One of my husband Rob’s oldest, best friends sent him a text early on the morning of Wednesday, February 12.
I’ll change his name to protect the not-so-innocent, and call him “James.”
“I don’t have a man for Friday,” James texted.
Friday, lest you forget, is Valentine’s Day. James is perpetually single and, usually, more than ready to mingle.
In typical fashion for my husband, Rob responded to James as only he could or would:
“You don’t have a man for Monday thru Thursday, either.”
After I finished laughing, I was prematurely reminded of a thought I have every February 14:
Why the hell do people make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day?
I’ve never quite been able to figure out why the majority of Americans buy into the unrealistically romanticized notion of Valentine’s Day. If you ask me, Cupid’s life work is woefully overrated. Anyone who’s ever slept with a snorer knows that sleeping alone can be bliss.
I’ll admit to having a sordid history with the holiday. While my older brother and both younger sisters showered Valentine’s Day cards and presents on my mother every year while we were growing up, I never did.
Never. Not even a Crayola-created masterpiece in kindergarten. Nada.
One year when I was in junior high school, I think, after my mother had endured several years of missing-in-action “Love, Your Son Michael” cards, Mom mustered up the nerve to ask me why I never gave her anything for V-Day.
I replied as only I could or would:
“Because you’re not my Valentine, Mom,” I calmly stated. “You should be Dad’s valentine.”
After Dad finished laughing, we moved on to dinner.
My mother and I have moved on to thousands of dinners during her 81 years on the planet, and she has never let me forget that Valentine’s Day conversation. But she’s not getting a card or phone call from me this Valentine’s Day, either.
Part of it is her birthday, which falls just a few days later. I always figured she could wait a couple of days for her cards, etc.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Mom like my luggage, but she is not my object d’amour. You’ve got to be doing quite a bit more for me than whipping up a bowl of oatmeal, or putting a roof over my head, to be my Valentine.
Remember Pepe Le Pew? That’s what I’ve always been talking about, if I’m going to make a big deal about Valentine’s Day.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve been married twice now. Rob and my first wife are the only two people who could ever count on hearing from me on Valentine’s Day. Rick James said it best:
Rob hates when I use the term “first wife” to describe my baby mamma. He says it implies that he’s more “wife” than “husband.”
My reply? It is what it is.
Now, one might question how someone who has been married for more than half of his life — albeit to multiple people — could be so disconnected to a holiday devoted to the illusion of romantic love. I’ll defend my stance using my questioned marital history as my primary defense: I’ve been successful at marriage because I’ve never taken Valentine’s Day seriously.
The first time around, my wife and I barely exchanged cards every year on February 14th, and never exchanged Valentine’s Day gifts. Our romantic, annual wedding night dinners? We spent them at Hardee’s. Yes, Hardee’s. Fast food chain Hardee’s. Here on the west coast, they’re called Carl’s Jr.’s.
That’s where we began things, having chowed down on a bag of burgers on our wedding night at a Hardee’s on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin. By the time we were finished, um…celebrating earlier that evening, we had missed our dinner reservation, and Hardee’s was the only place still open.
Over the years, we decided not to mess with success. And I, at least, always looked forward to our wedding night anniversary tryst, double cheeseburger, fries, and strawberry milk shake.
My first wife and I managed 13 mostly happy years together before calling it quits, our marriage having been a victim of two teenagers coming together before either really knew what we were doing.
I’ve since jumped the broom a second time, and things aren’t much different.
Rob and I have Valentine’s Day dinner at a cheap Chinese joint of our liking. He bro-posed on a Valentine’s Day years ago, down on one knee and everything, after a Chinese dinner in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sweet and sour chicken, with extra bell peppers. It took me well over a decade to say yes.
Each year, on Valentine’s Day, he’d ask again, and I’d say “I need a little more time.” I finally gave in after the Supreme Court brought the country into the 21st century. Almost two decades into our relationship, I give Rob a Valentine Day card only if I can find a cute one with Snoopy, his best buddy since childhood, on it. He calls me his “Woodstock,” ‘cause he says I’m shorter than him, and colored, and have fuzzy hair.
Our country’s fixation on Valentine’s Day is getting crazier every year. Have you heard of Galentine’s Day? I thought it was a typo on a sign at Target before I figured out it’s a modification to accommodate straight female friends who aren’t all boo’d up. Gal-entine’s. Get it?
What’s next? Palentine’s Day, for the straight guys? We already have that. If you doubt me, just go to any sports bar in the country during NCAA March Madness. (Go Blue!)
Now, in the spirit of full and total disclosure, I’ve always given my daughters Valentine’s Day cards. I started that practice decades ago, so my little ones never had to wonder whether some fuck up would acknowledge them. The two of them will always be Daddy’s valentines.
And Rob and I are going to see Johnny Mathis during Valentine’s Day weekend this year. But that’s more coincidence than anything else. I’d attend a Mathis concert on Armistice Day if the legend decided to take the stage anywhere near me on that day.
So I’ve never taken Valentine’s Day very seriously, even with two weddings and a marriage behind me. I try to love — and love on — my loved ones every day. That’s the way to go, without going overboard with the presents, the candy, the cards and stuff.
If we all did that, Hallmark wouldn’t be very happy, but our households and neighborhoods — let alone our checkbooks and credit ratings — would be all the better for it.
So Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope to see you at the corner Chinese joint.