Like most people, I have a rather checkered history with Valentine’s Day.

When I was a kid, I loved it. I looked forward to presenting my classmates with my homemade Valentines. I’ll always remember those candy hearts, how they were somehow always stale and tasted like sweet chalk. But, we all loved them. Although we should always express love to those we cherish every day, Valentine’s Day seemed even more filled with love and friendship.

Long after my peers had stopped giving out Valentines, I continued handing them out through high school, although they did get smaller and less elaborate. I bought pre-made cards at the store and taped a small box of candy to each one. I wrote short, personalized notes, even to the people I didn’t like. Valentine’s Day was always my reason to ignore ill feelings towards the people around me and do something that might make them happy. I didn’t care that Valentine’s Day was a stupid Hallmark holiday and I didn’t care that nobody returned the love. I just did it because it was an excuse to make people feel seen and appreciated.

After high school ended, I had my first real romantic relationship.

In the weeks approaching Valentine’s Day, he and I didn’t get a chance to see each other; I was busy in college and his work schedule conflicted with mine. I thought Valentine’s Day might be a good way to get us in the same room together again, but he said he was busy. Much to my chagrin, on the evening of Valentine’s Day, my parents came knocking at my door, saying that a brown box had arrived at our doorstep with my name on it. Sensing what it was and feeling anger bubble inside me, I opened up the cardboard box. The fight that ensued between me and my ex fueled by the fact that he’d decided to drive to my house and drop off a package but not even say hi to me quickly led to the demise of our relationship. This was the beginning of my Valentine’s Curse.

Not long after, I started dating the guy who would end up being my boyfriend for the following four years. We did not spend our first Valentine’s Day together because he decided to go make other plans with friends (yeah, that made me feel reeeeeal special). The next two Valentine’s Days were spent apart due to work taking me out of town. Our fourth Valentine’s Day would be the only one we’d spend together, as it fell in a rather unhealthy phase of our relationship. We went to see the new Star Wars movie, which he’d already seen without me. Then, we went to a dingy neighborhood restaurant that we frequented. He surprised me with a gift that turned out to be a few cheap cat toys for my cat. Overall, not the best Valentine’s Day.

The next few Valentine’s Days were spent alone.

I was single during all of them and I didn’t have many friends. I was fine with that, since Valentine’s Day had proven to be a bit of a letdown the previous few years. When I started dating my current boyfriend, he was very disappointed that we’d have to spend our  first Valentine’s Day apart due to previous plans to visit his family. I didn’t mind, since adult Valentine’s Days were always so un-special.

Our second Valentine’s Day ended up being lovely, however. Even though it was in the midst of Covid before the vaccines, we ordered some delicious takeout and cuddled on the couch to watch Crazy Rich Asians. The curse seemed to have been lifted.

I guess what I have to say is that Valentine’s Day is what you make it.

For so long I destined myself to have rather crappy days of love because of preconceived notions, negative past experiences, and the cynical opinions that others have about the holiday. But, it didn’t have to be that way. I bought into the notion that Valentine’s is just another dumb Hallmark holiday without any real meaning. And, you know what? Sure, it can be that. But it can also be a really enjoyable day where you express love however you like to express it towards whomever deserves it.

Yes, it is important to show the ones you love how much you love them every, single day. But, it’s also OK to have one special day out of the year where you can give yourself permission to be extra appreciative. Give this Valentine’s Day a little extra love and break your own Valentine’s Curse.


Photo by Karley Saagi from Pexels

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