Perhaps it's the influence of Eric Klinenberg
and the body of evidence suggesting singledom is the new norm
. Perhaps it's that I have stopped believing in romance as the end-all, be-all of human relating. Perhaps it's all the years of living between when I was a young girl making cut-out valentine's cards, and now, when getting flowers usually means it's a birthday.
It can be hard to filter out the static. This morning's newspaper
was filled with sexy survey results and outlandish gift ideas; the past week has seen numerous websites list restaurant
, and chocolate
suggestions. I love eating out, I adore lingerie, I enjoy chocolate sparingly. No special occasions or dreary February days required. Or, for that matter, significant other.
It never used to be this way. In elementary school there were cards, cookies, candies. In high school there were cinnamon hearts one could send - anonymously, if one wished -with a special message. I sent mine to a boy named Dino who, unlike the big-hair-and-gold-chains style favored by other Italian boys at the time, was a skater punk who wore indie band shirts under his uniform and a seemingly-perpetual glower. He was in my best friend's homeroom. She noted, with glee, his saucer-eyed reaction as he opened my note and read my message; I'd cribbed a few lines of the then-popular George Michael hit "I Want Your Sex"
and had raunchily written them up in fancy red calligraphy. Poor Dino. He never guessed, and I never did reveal myself.
Years later, when I was living in Dublin, Valentine's Day approached and I wondered if there was some Irish standard for celebration.
"Pints," a co-worker said plainly, "but we don't try to make 'em red."
A favorite club was having a heart-themed night, however, and I finagled my way in, heart-less but hungry for some kind of male attention.
"Are you alone there, love?" one boy asked. He was missing his front teeth and his breath reeked of whiskey.
I was aghast. Is this the best I could do? Really? I managed to get away from him and do a bit of wiggling on the dance floor, but the night ended less dramatically than I'd hoped, with too many drunken boys falling over onto me and a cold, head-clearing walk through D1
. I didn't want romance or chocolate or champagne, i realized. I just wanted someone to talk to.
When I found myself living alone in a small town many years ago, I longed for my then-something-rather (mate? pseudo-boyfriend? lover?) to be near me, and for resolution to a painful, dramatic situation. All the hearts and chocolates and lovey-doveyness of the day seemed to laugh at my longing, my absolute failure to secure true, real, long-lasting love. Why did I always choose the wrong people? Valentine's Day was less about celebrating love than about wondering why it kept eluding me. All the pink and red heart displays in store windows mocked me and seemed to serve as a sickly-sweet reminder of what I couldn't - wouldn't have. The drama of romance - inherent within Valentine's Day celebrating - kept me wild and fierce and hungry for more extreme highs and lows, and I was encouraged by a pop culture unwilling to concede to the joys of female independence, or to claim it myself.
Those highs are addictive, but they're also exhausting, spiritually, emotionally, creatively. To borrow from Leonard Cohen
, this drunk in the midnight choir had to dry out. It was hard, and ugly, and decidedly unromantic, but that energy's finally found better outlets. And so, to today: there's the quiet tick-tick of the clock, a hot cup of Bewleys at hand, the slow poetry of falling snow through the window, and my fuzzy dog, asleep at my feet. I've found great people to talk to. I have a cellar-full of champagne and a drawer-full of lingerie. Love isn't dramatic anymore -it's calm, quiet, classy, and very kind. Dear Cupid, we're finished; close the door quietly as you leave.