Oh, Valentineâ€™s Dayâ€¦wingÃ©d harbinger of bitternessâ€¦
The past several years, Iâ€™ve tried to anticipate you and come up with a sensible way to counteract you, thereby maybe enjoying â€“ or at least enduring — the Day of Loveâ€¦but, sadly, nothing has proven particularly effective â€“ not sending cards to my nieces and nephew; not â€œgoing out with the girlsâ€¦â€; not baking heart-shaped treats for my coworkers.
But I think this year I have finally cracked it! And, I mean, I may be getting cocky again and Monday morning will find me curled up in a ball on my bathroom floor after drinking an entire bottle of pink champagne by myselfâ€¦butâ€¦with 48 hours to go, Iâ€™m feeling pretty good about my 2010 Valentineâ€™s Day Plan.
But, firstâ€¦a brief history:
I feel like this is the one holiday that really gets it right in elementary school and everyone has to bring in cards for everyone else. No one is left out. No one feels unloved or unwanted. Everyone goes home with a heart-shaped envelope full of cards and candy. (I can remember carefully scrutinizing my valentines while addressing them to ensure the boys in my class got the least sentimental onesâ€¦lest they get the wrong impression and think I harbored any genuine feelings for themâ€¦)
But then I grew up and got a job and started going to work on February 14 (or thereabouts)â€¦and walked into offices that looked like veritable floristsâ€¦and knew, year after year, that the only sign of life on *my* desk would be the countless knickknacks and office supplies that were there 365 days a yearâ€¦and as much as Iâ€™d like to be a big person and to be happy for everyone else, letâ€™s face it â€“ after X goddamn years, itâ€™s hard to grit your teeth and smile and think, â€œThatâ€™s so nice for you! I am happy that you are having a happy Valentineâ€™s Day!â€ and actually mean itâ€¦and not, you know, shoot laserbeams out of your eyes at her while youâ€™re doing it.
Soâ€¦this clearly promulgated my Overtly Anti-Valentineâ€™s Day Phaseâ€¦in which any canoodling couple was subject to my wrath. Butâ€¦letâ€™s face it â€“ itâ€™s not fun to be angry at the whole entire worldâ€¦and, truth be told, I really like holidays. (My aunt bought me a decorative plate that says, â€œHappy Everything!â€ and includes a montage of every Christian holiday from Valentineâ€™s Day to Christmasâ€¦and it is prominently displayed on a bookcase in my apartmentâ€¦)
And I admit that I *did* enjoy learning that Valentineâ€™s Day is rooted in a pagan ceremony that involved slapping young women with strips of animal flesh after a ritual sacrifice while I was researching a story for another Web siteâ€¦but I honestly donâ€™t want to be the Valentineâ€™s Day Grinch. (Plus, I was really excited about busting out my Valentineâ€™s Day spatula and my Valentineâ€™s Day dishtowels and my Valentineâ€™s Day potholder this year. So any grinchiness on my part would be disingenuous.)
I will never forget the Valentineâ€™s Day I worked for a popular lifestyle magazine in Midtown. I was carefully hidden away in an area adjacent to the conference rooms that was affectionately (â€¦or not so muchâ€¦) labeled â€œIntern Alley.â€ Butâ€¦it was also remarkably close to the Editor-in-Chiefâ€™s office (and, therefore, her assistant). And I found her assistant incredibly intimidating because she was one of those women who was drop-dead gorgeous and had amazing clothes and was super-confidentâ€¦and, you know, I feel like thereâ€™s some justice in the world when women like that are really dumb or trapped in loveless marriages or whateverâ€¦but this woman â€“ weâ€™ll call her Genevieve â€“ could speak French. Flawless French. Her phone would ring and she would pick up and fire away en francais as if we were working in Paris or something.
Soâ€¦it was no surprise to me on Valentineâ€™s Day that year when a mail room guy appeared at her desk with a giant box of flowers.
â€œOh, look! My boyfriend sent me flowers!â€ Genevieve cooed.
And thenâ€¦merely an hour or two later, another box appeared.
â€œOh, look! My ex-boyfriend sent me flowers!â€ she trilled again.
I began to quietly seethe in Intern Alley.
