Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dear John ... Or, How I learned to stop hatin' and love the V-bomb

Scene: You walk into a large, empty, decrepit gymnasium. Up on the left corner of the roof, there are various shades of brown and beige making their escape from an inverse crater caused by last winter’s storm. To the right, a bucket catching the 10-second interval drops of water coming from a wet roof that, for whatever reasons, has defied natural law and refuses to dry up.

There are a few mis-matched chairs arranged in a scattered and poor-excuse of a U shape in front of a podium. The podium’s laminate face shines in the flickering light and makes it the most ethereal thing in the down-trodden room. You walk toward the chairs, drawing “eeks” and “ooos” from the elderly wooden floor beneath you. You pick the chair that doesn’t look up at you in fear and take a seat. As the chairs moan and groan with every deep breath you take, a woman in her early 30’s stands and walks behind the podium.

She takes a few silent breaths, looks up at the flickering light and with lips of petrified tree bark says,

“Hello, I am 32 and (sighhhhh) I have never had a Valentine…”

The few silent bodies in the room shift uncomfortably in their creaking chairs and begin to whisper “oh my, not one? … never? … oh… noo….”

This is the scene I conjured up in my head almost three years ago when I hit the 30 mark. I was going to have to seek intervention of some sort because all of my friends, males and females alike, had some Valentine’s day story to share. They were of varying degrees of intensity and … sentiments, but stories nonetheless:

 “When I was 21, my boyfriend took me on a romantic hike.”
“The bitch broke up with me on Valentine’s day”
“He sent flowers to my home, my work AND left some on my car.”
“She make me cupcakes, they were the best thing ever.”

And then there’s me, now almost 33 years old with not one Valentine’s story to share. That’s right, folks, I have never had a Valentine. Every year, February 14th rolls around and I find myself pumping my own gas, clearing insurance fliers (not flowers) from my windshield, eating a Twix bar I bought for myself because the box of chocolates got lost in the mail.

Every year I also find myself being sought out by friends who tell me “you should come hang out with us, we’re having an anti-Valentine party! Who needs ‘em?! Screw them!”
After about 23 years of not having a Valentine, I started dreading the days when giant stuffed teddy bears made their appearance on street corners with heart-shaped balloons, red and white carnation arrangements and ridiculously large cards.

As if the size of the card is going to cover-up the size of the mistake you make just a week ago, as if a giant stuffed teddy bear is going to really tell a person how much they love them even if it is sewed onto that plush heart he’s holding. As if sending flowers is going to make them want you more, as if eating chocolates is going to make everything better…

Ok, maybe eating chocolates does make everything better.

This was my 23 year old self. Hatin’ on Valentine’s day, pumping up my sarcasm to 11 around my friends who had a Valentine. Sending out “I hate you every day, I don’t discriminate” messages to my loved ones. All the while, secretly hoping that whatever person who was somewhat in my life at the time would just say something, do something, show me something. But it never came, the flowers, the chocolates, the cards, the stupid child-labor teddy bears. None of it ever came.

And so the hate on love just continued to build.

It began to boil around mid-January, when the stores started putting out red and pink colored foods. Increased in early February, when people started putting cut out hearts and cupids in their windows and finally over-flowed around February 10th, when the street corners started to fill with contraband merchandise.

One year, my older sister thought it would be “cute” to give me some love on Valentine’s Day and gave me a couple of flowers along with a “Grow-A-Man.” A small, space-material doll shaped like a man in boxer shorts that you would submerge in water to expand out. I gave her a snarl and said “yeah, thanks.” In my head I was thinking ‘man, what a bitch.’ 



So how did this all start? Where did it all go to hate?

A cartoon flashback….

I used to be so enthusiastic about Valentine’s day, I loved everything and everyone. I would get excited giving things to people, because I could. I do remember laying on the floor with my Big Bear pencil and writing every person’s name in my class on those Strawberry Shortcake cards and putting them on people’s desks. I didn’t care that no one had a crush on my, that my hair wasn’t pulled on the playground or that I wasn’t chosen first for kick-ball. I just had massive amounts of love for my friends, because they were my friends.

