We’re all the lucky ones

Because it was on a weekend this year, Valentine’s Day might have passed without me noticing if it weren’t for a few Facebook friends sharing photos of bouquets and festive table settings. Unlike some previous years, I wasn’t bitter or envious of those in a pair. Sure, it would have been nice to have someone be like, “SURPRISE! Here’s a first edition Lolita with a butterfly doodle on the title page. Now let me buy you a steak!” but I wasn’t aimlessly hurling frustration just because I don’t have a guy to buy me flowers and a card.

When I think of Valentine’s, I recall an album I heard a few years ago: Daughter’s “If You Leave.” It was a dark winter morning & I was getting ready for work and I decided to buy the album on Amazon on a whim. I was groggy, craving soft sheets, snuggles, and the adoration of someone else and the lyrics hit me in the gut.

And if you’re in love, then you are the lucky one,
‘Cause most of us are bitter over someone.
Setting fire to our insides for fun,
To distract our hearts from ever missing them.
But I’m forever missing him.

It was a melancholic day in my cubicle. I spent most of the day thinking of loves lost, envious of those lucky ones who took their companionship for granted. I missed the days of democratic valentines when I didn’t understand the holiday, I just knew I was going to get 28 poorly torn and folded cards from my classmates. In middle school when I actually did get the holiday, the first three weeks of February were a slow roasting hell, seeing the halls covered in advertisements for the carnation sale. I think I received two $1 carnations – both were from female friends whose generosity felt cruel because they weren’t boys. High school was where I started seeing that it wasn’t so much about love and affection as it was about the things guys bought girls. Since boys weren’t buying me anything, it was fortunate that it was cool to hate Valentine’s Day.

I had several vaguely memorable gifts Valentine’s Days that I can fondly recall; The lunch, latte, and bouquet from the produce boy. The blood red roses from Jon. My first Kindle & pearl studs from Bill. The Second City tickets from the professor. Last year’s dozen roses delivered at work after a first date.

What I hate most about Valentine’s Day is how reductive it is. That list isn’t representative of those relationships. They ranged from simple blushing and hormone-heavy infatuation to complex and sustained commitments. But somehow, whenever Valentine’s Day rolls around, the first thing that comes to my mind is all the previous February 14ths – not the relationships I was in at the time. It takes a while to recall how the produce boy made me blush every time he delivered a white chocolate raspberry latte from my favorite coffee shop – longer still to remember how badly I craved any sign of love from Jon and how deeply I celebrated any instance of affection. It’s somewhat easier to recall the easy tenderness Bill and I shared, and the thrill of the professor’s support of my hobbies.

I listened to “Youth” again the other day, and it didn’t hold the same sadness it once did. Instead of focusing on the lingering bitterness over someone, I consider myself lucky to have experienced such a range of love and despair. It means I’ve been able share myself with a person and he’s trusted me enough to share himself with me. A successful relationship isn’t necessarily one that ends in marriage and eternal commitment. A successful relationship can also be one of mutual discovery and growth. Even the relationships that ended badly were ones that lead to further self-awareness. It’s cliche, but it really is better to have love and lost than to have never loved at all.

While the ego bruise from Valentine’s Day might still be fresh for some readers, I still want to tell people to treasure wherever they’re at. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, don’t place any importance on this arbitrary day. Just treasure your moments and savor whatever you’re doing.

Vonnegut sums it up better than I can tonight: “We are here on earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.”

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Things I Inherited from My Father

  1. My left thumb. I think it’s technically called a clubbed thumb, but it’s much more charming to say that one thumb is my mom’s and one is my dad’s, right? 
  2. My hangovers. I envy people who can go into work hungover with their cute little headaches and grogginess. My hangovers are all-day puke fests. Saturday night, I went out for the first time in months. My apartment is just a few blocks from downtown, and I hadn’t taken advantage of my proximity since I moved in three months ago. I had two beers (one was an AMAZING creme brulee milk stout), a mixed drink (bartender thought I wanted a little lemonade with my vodka), and a jaggerbomb (bought for me by a boy I remember as a Jersey Shore character). Sunday morning, I woke up wanting to die. I spent all day in sweats, curled up in a blanket, taking frequent trips to the bathroom to get rid of my stomach contents. When I say all day, I’m worried you’re thinking that I mean till 2 or 3. I didn’t start feeling like a human until 7:30. I peed for the first time at 8pm. I ate my first and only meal at 8:30, and I was still a little worried I wouldn’t keep it down. After I recovered, I visited my parents and my dad told me that’s what his hangovers are like, which is why he never gets drunk. Smart man.
  3. My Sense of Humor. It’s crass. A bit abrasive and often sarcastic. I’ve tweaked it by adding a bit of self-deprecation. My dad might say, “Well, you just have to be smarter than what you’re working on.” I might say, “Well hell, I thought I was smarter than the thing.” We love tv shows like 30 Rock and Community – the twisted sort of sense of humor that’s a little obnoxious and meta.
  4. An Unwarranted Affection for Law & Order SVU. I know. it’s a terrible show. Each episode is essentially the same, the only variations are Munch’s one-liners and Elliot Stabler’s latest personal crisis. Once I start watching an episode, I must finish it. I have to see it to the gruesome end where the rapist gets away because of a technicality or the pedophile somehow tricked his way into getting immunity. If there’s a Law & Order marathon, it’s probably on my father’s television and he’s probably playing solitaire on his computer while half watching Ice-T get melodramatic with a uncooperative teenager.
  5. My Need to Plan Things. I like to know the game plan for things, even if it’s just a guess. What time should I expect my friends for dinner? Where will I meet you after work? What is happening for dinner? This is also closely tied to my impatience. If I say I’m going to pick you up at 7:30, be ready and waiting at 7:25. If I’m going to meet you at 5, I’ll probably show up at 4:45. I like to have a little breathing room in case I run into a problem.

Best father/mechanic/confidant a girl could ask for

I have to say, of all the things I got from my father, I could definitely do without the hangovers.