And thenâ€¦the coup de grace â€“ the Editor-in-Chief returned from lunch with a huge spread of peach roses (which, according to various Web sites, mean anything from appreciation and desire to modesty) that she bestowed upon Genevieve, declaring, â€œHappy Valentineâ€™s Day, Gen! These are for youâ€¦because you are my Valentine!â€
(For a brief period, I thought this meant she was unmarriedâ€¦and I had this enormous amount of respect for her [â€¦and even a tiny girlcrushâ€¦] because I thought it meant she had scaled the masthead solo and found herself with huge editorial prowess at the head of magazine with millions of monthly readers. But then June rolled along and she featured a Fatherâ€™s Day spread with her husband and daughterâ€¦and I realized sheâ€™s just another wifeâ€¦and was frankly kind of disappointedâ€¦)
So, I mean, the moral of this story is that I understand that beautiful, perfect, well-dressed, well-spoken women inspire flowers on Valentineâ€™s Day. It makes perfect sense. But what I donâ€™t understand is how one of these beautiful, perfect, well-dressed, well-spoken women can inspire three dozen flowersâ€¦and I canâ€™t conjure up the inspiration for a single measly bud. Am I really that ugly and imperfect and ill-clothed and tongue-tied? Or, if not, is the universe really just that mean? (I used to also quietly seethe when walking by delis in my neighborhood that had flowers out frontâ€¦and it was kind of a big moment in my coming-of-age or whatever when I realized that if I wanted flowers, I didnâ€™t have to wait around for Mr. Wonderfulpantsâ€¦but could rather buy them for myselfâ€¦which was maybe even better as I could pick out the precise bouquet I wantedâ€¦)
Because, you seeâ€¦other than the bouquets my mother bought me when I graduated high school and college (and a bouquet I sent to myself at work once to make a coworker jealous), I have gotten flowers exactly two times before: Once at work after giving my business card to a weird little man at a bar in Jersey Cityâ€¦who sent them with a note that read, â€œFrom, Patrickâ€¦â€ and I had no idea who they were from until he began calling my work number obsessively to see if I got themâ€¦and while I thought that if I ignored him long enough, he would eventually give upâ€¦I had to finally give in and answer the phone and tell him I had a boyfriend to make him go away.
The other time I received flowers from someone not related to me by blood was when I actually *did* have a boyfriendâ€¦but I had to sit him down ahead of time and say, â€œValentineâ€™s Day is coming up. You need to buy me flowersâ€¦or I am going to get mad.â€
I was so excited to actually be in love that yearâ€¦that I sort of pulled out all the stops with the card that I made for him. I had loved Javier Lopez â€“ the former catcher for the Atlanta Braves (â€¦I lived in Atlanta in the mid-to-late â€˜90sâ€¦) â€“ for years and yearsâ€¦and the Boyfriend sort of took issue with my obsessionâ€¦and so for Valentineâ€™s Day, I took an image of Javy and turned him into Cupid and then wrote something about how, you know, I had loved Javy for years and yearsâ€¦but now that I had the Boyfriend, I didnâ€™t really need Javy anymore because I had another person in my life to love. I thought it was poignant and sweet and I couldnâ€™t think of a better way to say, â€œHappy Valentineâ€™s Day!â€
Butâ€¦sadly, the Boyfriend read it and took it in for a moment and then looked at me totally bewildered and said, â€œYou think Iâ€™m good at baseball?â€
(In his defense, he was English. Soâ€¦perhaps there was some sort of cultural disconnect?)
Nevertheless, making cards still makes me happy. I sent out one with my cat for the holidays â€“ one of those photo cards that people usually send out with their significant other and/or their children. I decided it would be funny if I embraced my Lonely Girl image and sent a â€œFrom Our House to Yoursâ€¦â€-card with my cat. (One friend called it â€œhilariously empoweringâ€¦â€ which I realized is really the only thing I have ever aspired to be in my lifeâ€¦so I was pretty thrilled.)
Soâ€¦since the holiday card went over so well, I really wanted to do another one for Valentineâ€™s Day. And while I could get away with using the cat for the holidays, I really didnâ€™t want to firmly establish a precedent. Plus, I mean, itâ€™s Valentineâ€™s Day. I like my cat, butâ€¦câ€™mon.
Soâ€¦a proverbial seed was planted and I began thinking about what I could for Valentineâ€™s Day. And then I donâ€™t know how or when I remembered it, butâ€¦at some point last year, I read Julia Childâ€™s â€œMy Life in France.â€ Andâ€¦I guess Julia and Paul liked sending out Valentineâ€™s Day cards as there was a whole section in the middle of the book with images of the various valentines they sent out over the yearsâ€¦and there was one in particular in a bathtub that I just loved. And when I remembered it, I really, really, really wanted to use it. The problem, however, is that Paul Child is in the photo. And while I could easily superimpose my head on Juliaâ€™s body, I didnâ€™t know how to deal with Paul. Soâ€¦I started thinking about which men I could use in Paulâ€™s place. In theory, there was Javyâ€¦but that seemed a little old and tired. Andâ€¦I also thought that I could pick a girlfriend and glue *her* face on Paulâ€™s bodyâ€¦but, while potentially empowering again, it seemed a little weird.
Soâ€¦I was stuckâ€¦until I remembered Tucker Max. And I donâ€™t really know where it came from in my head as Iâ€™ve never read the book or seen the movieâ€¦but, seemingly from nowhere, I recalled the movie poster for â€œI Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,â€ and the â€œYOUR FACE HERE,â€ on the girlâ€™s body. Et, voila. My Valentineâ€™s Day card was born.
I wish I knew Photoshop and/or had access to it as I feel it would have turned out better with, you know, seamless integration and whatnotâ€¦but, as it stands, Iâ€™m pretty pleased with the end result. (Andâ€¦looking handmade = love? Maybe?)
Iâ€™m not going to lie â€“ it would make me pretty happy to wake up on Sunday and find one of these on my doorstep (â€¦but not from a weird little man who lives with his parents in Bayonne and calls obsessively for weeksâ€¦)â€¦but, bar that, I think it makes me happy to send these images out into the world and spread a little Valentineâ€™s Day joy. Soâ€¦see? Maybe Iâ€™m not such a bitter Betty after all.
Iâ€™ll even say it: Happy Valentineâ€™s Day!
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