Dinner For One

Valentine’s Day is this week. ARE YOU READY?

Someone said this to me today when I was picking up my kids from tennis. I smiled and nodded, and said “what about you?!”

In reality, I should have said “Dafuq? Ready for WHAT?”

Valentine’s Day, traditionally, is a huge disappointment for me. Most years, my husband is at work. Since he works nights, that means my idea of a sexy weeknight outfit is stained yoga pants and my MOM AF t-shirt with a gaping hole under the left armpit, and last week’s spilled rice still stuck to the chest.

There’s also the simple fact that I don’t particularly give a shit about commercial holidays, Valentine’s Day being one of them.

I guess my disappointment actually comes from the fact that I feel like I’m expected to care – a lot – about the vacuous, mundane celebration of love, when in actuality I just don’t. Sorry! I don’t.

I get weary of always feeling like I have to explain or answer to people just why I am the way I am, or of having to justify my feelings. I don’t owe anyone anything, including – and especially – an explanation of who I am. Yet still, I have an entire deck of excuse cards, always ready to pull out for why I don’t what others do.

And as with many commercialized holidays, there is also the obvious: why do I need a special day to remember or honor or celebrate something I should be doing *every day?*

[Cue the high horse.]

This isn’t to be confused with the celebration of Valentine’s Day with my kids. I am all over that shit. Any opportunity to use colloquialisms and special events to teach them how to show people that you love or care for them, I’m all for it.

What I do for Valentine’s Day with my kids is pretty basic, too. I buy a gift bag for each of them, and slowly – over the course of about a month – fill it with things I see while I’m out that make me think of them, know they’ll like, or that I think they need. When the bag is full, it gets topped off with tissue paper and, vóila.

Then, on Valentine’s Day, I make our meals V-Day themed. Because it’s fucking cute.

As the years go by, and my kids get older, though, they become less and less impressed with the commercialism of it as well. That, I believe, is in large part due to the fact that you can’t go anywhere without the holiday being shoved down your throat.

Honestly, CVS: I’m looking at you.

I’m trying to then gear it more towards teaching them to give gifts that have personal meaning. An old necklace I had to pass on, a card that’s just silly, or something I saw while out that was only $1 but made me think of them. Arguably the most commercial of all holidays, Valentine’s Day seems an opportune time to teach gift giving sans commercialism.

So when I first met my husband, it was just before Valentine’s Day, and I will never forget his rant about how much he loathed the material aspect of it all (ironic given my husband’s propensity to acquire stuff, but we’ll save that for another post)…

Being the late stage millennial hipster that I am, and not knowing how much of a hoarder of things he really was yet, I ate that shit up. Ate it with a spoon.

I, too, had a deep disdain for The Man, and all of the ceremonious, faux holidays that came with it! What a match we were – we had so much in common philosophically!

That year, on Valentine’s Day, we agreed that we would hang out anyway and not be – like – romantic. But we were planning to hang out anyway, and it just happened to be Valentine’s Day, and we had to eat so we should probably cook too. Definitely not a Valentine’s Day thing though because fuck The Man.

[Cue the second face.]

(A little side anecdote for you guys: having also had a conversation about how my unbeknownst husband-to-be had never had Macaroni and Cheese with BBQ sauce mixed into it before; I, trying to be coquettish, said “well I’ll just make it for you on Valentine’s Day then.” We did hang out that day and made mac and cheese. And if you guys really want to know how intolerable this whole thing became, when I showed up he said he thought it would be REALLY ARTISANAL if we added some red onion and FAKEN BACON, which he had pre chopped just assuming I would be fine with such a culinary abomination, quite obviously a portends to what was to come in our marriage no doubt. I know, you guys… I know…)

Anyway, so then we got married and suddenly it was like: okay yeah, but married people do Valentine’s Day, and they like it. So we thought: well, shit, if other people do it and like it, we probably should too.

The first year, we went on a fucking gondola ride in the swampy canals of Long Beach. Name me something more cliche to do on Valentine’s Day than that, I’ll wait…

[Cue the crickets.]

To this day, it remains to have been the most uncomfortable and awkward two hours of my life. I mean the boat was cool and all, but the guy doing the paddling sang while looking directly into our eyes, with a really weird I’m-borderline-sexual-about-this-song-and-paddling-gig, then turned and said he would “give us privacy.” All the while, dirt bags and homeless people were hanging out along the canal waterfront; one guy so drunk he repeatedly belched, seemingly in tune with our gondola guide’s song, which at that point had turned into something of a rhythmic, hip-thrusting chant. Towards the end, a lady and man in matching tight-fitting speedos and muscle shirts paddle-boarded past us, screaming at each other.

For years, we tried. Well, I tried. Or at least, tried to get on board. My husband always got home from work super late, pretending to be all stressed out because he got “stuck in traffic” (he had really just worked late like he always does). I would make a romantic meal, or I actually put on makeup for once, and then I would sit there – the doting wife – tapping my toe while I waited for him to get home.

It was so ridiculous.

One year we went out to a Japanese restaurant and I ordered this sautéed edamame dish that was so goddamned good I basically woofed it down like a pig with a feed bag on her face.

The next year, I saw a Groupon for a pearl necklace and was convinced that I needed those pearls. So my husband got them for me, but there was also a big Lakers game on that night so he threw them in my general direction as he made a beeline for the TV to turn on the game.

Then he started working overnights, and Valentine’s Day sort of just faded away.

I’m certain he has gotten me cards, either at CVS or one he printed off the Internet, typed message and all, since then. But every year it has been less and less of an effort. This year, I am firmly expecting not even an acknowledgment of the day.

To be honest, it has been a relief. That is, until I started feeling like people wanted an explanation as to why we didn’t celebrate as ostensively as possible.

The other day, we were celebrating my oldest daughter’s fifteenth birthday, and the topic of the swiftly approaching Valentine’s Day came up. Everyone was talking about their plans.

I was talking about my kids.

People were saying they had dinner reservations (for two), had special gifts coming in the mail, and my mother in law even said she and my father in law would be going on a boat cruise.

I said I would be making a cutesy dessert for my kids that night, and/or leaving them at home and making a dinner reservation for one since my husband will – obviously – be working. I was mostly joking; the truth was I would do the dessert and then binge watch You on Netflix (assuming I don’t finish the season beforehand).

In response, I got all these pity kind of faces. Like oh poor you, you’ll be so lonely, so sad, and so on.

Normally, I would start up my canned speech about how commercial and material Valentine’s Day is. I would blather on about the “why do I need a holiday to do what I already should be doing” sanctimonious speech I always give. And I would start up all the excuses I could fathom for why my husband and I ain’t doing shit at all.

This time, I didn’t go down that road, though. I just said: “I love myself enough to not need all of that.”

It cleared the room, and it’s true.

I don’t need my husband to buy me flowers (I buy them for myself), or candy (my tastes in candy change frequently, so it’s better that I pick out my own anyway). Cards are nice, but a couple of words in passing are just as good. I don’t need the fancy dinners and the boat rides and the romantic walks and the wine tasting limo rides to feel good about my place in my relationship and, more importantly, my life.

That may not be the case for everyone, but I think every relationship is different. For me and my husband’s, it works. And I’m done explaining it away because people just can’t accept that not everyone does what everyone else seems to do.

I’m perfectly happy and in love with my yoga pants and Mom AF t-shirt, stains and all. Don’t like it? Enjoy your gondola ride.


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