I always know when Valentine’s Day is coming because I start getting a crap-ton of PR emails with ridiculous advice on “frugal V-Day suggestions” and “tips for dating when you’re a baby boomer.” Most of these pitches are laughable – watch Steel Magnolias? Because Hotel Rwanda wasn’t available? Some of them have nothing to do with V-Day at all – I’m looking at you, lube companies.
But regardless of whether or not I want to write about “how to get over a Valentine’s hangover,” (?!) V-Day is one of those holidays that’s impossible to ignore. It’s also a holiday that’s not really a holiday at all, like New Year’s Eve, but one that is heavily loaded with expectations and pressure. What once was a day with simple sentiments is now awash in anxiety to find the perfect gift, the perfect restaurant, the perfect words to express your devotion, etc. (Sidenote: I can’t help with the first two things, but here are some really excellent queer love poems from The Poetry Foundation).
There are many, totally valid reasons to neg on Valentine’s Day. The crass consumerism. The whole “I don’t need Hallmark to tell me when to love my girlfriend” camp. The fact that V-Day shoves a lot of crap reminders at single people who don’t need reminding that they are single. And so on.
But instead of viewing V-Day as another excuse to feel bitter or entitled, I urge you to take this day to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Any loved ones. All of them. Call your parents, your grandparents, your second cousin twice removed. Email your friends. Text your old teacher, the one who first taught you that Lord Byron was a big homo. Send a letter or card to your awesome coworker who always brings donuts to staff meetings. The point is we are where we are, and if we have to live in the world anyway we might as well make it better for as many people as possible, instead of bemoaning what we don’t have, or being envious of what others do have.
I’m spending this Valentine’s Day alone, but not really because I’ll be with one of my exes and dearest friends. She was the last girl to break my heart. This, strangely, made me think of Melissa Etheridge (stay with me for a minute). You know the song, “Come to My Window” (Of course you do)? In her autobiography, which I read while I was dog-sitting for my lesbian high school teacher and her partner, which is possibly the gayest sentence I’ve ever written, Etheridge talked about that song. She said that she wrote it when she was away from her lover, Julie, and could sense their relationship slipping with the distance and time. The door was a metaphor for connection. They couldn’t connect the easy way; they had to meet another way, which is where the window came in in. I was thinking about that and how the relationship with my ex/dear friend has changed. The door for us as lovers has long since shut, but then we found a window. There are so many of these alternate paths available to us if we are courageous enough to look for them. If we stop gripping the locked doors so hard.
I was thinking, too, about my mom, who recently told me about her most romantic Valentine’s Day experience. Her father, my grandfather, was dying. She and my step-dad were on their way to the hospital in Phoenix to help my grandmother, who was so arthritic and heartbroken she could barely walk. When they stopped at a gas station, my step-dad bought a package of peanut M&Ms. He presented this offering to my mom some hours later, after the grief and exhaustion had worn her thin. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said. “Oh,” my mom replied. “I didn’t even realize what day it was.”
What’s your most memorable Valentine’s Day? How do you plan on showing your loved ones how important they are to you?
p.s. Want to know how to get over someone? Read the piece I wrote last Valentine’s Day.
p.p.s. If all this doesn’t cheer you up, go read the Hey Girl Rachel Maddow Tumblr.
p.p.p.s: This is pretty great too.
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.