Just words

Valentines Day has always been the stalest of holidays for me. I've never really liked it much. Maybe it's all the pink. I've never been a pink person; I've rather always been more of a brown person or an olive drab person or, perhaps, a burnt umber person, but pink makes me feel funny. Uncomfortable. Itchy. Nauseous. I associate it with candy conversation hearts, which I never liked, except for the yellow ones, but ate anyway and went home from school feeling queasy and lonely. I never had boyfriends, and thus never got "good" valentines like all the popular girls like Nikki Burke and Michelle Palmer did: teddy bears and roses and chocolates and all sorts of other lavish items from their football boyfriends. The conversation hearts were never really special, always very standard -- everyone gave and got conversation hearts stuffed inside the little tiny envelopes that held the generic valentines. We only ate them because they were candy and Valentine's Day was the only day past Christmas you could have candy in school. But you knew they were given in an almost obligatory way, given to you by random people who really weren't even your friends, and that added to the pointlessness of it all.

And so the candy hearts were eaten in the same obligatory manner in which they were given, and I would go home with my queasy stomach and dump out all my generic valentines on my bed and read them all.

"To: Sarah
From: Diana"

"To: Sarah
From: Amy"

"To: Shara
From: Chad"

"To: Sahara
From: Jason W."
(the boys always spelled my name wrong)

I had about fifty-seven valentines stuffed in my little bag, none of them expressing any sentiment at all, and I only actually knew about four of the people that gave them to me. And only two of those people were in my clique, but I knew they didn't really like me much. After aimlessly shuffling through the little cards, I would stuff them in a drawer in my desk in my room and forget about them -- I would feel guilty if I threw them away.

When I got to college, I decided that I wouldn't be a victim of Valentine's Day, that I would overcome the staleness with rebellion. I went to a small Southern Baptist school where there was a fair share of girls who wore bows in their hair and had boyfriends that they were going to marry and have a thousand kids with, and the bowheads spent Valentine's Day carrying gigantic balloon bouquets with teddy bears in them from class to class and squealing to their friends about how he must be "The One," and I just couldn't take it. Therefore, "Black Day" was instituted: my friends and I made it tradition to wear all black on Valentine's Day.

My second year in Nashville, Valentine's Day struck back. I had driven out to my friends' Lang and Renee's house for the evening, and on the way back home, it started to snow. It was about 11:30 pm, and as I was coming off the freeway in the worst part of Nashville (read: racial tension and reverse discrimination towards white people like me), my Chevy Celebrity decided to break down. It was freezing. I was dressed up in my black with a thin black overcoat on, and had to walk to the nearest gas station from the freeway. Within seconds of the commencement of my journey, a loud, dented, creepy pickup truck stopped alongside me, and the passenger window rolled down to reveal two men of African-American descent, reeking of booze and Pall Malls, gold teeth glinting in the half-light. The driver, who looked like Flava Flav on crack, said, "Awwww, you need a ride? Hop in, we'll carry you to the gas station!" I muttered, "Umm, nothanksthatsokayI'llbefine" and kept walking. But Flav insisted: "C'mon, it's cool! We're cool! You can't walk all by yourself!" and so I reluctantly agreed to hop into the bed of the truck, reasoning that it was only 3 blocks and I could always jump if things got scary. They "carried" me to the gas station safe and sound and drove off. The attendant at the gas station, a 45-year-old video gamer who probably still lived with his mom, refused to let me in to use the phone (it was after midnight now and the doors were locked, leaving me to communicate my plight through the little mechanical drawer under the window), citing safety concerns (my black poet's shirt must have appeared threatening). I was then forced to walk another four blocks in the snow to another gas station, this time wishing Flav and his gold-toothed friend would come back and fetch me. I finally reached the gas station and called two guy friends back at school for help, and they came and pushed my car all the way back to Belmont in the snow.

In spite of my determination to stay away from the male species that night, I thanked God for Flav, Gold-tooth, and my two friends who ended up becoming my Valentine's dates that night.

At least they didn't give me any conversation hearts.

Even now, as a married woman, having found the love of my life and soulmate, Valentines falls flat. David feels the same way I do, and he's a romantic (far beyond me, in fact). It's the empty sense of mindless obligation that comes with the day that we both despise: because it's Valentine's day, we all have to make reservations, have a "romantic" dinner at an overcrowded restaurant, buy flowers, give a goofy card, etc. It's all so unoriginal. It's a Hallmark holiday. It's stale. So we usually end up playing somewhere (because the cello is so romantic, apparently, and in high demand on such a day), enjoying a nice meal after we've worked, and choose another night that isn't so programmed to go out and enjoy each other. This year is no exception. We are playing at our favorite restaurant in Fredericksburg, so we'll be working. We even decided we wouldn't do any gift-giving because we're trying to save for furniture for our new house. We are merely observers today, which is always fun and interesting.

Maybe I'll wear black for old-times' sake.


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