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I have always avoided Valentine’s Day. For the 19-years of my life, I have been frightfully single. Often my father would buy chocolates or cheap jewelry and pre-written notes to pretend to be my valentine. Sometimes my mother bought them and signed his name. Sometimes they both forgot.

I find it a cheap, demanding holiday. A day for women’s expectations and men’s failures. A month full of advertisements for expensive, glaringly pink garbage that somehow convinces men to buy them but are never quite up to their womans’ satisfaction. A day for forced romance. 

A day for painfully alone people to bemoan their fate loudly and hide in their homes with action movies and wait for the next day’s sale on chocolates. 

Last year, I worked on Valentine’s night. I helped the men frantically looking for the card that says a seemingly adequate cliche to please their women and digging through the remnants of pre-wrapped chocolate boxes. Then, the crowd died down and I spent the night, wandering about, straightening things and doing menial chores as the entire world drank and dined and toasted in feigned romance. 

Society tells us we should use this day to celebrate love and the bond between you and the person you’ve pledged yourself to. So we purchase the typical gifts and say the cliched things to make up for the fact we have been suddenly put on the spot and all spontaneity is killed by the fact that it is a national holiday. 

Men feel on the spot and destined to fail as their lady’s hopes rise. They push off their heartfelt gifts until the last moment, analyzing the choices for any faults she most definitely will find. Women scavenge for trinkets for the men who really don’t need anything so they don’t feel guilty about hoping for presents. Then we wait in line at absurdly busy and starkly sophisticated restaurants. We hope that dim lights and candles will inspire some romantic surge of adoration. It usually does not.

The night usually ends in disappointment, as we stare at all the seemingly happy couples who somehow are faking it better than we. We trudge home and the next day, splurge on clearance candy and tear down the paper hearts decking our work spaces. Hoping to forget the whole disaster for 12 more months.

That is how I picture a Valentine’s Day with a lover at my side.

But today, barely a week until the big day, I have a Valentine. Bad planning on my part. As luck would have it, I have been saved from the dreaded night. Again work calls. A full evening ensconced in retail. Seemingly whoever is scheduling my shifts fully expects me to have no plans on this night. My boyfriend too has work.

Still he brings it up. Valentine’s Day? I tell him not to worry about it.

I am sitting on his lap. His arms wrapped tightly around me. He looks up at me. “But this is the first year, you have had a Valentine. The first year, I have had one.”

And his eyes are full, not of expectations and duty to society’s rules, but love.

Suddenly, I understand. Valentine’s Day is a chance to stop. To forget the bustle of the world, to toast to a fragile bond as all the world glows with romance. A chance to pretend that we are children again, blushing with the newly discovered love. A chance to forget rising divorce rates and the thousands of couples who seem not to love but to hate each other. A chance to completely focus on the person you love most in the world. A chance to ignore all other commitments in order to kiss and pamper and laugh with the person you choose to give all your heart.  

I tighten my arms around his head. “Okay.” I say. “We’ll find a way to do something.”