Today it is six months and six days since my husband died.
It’s also Valentine’s Day.
I’ve had a truly lovely day today. But then again, I always do.
Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday and has been for as long as I can remember. I’ve been in love with Valentine’s Day ever since grade school when my classmates and I were initiated into the ritual of bringing tacky, store-bought cards to school taped onto little boxes filled with stale, sugary hearts. Entreating me to love.
It awakened in me a passion as bright and enduring as the light of a thousand stars.
Throughout childhood, this holiday made me too delirious to notice anything forced or contrived or corny about it. I have grown wiser, obviously, I mean, I don’t get up and leave the room anymore when someone starts bagging on Valentine’s Day as if they were the world’s coolest hipster. No, I have actually matured into a more forgiving person. If someone can’t embrace Valentine’s Day shmaltz for what it is, that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.
When people find out how much I adore this holiday, after a weighty pause, they will often launch heartily into a treatise about how much they hate it. Mostly because of how contrived and commercial it is. Others relish pointing out the irony of VDay’s history as a celebration of martyrdom, and how it’s been twisted upside down in a way that is especially perverse given how tortured we can feel about love generally. In love, out of love, the zeitgeist is that Love Hurts so tone it down a bit people. Sometimes they suggest to me that Valentine’s Day reinforces an immature and illusory image of love and (almost gaggingly said here) romance, that is fleeting anyway and hostage-taking and basically just a load of crap.
Single people hate it because it reminds them of their singleness. Married people hate it if the romance is gone from their partnerships. The broken-hearted hate it because it reminds them of how broken and lonely they feel.
I get a lot of side-eye this time of year.
And it follows, by implication, that I am suddenly not so trustworthy anymore. Folks lean back and re-appraise me in a way that reveals they’re on guard around me now. They’re gonna be taking some space, dialing it back on their formerly open regard for me. Like maybe when I’d declared, with broad friendliness, “Oh I love Valentine’s Day, it’s my favorite holiday!”, they’d heard instead, “Oh I wear a tin hat to bed most nights, it’s the best way to receive the alien transmissions!”.
Now everything else I’ve ever said to them needs to be reviewed for lunacy.
They’re surprised. Taken aback by the fact that I may have been just the tiniest bit deranged all along, and they’d totally missed it.