REAL VALENTINES DAYS
THE KIND YOU HAD IN KINDERGARTEN
When Love Was Just A Word You Couldn't Spell
That's how I remember it. Sometime in grammar school, they decided to teach us heterosexuality, dominance, and submission. Boys were required to give girls a dinky little Valentine card. Girls were required to just sit there, suffering. It was the beginning of a long and ignominious tradition in each and every one of our tiny lives, which most of us could never get expunged, even after we were no longer juveniles.
Then, as we flirted with puberty, in junior high school, the Valentine tradition was suddenly dropped by the school: Just when we could have actually used a little help, relating to the opposing sex. Relations between boys and girls entered Sharia Law jurisdiction, in the school's mind. They started trying to keep us apart: Separate gym classes, and locker rooms. Girls in Home Ec, boys in Shop. Girls became, magically, cheerleaders, but only the prettier or bouncier ones. Boys were suddenly forced to follow the dictates of adult nazis in playing the same old games of football, baseball, basketball that we'd always enjoyed freely out there on our own. Now they were referred to as Athaletics, and reserved for the talented and brutal few. And they wonder why kids get weird at that age. Or why they grow up so weird. Or why the world is so weird.
By High School, most of us had begun to reach some accomodation with the Other, if only a stand-off. Valentines re-emerged, as an actual, personal, semi-volitional thing. If you wanted to, you could give a girl a Valentine. If she wanted to, she could accept it. Most likely, you were already "going out, " if you did the Valentine's thing. There was a certain expectation, on both sides. The girl might actually be embarrassed by a Valentine. But she might be pissed if she didn't get one from her "steady." The boy felt stupid giving her one, but he knew he was in jeopardy if he didn't. Pretty much a lose-lose situation, all around. Real romance, at long last, in other words.
Then in the adult world, or college as a craven alternative, the tradition fell into flux. It was so unkewl... And yet... Better safe than sorry. Better to get one than not to get one. After all, you're both out there on the meat market now. You're not kids any more. You both wanna get some. You both need something, not sure what. And what else is there to do? This is one of the rituals, one of the more harmless ones. And it's a way of keeping score, at least in your own mind. So you go through the motions.
If you're actually in love, or think you are, or desperately wish you were, then the whole stupid rite begins to mean something. A guy wants a girl to know how strongly, and tenderly, he feels about her. A girl wants to know it too, and to be celebrated, to celebrate the brief instants of love in our long and dreary lives. Those bright shining moments when the world consists of just two people, in a pleasant fog of affection, mutual regard, sexual attraction,and yeah, ok, love. Especially when you're still young enough to believe it all, to believe that this other person can and will complete you, for a moment or a lifetime, and make you whole. Make your life better, special, worthwhile, important, the whole nine yards and a bag of chips. Ah, to be twenty-something, and stupid with love. On Saint Valentine's Day.
As you get older , it tends to drop off again, the old tradition of 14 FEB. You may or may not observe it, but it becomes just another obligation, another red day when you're supposed to do something, so you do it, out of respect for the calendar, or something. Because now you're older, and you've had your bubbles burst, one by one. All those hopes and dreams and fantasies you placed in or on or around another person have come to little, or naught. And you got up off the ice, and skated off. Because that's what you do. So now you're alone, or nearly so. Perhaps sleeping next to an accomodation you made to keep skating along. Maybe there is still love there. But you're so busy, so consumed by the details of your ever-more adult life, that all that romance stuff just recedes into the distance, like your own youth. February the Fourteenth becomes a reminder of that; of your age, of your youth, of your lost loves. Sad, but sweet, if you're at all lucky.
Finally you realize you've gotten REALLY old. Older than you'd ever thought you'd be. Your life is like a mountain, which you've climbed a little too high. You become aware, at some point, that it's time to climb back down. It's natural. It's going to happen. It's happening. You might as well enjoy the view. If you are still lucky, there's someone beside you on that too-high place, ready to make the long slow journey back down the mountain. Some one to hold your hand, to help you along, to keep you from stumbling and falling. Someone to help along, too.
You begin to realize at last, what it was all about, this endlessly repeated quadrille, which we dance as fast as we can, never daring to stop, lest we fall out of the dance, never quite realizing that it was all about the dance itself, and the inter- relationships among the dancers, and finding the one dancer you could go on with, until the music stopped. And you relish the opportunity to turn to that person, on 2/14, every year, and on many other days, and remind them that you love them, and that they love you.
One day, one of you will die. You know that. You both know that. Of course you both fear it. Of course there is nothing you can do about it. Only make each day count, as much as you can. On Saint Valentine's Day, you do a little something extra. I always got flowers and candy for my girl. I made her a card. I'm not an artist; she was, but she always seemed to like it. I know it pleased her, and reminded her how much I loved her. I thought about her all day yesterday. I wished I could have given her something, anything, to remind her, again. All I could send her were my thoughts, and my love, wherever she is: It's Valentines Day, so I'll say Heaven. I don't know if such a place exists or not. I would doubt it, normally. But I would make one for her, for Valentines Day, and every day. Happy Valentines, Ginny.
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