Gradually, I started gaining interest in a number of other things, but my love for my friends was always there. Even as the loneresque punk rock high schooler that was actually a pretty well-known geek, my bad ‘The red seas of my heart will part and fill the sky with my bloody Valentine’ poetry was shrouded in good intentions. It should have read ‘I love you pimple-faced, bipolar bastards even if you do get me in trouble with the Algebra teacher.’

Well, after my schooling was over and I became an adult and realized that the rest of the world thinks about things other than taking over administrative building, smoking pot on magazine production nights (sorry mom) and shoving chapters of information into my brain. I suppose I had lost some of this love-fest- connection with my friends who had gone off and done things of their own and created their own experiences. I suppose it was after I graduated and jumped out of the metaphorical threshold of the world yelling “Here I am, baby, all smart and powerful and shit!!” that I began noticing that people buy each other crap on Valentine’s day. That I wasn’t receiving this crap, and so, did that mean then that I was less of a person? That I was going to be forever alone? Then, one day, someone told me that Valentine’s day was a holiday conjured up by American Greetings and See’s Chocolates to boost sales.

And that was good enough for the communist in me.  Bring on the rage.

So here I am, almost 33 years old, sitting on my bed, alone again. Granted, this year I made an important decision to wake up alone this morning in the name of personal growth. Nevertheless, here I am drinking ONE cup of bay-leaf tea (helps your pooper shooter, try it). Looking over at the ONE empty can of diet soda I had with my meal last night, thinking about making ONE breakfast sandwich… and I’m perfectly content, alive, healthy, and on my way to having the cleanest colon on the eastside. 

This morning I woke up and told my 23 year old self that no, Lu, Valentine’s Day wasn’t a conspiracy against you invented by greeting card companies and chocolate manufacturers to make you feel more alone and grumpy. No one really knows who this St. Valentine is, actually. He was said to be a Catholic priest who secretly married Roman soldiers and their young lovers when the king outlawed marriages (single men fought better in wars, I suppose?). Others say he was a Catholic something or other who was jailed for something or other and on the eve of his execution, wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter, with whom he had the hots for, and signed it “your Valentine.”  

As you can tell, my historical facts may not be all that accurate but the point is that Valentine’s day has been celebrated for thousands of years. This is a fact – bitter, angry, raging, 23 year old Lu. People love each other on Valentine’s day – you old ninny. And being single on Valentine’s day doesn’t make you any MORE single than February 13th or February 15th, nor any other weekend in February when your coupled up friends go out and have dinners and conversations together, with or without you. So why should stuffed animals and mylar balloons make you feel anymore alone than on any other night that you are, physically, alone? You remember, those nights you sit in your booty shorts and t-shirt, eat weird crap and watch bad movies, fart and say “gah’damn I’m so glad to have some alone time.”

So it’s February 14, 2012 and this is my Dear John letter to hatin’ on love.

Dear John (aka 23 year old grumpy Lu),

Seeing people in love makes me believe in love. Watching my sisters get flowers makes me feel happy that the people I love have people who love them. Hearing my friends tell stories of how they received tokens of affection, with smiles on their faces makes me smile as well.

And while I may not have an enormous stuffed animal sitting on my chair – that I would probably put in storage tomorrow – I know that I am loved as well. I know this when I receive those early-morning messages that wish me a great day. When my friends care enough to share their feelings of gratitude toward the people in their lives, when I see my 73 year old father give my 72 year old mother potted flowers (they last longer), when the kids around me in all their little-kid enthusiasm trade hand-made cards, yeah, I feel the love.

So, so long, grumpy-puss. I don’t want you in my life anymore. I’m no longer scared of your Valentine’s bombs, your creeping feelings of self-pity and misery. Your “woe-is-me” ice cream buckets and empty bottles of wine. Be gone with you, bitter Betty, there’s no room for you inside my head. I don’t want to wallow in your mud anymore. If people want to give each other stuff, let them give each other stuff, because people like getting stuff like you like people telling you to have an awesome day. I’m going to love today, like I’m going to love tomorrow and everyone in my days to come. 

Hope I don’t see ya’ around anymore,
(almost) 33 year old Lu.

p.s. I know where you stashed your old love notes from high school, you hypocrite!

And so I say Happy freakin' day to you all. Make it awesome. No, make it freakin' awesome. Hell yeah. I'm loving all this love shit.