Most holidays stay the same from year to year, but not Valentine’s Day. She’s a rebel. One year she might be a happily anticipated, circle-the-calendar, make-you-write-poetry kind of day, and the next year she can become a dreaded, pointless Hallmark holiday that exists solely to humiliate you.
I never gave Valentine’s Day enough power to make or break how I felt about love, but I would be lying to pretend like the holiday wasn’t an annual reminder of the state of my love life. Given the day is somewhat unaffectionately known as “Singles Awareness Day,” I imagine I’m not alone in this annual contemplation. This year, I feel great about love; two years ago … well, I don’t remember how I felt, exactly, but it required some optimism. It’s hard to believe how quickly that can change. Love, as you’d expect from something so difficult to understand or quantify, is usually surprising and unexpected.
Valentine’s Day this year marks 17 months to the day that Mollie and I first met. We had been talking through an online dating site and arranged to meet at a bakery in Lakeview. We had a nice conversation and went our separate ways. We didn’t see each other again for two weeks. That day ended as unremarkably as it began, yet love had ever so mysteriously started to weave itself into our lives.
Mollie asks me from time to time why I love her. It’s a simple question, and I imagine many women (and men) like to be reminded every so often why their significant other thinks they’re special. The moment I hear it, my mind runs through the reasons like a computer through data, but nothing comes out my mouth. I know the reasons; I can parse them out as needed, but in the heat of the moment, there isn’t just one all-encompassing answer. So for the time being, and to not seem like I’m ignoring her, I’ll usually say something like, “because I feel it.”
Bad answer, I know. She usually lets me get away with it because she trusts me, but we have been talking a lot lately about couples who say, “I just knew so-and-so was the one,” “it was love at first sight,” “I felt it in my bones” and other variations on identifying someone as your soul mate. As the couple who met for the first time and barely talked to each other for two weeks (in fairness, those two weeks encompassed the High Holidays), that’s not us. All I “knew” was there was promise; that at the end of each of our first dates, I didn’t want it to be the last. Maybe that’s the exact same “I just knew” instinct, only less conscious and objectively less exciting.
We’ve heard these phrases that describe what love is supposed to feel like all our lives. We’ve often conditioned ourselves to believe that we’ll feel and think that exact way when we meet and fall in love with that “special someone.” Mollie and I have had to face these notions, stand our ground and believe in our relationship and story even though “met online, waited a bit, and slowly started seeing each other more often” doesn’t fit with popularized, mainstream portrayals of romance.
In this sense, it would be contradictory for us to celebrate the queen of popularized, mainstream love – Valentine’s Day. We have the perfect excuse to be Valentine’s renegades – to honor our two-years-ago selves by defying the holiday’s enforcement of non-platonic, heterosexual love and not caving in to its trite customs. In fact, we’re kind of doing that this year, albeit inadvertently. Mollie received a rare babysitting opportunity for a sleepy infant (i.e. gold to a grad student) and I have permission to come with, so we are going to just relax and make fish tacos – romantic fish tacos.
But what’s wrong with taking one extra (albeit overly designated) day each year to go out of your way to express to someone you love that you still do? We all need reminders on occasion to go above and beyond for the ones we love – because they’re worth it. For people like me, who struggle to find the right words to say in the small, spontaneous moments, Valentine’s Day is a relief. It’s an opportunity to think about and plan out how I can express to those I love that I truly do in the way they deserve to see, hear and feel the other 364 days a year.
So to answer your question, Mollie, there are countless reasons why I love you. You’ll find 50 of them in your room when you get back home. Along with some chocolate (I’m not stupid).
Happy Valentine’s Day.