It's been years since I've considered Valentine's Day a holiday that was meant precisely for me, in the Hallmark sense of the word. My first boyfriend failed to acknowledge it -- out of sheer ignorance in how to treat a first serious girlfriend, I thought -- and then made up for it a day later by buying me a ridiculous stuffed animal and taking me on a date that kept the Hollywood rom-com fanatic in me satisfied. Since then, though, age and experience kicked in, relationships entered and exited with a bleak trumpet call, and Connie the Precocious Curmudgeon came out in head-to-toe cranky-ass regalia. "I'M NOT BUYING INTO SOCIETY'S CELEBRATION OF COUPLEDOM!" I was a devoted downer and a militant advocate of the anti-establishment, anti-love crusade.
But then I stepped off my 20-something, self-involved high horse and realized that I was insecure and angry, and that this was offensive to people who actually celebrated the holiday in sincerity. Some people need the recognition, whether to mark a milestone, confirm their love, or just for their own sanity. And whatever the reason, that alone was enough cause to celebrate.
One winter's evening, almost a decade ago, I found a post on Craigslist soliciting volunteers to join a quiet group of OCAD students at Trinity Bellwoods, decorate a bunch of trees with painted hearts in time for Valentine's Day, reminding everyone they're deserving of love, partnered or not. I thought the idea was great, and given I had nothing to do that night, came out to lend a hand. Turns out I was the only weirdo who answered the call; they seemed shocked themselves that someone followed through, but we ended up having the greatest time. This wasn't a day to merely celebrate long-term partnerships. It was just a time to be with positive people and celebrate love itself, strangers and all.
Yesterday, I had an impromptu brunch date with an old pal, spent a cozy night in at my friends' apartment and inhaled a delicious meal of homemade ravioli, paired with mulled wine and ample entertainment in the form of juvenile butt humour. I returned home to a friend's dog I'm temporarily sitting, laid down for a night of cuddles, knowing that I'm trusted enough to take care of someone's baby. And I woke up this morning feeling super recharged, feeling full about life and the people I've chosen to have around me, a noticeable change from my 20s, when I pretty much hung out with anyone who gave me attention, however negative, made me feel guilty for not talking to them every day, or just happened to live in the apartment next door and made "friendship" convenient. This nearly 40-something knows that that's not only a recipe for Valentine's disaster, but represents a lack of love for your own self. And if there's anything that can be said, it's that with each Valentine's Day, I become prouder and prouder to be me. That's something, right?
With this in mind, I proclaim a triumphant, "Happy Valentine's Day!" It's been a adventure-filled road to love, and I'm sending you all good vibes for the precious year ahead. And though I still don't support the idea of cramming into a restaurant with a bunch of agitated, overheated couples or an enormous mylar balloon that sings "Mambo Number 5" whenever you tap it (or even if you don't), I'm all for handwritten notes, homemade lava cakes, and master plans to raid the discount chocolate aisle tomorrow. SEE YOU IN THE MORNING.