Every year, I I try not to blame Hallmark for the excessive quantities of pink hearts floating around retail stores come February. I try not to label St. Valentine’s Day a holiday institutionalized by older married women in order to make younger single women feel inadequate. I try not to reduce February 14th to an excuse to eat excessive quantities of dark chocolate and caramel.
Most years I fail — I eat thousands of calories worth of heart-shaped truffles, I shoot bitter stares at older couples, and I “accidentally” knock bags of Sweethearts off the drug store shelf and “accidentally” step on them.
I blame Katie and a boy named Tony for my general animosity towards the holiday.
In the 6th grade, a single carnation-gram arrived on my homeroom desk with a note “Love, your secret admirer.” I was appropriately tickled pink. I moved from social studies to earth science on a cloud — what joy! At dismissal, Katie confessed she had bough carnation-grams for all our girl friends. My little 11 year old balloon was burst.
Many, many, many years later, Tony would burst yet another heart-shaped bubble.
Of all our friends, we were the only two still single, and I confess that I was somewhat “in love” with him. When he suggested that we spend Valentine’s Day together, I took it as a sign he wanted to be more than friends. We agreed on casual, but when we ended up in a sports bar on “All You Can Eat Wing Night,” I wished I had worn my sports bra instead of the lacy push-up restricting the blood supply to my extremities. Midway through the evening, my toes were numb and a chunk of some frat-boy’s wayward vomit landed on my pink satin motorcycle jacket.
As Tony walked me home, we conversed by screaming, our ears still not adjusted to normal noise levels. We stopped on the stoop of my building and moved close together, our eyes full of intention and confusion. I don’t know how much time passed, but I’m sure we reached a world record for longest awkward pause. I eventually broke the stand-off with a kiss on the cheek and a g’night.
My bra had broken a rib, my jacket reeked of regurgitated chicken wings, and my “date” and I had loss our sense of hearing — it was the most romantic Valentine’s Day I had ever had.
I’m sure one day I’ll be over my February the 14th phobia and once again become lover of Valentine’s Day. But I doubt carnations and men named Tony will have anything to do with my recovery.