from the kitchen. "Keep walking. Nothing to see here. These are not the droids you're looking for."
"Hey!" J. grinned broadly. "I know what will cheer you up! Do you want to hold my hamster?"
Rachael's head reared up in horror. "Oh. . .oh dear God, no!"
"Rachael's terrified of rodents." I explained to J. "Mice, squirrels, hamsters. . .they're her personal Vietnam."
J. shrugged affably and started down the hall. "Hey!" I called after him. "Take the hood of your jacket down when you're inside, please."
"Why?" he asked, furrowing his brow.
"Because you look like a school shooter." I answered.
J. gazed at me in bemusement. "Huh?"
I waved a hand at the hood of his coat. Just lose the hood, Columbine."
Grinning broadly, J. pulled down his hood and bounded up the stairs after his brother.*
*My short people rock the hardest.
Rachael wiped her eyes and began chuckling. "Did you just call your son a spree killer?" she smiled "I can't believe you just said that."
"And I can't believe you're still afraid of hamsters." I laughed, sitting beside her at the counter. "Haven't you grown out of that?"
"Ha! Says the woman who is so terrified of clowns she can't watch a McDonald's commercial." Rachael jeered in retaliation.
I held my hands up in surrender. "Hey, Ronald McDonald is seriously jacked up, Dude."
"Yeah, well, hamsters BITE." she countered.
"Yeah, well, I'll bet a clown would too. . .if provoked." I muttered lamely.
Rachael laughed softly. "Thanks, Jen. I knew you'd cheer me up."
I tossed an arm around Rachael's slender shoulders and gave her a soft hug. "Of course. That's my job."
Rachael smiled weakly. "So, how do you deal with Valentine's Day every year. I mean, you never have a Valentine."*
I shrugged absently. "For me Valentine's Day is about love. And I am surrounded by people that I love that love me in return. I have my family, I have my friends, I have my coworkers, and I have me."
"What do you mean you have you?" Rachael asked in confusion.
I smiled. "Well, I love myself." I explained. "It took me a while to get to that place but when you really love yourself then you're never lonely, even when you're alone. And the best part is, when you are comfortable in your own skin you no longer have people in your life because you NEED them. . .they're there because you WANT them."
Rachael gave a shuddering sigh, tears filling her green eyes. "I don't think I'll ever get there. I'm just so scared of being alone that I feel like I'll latch onto the next guy who even looks at me and before you know it I'll be lured into some cult like Patty Hearst or Katie Holmes."
"OK," I said soothingly, "let's follow the Crazy Brick Road back to reality and reassess. Were you REALLY in love with Brian or were you just in love with the idea of having someone?'
She pondered my question in silence and tilted her head. "I. . .you know, I honestly don't know. I liked him, and I liked having a partner. You know, never worrying about what I was doing on the weekend and having a date for weddings and stuff."
"So, you NEEDED him to fulfill those needs of companionship and to occupy your spare time on weekends." I averred bluntly.
Rachael scowled at me. "Must you cheapen the sentiment?"
"Always." I smirked. "Look, I'm not trying to be a dick, but why can't you occupy weekends on your own? Take a dance class, join a gym, learn a foreign language at the community college, call up your friends. Once you start living your life and loving yourself, the right man will be drawn to that. Or, maybe he won't. But the point is, even if Mr. Right never shows up you won't care because you'll be too busy living your life to notice."
Rachael shook her head slowly. "I feel like everyone is in my life because I need them. Even my friends. Even you. I knew when I was falling apart that I needed to see you. I needed you to pick up the pieces."
I crossed the kitchen to refill Rachael's coffee. "Maybe you do need me on some level, but we wouldn't be friends if I didn't WANT you in my life. For the first time in a long time I can honestly say that everyone in my life is there because I want them there and that's an awesome feeling. I don't need someone to complete me; I'm already complete."
Rachael took a slow swig of her coffee. "I have much to learn from you, Obi Wan."
"Fear not." I intoned gravely, placing a hand upon her bowed head. "The Force is strong in you."
I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day. And, if not, why not celebrate today? Buy yourself some new shoes. Get a massage. Fill your house with beautiful flowers. Have chocolate cake for dinner. Show your one true love how much you love and appreciate them. . .and make that one true love be you.