I’m totally in love with my husband, even though last Friday night he let our nine-year-old stay up until 11:00 so they could watch a special episode of INFESTATION about fire ants that lay eggs in humans, despite the fact that everyone knew she would have nightmares for the next eight months.
“Mommy,” my daughter said gleefully, “This is so scary! I’m so scared! DADDY SAYS I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO SLEEP!!!”
I glared in their general direction as my husband called, “Come join us! We’re having family time!” That night in bed, I had the urge to pour a glass of water over his head. I had never felt that before, just the urge to dump something cold and bracing on his head. I didn’t do it, because I love him, which of course got me thinking about Valentine’s Day.
Before I met my husband, I dreaded the holiday, in the fine tradition of single women everywhere. I read magazine articles that urged me to pamper myself. So I got sad pedicures. I bought bitter chocolate. My single friends and I hung out and baked despondent cookies. February 14th was all about thwarted expectations and dashed hopes and wallowing in my wretched, wretched singleness, which wasn’t particularly wretched the other 364 days of the year, but nonetheless! Valentine’s Day had certain connotations. It was, in a way, about celebrating misery, and if you looked at it that way, you could kind of enjoy it. Then I met the man I would one day marry, and there followed a couple of years of mid-February romance, of flowers and chocolates from an actual boyfriend instead of my parents. Strangely, though, I always felt like I was phoning it in.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she had booked a babysitter for February 14th, and I thought, “Why?” I imagined her and her husband sitting across from each other at a candle-lit table, clinking wine glasses, and I snickered to myself. Corporate dupes! Suckers! Then I fell into a guilt spiral. What’s wrong with me that I can’t appreciate other people’s sincerity?
Maybe it’s this, the question that lurks under the ambivalence: how is a holiday that makes you feel so awful for so long supposed to suddenly make you happy just because you land the elusive romantic prize? If I converted to Christianity after 42 years of being Jewish, would I suddenly start deliriously enjoying Christmas? Probably yes, but Valentine’s Day is stupid. We should reject it, much the same way Brangelina won’t get married until marriage is legal for everyone. We should jettison Valentine’s Day like an infestation of fire ants until everyone who wants a romantic partner has one, or until nobody does. Either way, it’s the right thing to do.
But I do like a holiday, so I’m going to start celebrating February 15th, when romance is no longer in the air: when the weather is cold, the streets are dirty with slush, and the chocolate is half-price.