Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day Card From Me To You

I'm gonna find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we'll fill in the missing colors
In each other's paint-by-number dreams
And then we'll put our dark glasses on
And we'll make love until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We'll get up and do it again
Get it up again

-- Jackson Browne (The Pretender)

Here it is again everyone! Valentine's Day -- or, as I used to call it when I was younger: ValentiMe's Day. She only comes once a year, so get her while she's hot!

As has been well documented, I'm a crusty old codger when it comes to Christmas. That day has lost all semblance of meaning for me in recent years, with all the rampant capitalism, frenzied tourists, and gift obsession. So you'd think the same would be true about a sticky sweet day that celebrates love and romance. Particularly since I've been single longer than I care to mention.

But try as I might, I can't be cynical about Valentine's Day. I just can't. It's not in this Christmas Coot to bash The Day of Cupids and Hearts and Chocolates. I just can't join those V-Day haters, the black-wearing boycotters who want to turn the day into a funeral dirge. Why? Because I love Valentine's Day. Call me silly, call me crazy, call me deluded, but I'm incredibly protective of this day and what it stands for. Whether I'm involved with someone or not, Valentine's Day always makes me feel optimistic and a little goofy. And I don't really know why, because I'm a cynical bastard when it comes to most things. I'm always looking for the angle, the agenda, who wants what, what's the real thing behind the fake thing. You'd think I'd throw Valentine's Day in with all the other hypocritical horseshit that flies around me on a daily basis. But I can't. I don't want to. (Why did Richard Gere screaming "I got nowhere else to GO!" in An Officer and A Gentleman just pop into my head?)

In my mind (or my heart, I should say), there's still something pure and innocent about Valentine's Day. It's a day about an ideal, of how we'd like things to be. It's a day about love, in all its happy forms. What's wrong with that? I'd like to know. So here I go....

The soft spot I have for V-Day originated in grade school, when I, like most of you, was introduced to it through the carefully orchestrated ritual of exchanging Valentine's Day cards with my classmates. Remember? It went something like this: You took a ginormous piece of white construction paper, folded it so that one end came up about two inches below the other, and then you stapled the left and right sides shut with something like 30 staples. Then you drew a cupid or another Valentine's Day-oriented picture on the front and wrote your name in the two-inch strip of space at the top. Then you taped the thing to the front of your desk, so that the top was open. This, my friends, was your Valentine's Day mailbox. Your conduit to love, so to speak.

At some point during the course of the day, most likely while you were still on your late morning snack high, your teacher would say: "Okay, now we're all going to exchange Valentine's Day cards!" And everyone in your class would gather up the 27 Valentine's Day cards that they wrote out on the kitchen table the night before, to make sure no one in the class was forgotten. My recollection is that these "cards" didn't even have envelopes. They were these flimsy pieces of paper that came in cellophane boxes of 24 or 36, which you just folded in half once you were done writing "Happy Valentine's Day" inside. The cards had boy or girl themes on them, and you bought them at the local drugstore. Ours was called "Freedom Drug." (How's that for a drugstore name? Kick ass.)

After your teacher gave the card exchange signal, you and everyone in your class would slowly walk around to all the desks in the classroom and slide Valentine's cards into each student's mailbox. Everyone got a card from everyone else (or was supposed to). This is so cheesy to admit, but I remember going home, pulling out the one or two cards I received from girls I liked, and then staring at them for an hour. In my head, I pretended that the cards they'd given to me held some special meaning. I'd read their generic words: "Happy Valentine's Day, T.!" or "Be My Valentine" -- words they'd most certainly written to every single one of my classmates, boy and girl -- and I'd squeeze every last delusion out it, like a drunken pirate ogling a treasure map.

Did anyone else do this?

It was all so innocent, how we treated each other on Valentine's Day back then. No one was left out. Everyone went home with a card from everyone else: kids you liked, kids you crushed on, kids you despised, kids you couldn't care about either way, everybody. For a day, it was nice. It was unity. It didn't matter that the whole thing was orchestrated. It just felt good.

So I think that's where my good feelings about Valentine's Day started. And surprisingly, they haven't died on the vine over the years, like so many other things. Go figure.

That's not to say I feel great about V-Day every year. Some years, it feels like nostalgic salt on a wound that's been open way too long. But that's the exception. Usually this day has an extra charge to it, an extra zing in the air that makes me feel that anything is possible, that anything can happen. And when you think about it, anything CAN happen, right? RIGHT?

So if you're single, lament this day not. Embrace it. Appreciate the love that you have in your life, the love of your friends and family, and breathe in that adrenalizing feeling of anticipation, of expectation that someone great is coming your way soon. Because they are. Don't be sad. Because for you and me, the excitement of meeting a stranger and unwrapping new love is still ahead of us. For us, the electricity of possibility, of hope, of bizarre and twisted sex, is in the future, not the past. Ask your married or attached friends if, for one day, they wouldn't trade their tired, complacent, and boring partner for the possibility of someone new, exciting, and different. Just for one day. Oh, they'll probably lie, but we both know what they'll really be thinking.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!


Sally Tomato said...

I love it too. I love the red and the hearts everywhere. Since February is such a shit month, it's nice to have everything all decorated and happy.

T. said...

Amen, my sister.

ollie1976 said...

Happy V-day to you as well.
and yes, I remember the grade school valentines very well!

Hank hendricks said...

like all the info you have shared...Do you have some Gift Card envelopes to share?