It was the late 1990’s. I was young, wild, and in love. His hair was longer than mine and he was my polar opposite. I liked darkness and sarcasm. He was a hippie metal head. We had a long term back and forth relationship so what else could we do to express our commitment to one another? It was time to get married. So said the brains of a seventeen and eighteen year old.
We had a semi-long engagement, mainly we knew I could not get married for another year, anyway. It seemed like “doing it the right way.” The only issue was not thinking about the extended future. Sure, I was going to go to college, and then he would, we would just be those mature married college kids. The dark one and the hippie.
In the year of engagement and brushing over the story of how very not pleased my parents were with this idea, signs burst out in neon around us, but we didn’t see them- or didn’t want to see. His family hated my planned Renaissance styled dress and called it so many degrading names, I switched from the style of dress I’d known I would have since I was a young girl watching Labyrinth. It hurt, but it was just a dress and as immature as I was, I knew marriage was about more than the wedding.
Then, I was informed we must get married in the church. I was against this. I also always had my own ideas of a wedding. Small, simple, elegant, self-written vows and no sermon. It was a huge deal for them. I agreed, and then found out we had to meet with the pastor to see if he would even marry us since we were young sinners. Well, wow. What is the percentage of non-sinner weddings? But I agreed. Sarcastically, but agreed.
Shortly after the big bombshell, in my opinion hit. We were to follow his family tradition of being married on Valentine’s Day. Remember the mention of my darkness and all? Where does the most lovey-dovey commercialized holiday fit into that? Not to mention, I’d never had a good Valentine’s Day. Even the year before, he and I were broken up for a short spurt running through Valentine’s and well, things happened and Valentine’s was not a shining good memory for either of us. But, it was this long ran family tradition, and who was I to ruin a tradition just as I was entering the family? That would be rude, right?
Well, my parents were bothered as their opinionated, my-way-or-the-highway daughter relayed information of what was obviously not plans from my mind or heart. But, like parents tend to do, they stood by me, and fit the bill for most everything I never wanted.
The pastor liked us and due to my bluntness, agreed to even mum the sermon part to a minimum. We had this glorious Valentine wedding. I managed some black roses into my my flower pattern and our wedding party looked like the November Rain video. I was informed the night before the wedding that we couldn’t even dance, which was great, since my mom secured one of the best pianist around for the wedding and reception. He was on my side enough to play as we entered the reception hall, including playing, “The Stripper” as my mom walked in- I guess he liked her. LOL.
After the reception and cleaning beside my family, we finally were able to leave the church well past unrelated guests that were not cleaning with us. I discovered our honeymoon money was conjured off my new husband by his parents because, well… it was their anniversary. We didn’t even have money for dinner. We went straight home and I locked myself in the bedroom and cried myself to sleep in my wedding dress.
Welcome to the real world. Welcome to Valentine’s Day and how it always worked for me.
Fast forward to family time. Getting married on Valentine’s sounds good and sweet until you need a baby sitter because not only is it Valentine’s but it is also your wedding anniversary. Forget the pressure of trying to double the fun and gifts. Babysitters do not exist. Asking someone to babysit on this day is the most insulting thing you can do. First, even though I later found out some people (like his sister) were not obligated to the Valentine wedding tradition and I swallowed that bitter pill, any of the one’s I would ask to babysit were indeed also celebrating anniversaries on this date, and I guess if they weren’t conning the date night money out of my husband’s pocket, I should be thankful.
If you ask single friends to babysit, you assume they are not worthy of plans that night. If you ask married friends, you are assuming the spark is gone in their relationship. Thank goodness businesses exist for professional sitters now because NEVER ASK SOMEONE YOU LIKE AND CARE ABOUT TO BABYSIT ON VALENTINE’S. Those new to an anniversary on this date or are contemplating the date to marry, note this. Note it well.
As years passed, it was easier to make it about the kids and less about us..and by less, I really mean not at all about us. So with this day, we really lost a commercialized holiday to compete with which of our friends got the best gift or romanced the sweetest, to also losing the day of our vows. I won’t say it was the ax in us, but along with many other things, it sprinkled bitterness on everything like Paula Dean spicing a ham.
Once in a blue moon, we had a night out the day before, day after, week after- whatever we could do, but in time, it just ho-hummed. In reality, we were fighting to celebrate one of the worst days of us. I recall one Valentine anniversary crying on the floor with my wedding dress I so very much hated and I do not even recall getting the scissors, but needless to say, I felt some enjoyment that year.
A horrible wedding day, a wedding nothing as I wanted, and a date that is impossible to consider “your special day,” is great for something. I learned what mattered and what did not. Valentine’s did not matter to me. Anniversaries did not matter to me. Weddings did not matter to me.
Things that do not matter
The individual date of marriage
The general money spent on entertaining other people to celebrate the love between two people
The holiday everyone celebrates the love they normally take for granted
The money spent on this day
The place you eat on this day
Jewelry or precious stones
Things that do matter
Everyday, even the bad ones
Not letting other people control any situation not about them
Foundation of friendship
Small things on days that mean nothing that turns that nothing day into an important memory
Knowing when to keep holding on
Knowing when to let go.
If you know me at all, you likely know my marriage ended over three years ago. Through this time, on February 14th especially, I have not pondered so much the dress, the sitters, the date or the music. I don’t care about the cake, the lack of dancing, diamonds or gold. I have also not rushed into making sure I am not alone, in fact some may say I enjoy being single too much. Those morons likely still think the color schemes and expensive cake make a wedding and marriage. After a three year separation, we finalized our divorce this week, a few days before what would have been our 16th Valentine anniversary.
So when I say I hate Valentines, it has nothing to do with my anniversary, the lack of sitters, or a wedding I did not like. It is because after turning this day into an icon to represent us for so many years, it means nothing to me. When I think of the good times and what I miss it is not the wedding, the cake, the yearly attempts at February 14th. I miss not cooking when I am sick. I miss popping my back at night like a routine so I am not in pain. I miss not going to the ER alone. I miss relaxing on the porch on summer nights, with crickets in the background as we talk about what it is going to be like when we are old. But mostly, I miss not seeing that we didn’t really start becoming friends until we knew we were over and that we’d left so many scars on each other, the wounds would never heal together.
Every single day you spend with someone is a brick in your foundation. Friendship is the mortar. If you build a foundation with ideals of not being alone, materialism, other people’s opinions in charge of your choices, and talking without communication, you will fall apart. If you slow down and make friendship the mortar, I’d say you have a 50/50 shot of making it. If you don’t take that time, every year brings another shot at a good Valentine’s Day. You’ll always have that.