The most “traditional” Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had was when I was nine. There was this boy, Eddie Lock, and we had a bit of a thing. I mean when I say a thing, every time I looked at him he turned a cute shade of pink and he’d been giving me his best Pokémon cards in secret so that I could always win the tournaments. I mean really, that’s love.
It was Valentine’s Day 2003 when he marched across the playground with a bunch of freshly picked pink roses and gave them to me in front of all my friends. We giggled like a bunch of schoolgirls; literally. Then, it was my turn to go a cute shade of pink.
For weeks after, we held hands during lunch and recess and kissed each other on the cheek. We became really close friends and although I haven’t spoken to him in years, he holds a special place in my heart still to this day.
Fast forward 11 years and I’m running through the city in patent leather mules, with a bouquet of red roses. It must’ve looked romantic, because a middle-aged man shouted out to me as I ran across the road;
“Don’t want to keep the lucky man waiting! Happy Valentine’s Day!”
I didn’t love that he’d assumed my sexual identity (that’s a whole other article TBH), but it was a nice thought nonetheless. What I was actually running towards was work. The flowers were for our ‘Valentine’s Day Cocktail Degustation’ and I was dressed to the nines because I was the hostess at a fancy speakeasy cocktail bar.
Truthfully, I was dreading the shift. Not only did I feel a little down that I didn’t have a lover to run to, but V-Day events always have a way of making you feel cynical about relationships.
I’ll give you an example.
That night, at work, there was a couple who came in for the second sitting. The woman was dressed up in a tight white dress and heels with bouncy curled hair, and the dude looked like he’d been forced to wear a tie for the first time. After about half an hour of them being there (with absolutely no conversation taking place), there was this SMASH; glass breaking echoed throughout the whole venue. I looked over to where the sound had come from – their table – and the woman stood up, picked up her bag, stepped over the glass she’d smashed and stormed out the door.
I went over with a dustpan and broom. “Are you alright?” I asked the dude, as he was sitting there with a sort-of stunned mullet look.
“Yeah,” he replied into the distance, “It was bound to happen sooner or later.”
I wasn’t sure if he meant her storming out or a break up, but either way, I brought him shots and asked him if he wanted me to cancel her food and drinks. He said no, he’d have both their servings.
That wasn’t the first storm out/break up that night. Not to mention the couples that didn’t seem to have anything to talk about, or those that suddenly forgot how to have fun.
I remember thinking to myself that night, “what even is Valentine’s Day?”
And then I thought of Eddie.
That day in year three when he picked me roses, for me, was the truest form of what Valentine’s Day is. It’s the day you put your fears aside and you tell – or show – a person you love them! It’s just about showing gratitude and appreciation for the special people in your life and remembering that small gestures go a long way.
Relationships exist in every facet of our lives, with our family, our friends, our colleagues, ourselves. We feel such societal pressure to be in a relationship, and a successful relationship at that. But success means different things to different people. To some people, success is being single. A successful relationship shouldn’t only mean one with a significant other.
And then, buying someone flowers and taking them out to a fancy dinner doesn’t mean you’re in a “successful” relationship. Material things don’t prove anything to anyone, really.
I’ve never really had a traditional Valentine’s Day since those roses in 2003. Although I’ll always treasure that moment, my Valentine’s since have been a total mixed bag and weird and wonderful in their own way.
One year, I went to a V-Day party thrown by the guy I was dating. It was a pool party and everyone ended up naked and making out with each other.
Another year I went to a fancy restaurant with a guy who paid me to be his Valentine’s Day date. We ate oysters and laughed about what a nuisance love can be.
A few years ago, my Valentine was a girl.
Last year I drank mimosas in the park with a group of friends and we told funny date, relationship and sex stories.
This year, I have a boyfriend who I am very much in love with and I don’t know what we’ll do on the 14th. We might go to a gin market, we might have a picnic, we might drink Champagne in bed and we might do nothing at all. It seems like a strange day for a celebration, when you show your love for someone daily, to then have an actual day to do it x 10.
I think maybe we should see Valentine’s Day as a reminder to check in with ourselves, whether you’re in a relationship or not, and see where you’re at. Are you happy where you are? Do you want something different? It’s an opportunity to appreciate what you’ve got, to yearn for something different or simply to allow yourself some weird emotions.
Because let’s be honest, love is complicated. Loving yourself, loving those around you, loving society in an ever-changing world constantly churning with conflicts – it’s a lot.
Take the 14th as a day to be kind to yourself and to those that love you, whoever they may be.
And maybe drink a mimosa, or five.