roses and thorns

remembering valentine’s day

Let me begin with the absolute worst of clichés: I hate Valentine’s Day.

Freshman year, I thought my boyfriend (we’ll call him Max) was really cool. It turns out that he wasn’t (sorry), but the sort of unadulterated adoration that led to this conclusion was emblematic of the stage of infatuation we were at when Valentine’s Day rolled around. We had been together officially a scant three months, but he had just told me he loved me a few weeks earlier, and we were in the golden phase of our relationship where we had the same amount of clothing in each other’s dorms as our own.

Max wasn’t a romantic, per se, but he definitely played the guitar and had bought me flowers before. I staunchly believe that flowers are an important part of romance. But I guess that’s the Southern belle in me—repressed as she is—speaking. For the record, though, I’ll note that I am distinctly bored by musicians, and odds are good that he’s the last one I’ll ever date. But at the time, I bought into it all and I swooned when he wrote me a song and strummed a few chords.

So in retrospect it is not unsurprising that I had expected that this would be the year my Valentine’s luck would turn. Max told me he had arranged a surprise for the evening, and indeed he had: Knowing that Italian food is my favorite, he made reservations at a place on Federal Hill. The only problem was that Max forgot. At 8:00 p.m., nearly half an hour after our reservation was supposed to begin, he showed up at my dorm to reveal the surprise.

Now, this might be difficult for underclassmen to imagine, but in February of 2013, neither Uber nor Lyft had yet come to Providence. For those of you who have ever used a real taxi service in Rhode Island, first of all, I’m sorry, and also, you likely know how shockingly unreliable they can be.

As it turns out, Max had not thought about how we would make it to the reservation that we were now late for. After calling several taxi services and hearing from all of them that they were booked for the night—it was Valentine’s Day, after all—we turned to trusty RIPTA. But after 15 minutes at the bus stop, the bus still had not come. We called the restaurant, hoping they would save the reservation long enough for us to take a lovely through-the-ice-and-slush stroll, but they declined the favor. (It was Valentine’s Day, after all, and college students aren’t the exactly the optimum customers for anywhere fancy.)

When I had asked an upperclassman friend a few weeks before where I ought to go for Valentine’s Day, her only advice had been: Don’t get dinner on Thayer Street. And yet, here we were, facing the inevitable dinner on Thayer Street.

We went to Andreas. Afterwards, I went home to finish some readings. But at least we spent the rest of the night together, annoying my roommate in the process. (Sorry.) At least that year my mom sent me a teddy bear holding a little pink heart. It’s still on my bed. Max is not.

In retrospect, I should have known to keep my expectations low. In my repertoire of other Valentine’s Days was a long series of unfortunate events. (Although I think my first boyfriend, during middle school, had done okay. I think we got each other candy.)

During my freshman year of high school Valentine’s Day was almost great—until it wasn’t. I went to a show with my crush (he was a theater kid, another category of individual whom I am unlikely to date again). During intermission, he asked me out, and afterwards we went back to his house. But mid–make out, his maid walked in on us, then threatened to tell his parents, who had apparently explicitly told him not to engage in any funny business while they were out. He was scared. I went home.

We’ll skip ahead now. But if you know me, ask my about my sophomore year of high school sometime. It’s quite the story.

But now, back to college. Since my freshman year, my Valentine’s Days haven’t particularly improved. Sophomore year I was single and sad about it—though to be fair, it was my fault, as I had broken up with Max in January. With almost all of my other friends in relationships, and some telling me I was a fool for giving Max up, I did little but sit in my room, watching TV and feeling sorry for myself.

Last year, I was also single, and also kind of sad about it. But nevertheless, I vowed to have a good time with friends, in no small part with the goal of finally breaking my streak. And I mostly did—but hanging over my head was the fact that a few days earlier, an ex of mine had engaged me in a several-hour-long, late-night conversation about why we should get back together. I took the side of “We absolutely, definitely, should not.” The end of our relationship had gone very poorly, and the brief reassessment had not gone any better. When the holiday rolled around, it was hard not to dwell on what had gone wrong.

So this year, I took the holiday in a different direction. I decided I wouldn’t try to make something out of nothing.  Or rather, as I told some friends, only my thesis would be my Valentine this year. And indeed, I pretty much spent all day with it.

As it turns out, that was a good decision. I ended up baking cupcakes with friends and frosting them in pink and red and hearts, and a friend even bought me a rose in my favorite color. But perhaps it was not trying that made all the difference. It wasn’t the Valentine’s Day that I had hoped for when I was with Max, but it turned out to be a better Valentine’s Day than I had. Maybe the holiday isn’t so bad, after all.