Updated Dec, 13th 2012
John and I, we aren't good at Valentine's Day. I would like to say that this is more his fault than mine, and while he may have started it, after all these years I have now succumbed to my fate; I have sunk down into it like a child finally settles into a pew at church, sliding low on the wood seat and staring blankly at the hymn books in front of him.
Our first Valentine’s Day together, he went skiing with his friend, bringing me home a six pack of beer. In his defense, it was Guinness, my favorite beer, and when I took it from his outstretched hand and set it down, coolly, on the counter and then walked upstairs, this is precisely what he yelled out after me.
It was not so much that I wanted a real Valentine’s Day – with the roses and the chocolate and whatnot – and was not so much that I was playing games and intended for him to guess that when I said the day did not matter, what actually meant was “surprise me with enough sickly sweetness to make Hallmark blush.”
It was more that when I had said we did not need to make a big deal of the day, I simply had not wanted him to instead make a mockery of it. And that is precisely what he did.
By the second Valentine’s Day, he had gotten a little better. He bought me a rug.
And not a pretty rug or a charming little welcome mat for the front door, or something frilly for the bathroom (not that that was what I would have wanted), but an area rug. Beige. Because our dog, Boon, had shit all over the original one, and had rendered it sufficiently stained to replace. We went shopping on February 14th – again, the day was almost meaningless to us – and when we brought it home from Bed Bath and Beyond, Dave dropped it on our hardwood like a dead body and announced into the room, at nobody in particular but most certainly at me: “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
The third year, I thought I would be a little more proactive about the day and, now a few years into the relationship, felt ready to celebrate it in style. I cooked a whole meal – three or four courses, including dessert, which was a lot of cooking for a non-skilled chef. I even wore little lacey things – the best kind; the kind that come at a three-digit price for the set and are worn not more than once – under my sweater dress, just to show him, in case he had missed all the media references all these years, exactly what “romance” can mean for him.
After dessert, when we were both still drinking wine, I leaned over and made my move. This was it! – the Valentine’s Day to end our bad wave of Valentine’s Days, the one to scrap our scrappy history and start new. He got the hint, luckily, and after a few minutes, we moved our wine into the bedroom, where we promptly abandoned it on the nightstand. Just as we were working our way to a little more lace and a little less sweater dress, though, he suddenly sat up and said, “I should call my parents.”
And as I pulled back to stare at him in very real shock, he took that opportunity to get back out of bed and give them a ring.
That was the last time I tried to force the idea of romance on him. This past year, we went back to our roots: he got me a vacuum, which I actually love, thankyouverymuch. And, all things considered, I had long grown to relinquish the fantasy of us having a Valentine’s Day by the time we found ourselves at the grocery store on the morning of the 14th.
Browsing, he suddenly stopped. He looked at me, pointing to a display of wine bottles. He asked if I want a bottle of "Valentine's Day" rosé. I laughed, then declined.
"But, look" he countered, "it's on sale!" So we got it.
I had bought him a large mirror. It was mostly just because I wanted to get it, but partly as a lingering hope of the holiday. It was to cover up two holes left in the bathroom wall by the owner's wall fixtures, which were a perpetual source of his frustration. He got tasked with hanging it.
He got out his toolkit. And, given the nature of the task at hand, subsequently wanted to drink a beer. We didn’t have any. So I instead offered him the rosé.