For as long as I can remember, I have been the Scrooge of Valentine's Day. I hate watching the girls pick through the Hallmark cards at the drugstore, searching for one that sends the perfect message to their guy. I loathe the boys I see carrying bouquets and the surprised looks their girlfriends feign. And I especially detest the couples at restaurants, reaching across tables to hold each other's hands. Ba humbug!
I think my aversion to the holiday began in the ninth grade, when my school held its annual Valentine's Day rose sale. Everyone put in their orders a couple weeks in advance. On the day the flowers arrived, I saw girls walking through the halls with three, six, and even a dozen red, long-stemmed roses. "This one's from Hunter, this one's from Billy, and these two are from Garrett," I heard one say in fourth-period Biology.
I, however, got zilch.
For the next three years, my friends and I made sure to order a couple for each other, but I never quite got over the humiliation.
To add insult to injury, it seems that every February, my prospective valentine becomes what one friend has dubbed "an almost situation."
My latest was no different: It began with a chance encounter at my corner sushi place. I couldn't believe my luck! He was brilliant, funny, attractive, and had what I imagined to be an exciting career ahead of him. Soon, I started to fantasize about a relationship: weekend getaways, introducing him to my parents, meeting his friends, going to parties and being "that couple" on the dance floor.
There was just one small problem: he wanted no part of it. And he didn't beat around the bush: "I'm an asshole," he told me matter-of-factly. A red flag, perhaps? Still, I clung to the fantasy that he was trainable.
Finally, to the relief of several confidants who could no longer bear the tales of his jerky-ness, the phone calls stopped coming and the flirtatious emails tapered off. At first, I reasoned that he was simply going through a busy period at work; he'd call as soon as he got out from under, I figured. But when a half-hearted apology email explained that his apartment renovation was sapping all his free time, I knew it was over. (If a man's Formica counter is more important than picking up the phone, you know you're not very high on his priority list.)
As Cole Porter once crooned, "It was just one of those things."
But while I may be a man-less once again this Valentine's Day, I most certainly will not be date-less, thanks to a miracle that took place last year: I actually had a good -- no, great -- Valentine's Day.
A few weeks before V-Day '08, I met Jess, a freelance commercial producer/politico/budding food critic at a writer's group. Over dinner the following week, she asked if I had any Valentine's plans.
"You mean, besides eating candy hearts and sulking?" I asked.
As luck would have it, Jess was organizing an excursion to Max Brenner's, a restaurant in Union Square famed for its chocolate. Would I like to join?
On the night of the 14th, we congregated near the bar. Jess had invited a few girls, and I brought my friend Liz. Not long into the evening, we realized that we had much more in common than our inexplicable single-hood. We were all in creative fields (publishing, TV, advertising, communications), all hailed from outside the city, all considered chocolate-covered pizza an ingenious idea. Throughout dinner, we exchanged the trials and tribulations of our dating misadventures, laughing until our entire bodies ached.
Many chocolate martinis later, we reached the consensus that we were a pretty fabulous bunch -- that we felt nothing but pity in our hearts for the boys who were missing out on us.
"Let's do this again," I was the first to chime in before we left.
And we did. Ever since, we've organized regular movie nights, parties, and outings to hot spots around town. We've become a sort of sisterhood -- each other's sounding boards, pep squads, and therapists.
Saturday, we're marking our one-year anniversary with a return to Max Brenner's. (For brunch this time, as several in the group have evening plans with new beaus.) One of the ex-singles, Emily, recently wrote us an encouraging email:
"After years of dating non-committal jerks, I'm finally in the best relationship of my life. For the longest time, I was convinced I'd end up a spinster (with dogs though, not cats). But it's funny, though, how when you meet the right guy, everything just clicks. I didn't spend time wondering if Sam would call me or if he meant it when he said he liked me. He called and he did. We have our ups and downs and disagreements, but we work through them. When Sam starting telling me he loved me a few months ago and continued to tell me every day since, I couldn't believe I ever settled for anything less."
Relief: there are some good ones out there, after all.
Much has changed in the past year, including my attitude. For starters, I am no longer jealous of the girls who receive roses and chocolates in candlelit rooms.
They may have one valentine, but happily, I have seven.