Our very first Valentine's Day together as a couple, back in 1997, the husband and I had been "going steady" -- as it used to be called -- for 11 months. I was a junior and he was a senior at Columbia. I expected him to wow me with a reservation at a mid-level Manhattan restaurant, perhaps a bouquet of roses, a Tiffany's necklace. It's what I had witnessed the previous two years among our dating peers, so I figured it was what being in a relationship for V-Day meant. That evening, I waited in his dorm room all dressed up -- I didn't have a key, but his roommate John and I were close friends, so he let me in and chatted until it was time for him to start his festivities. Finally, the husband made it back to his dorm. He looked flustered -- he had just returned from Newark, where he had an interview at The Star Ledger. With his out-stretched hands he gave me a bouquet of carnations -- the one flower I have always equated with grandmothers and funeral sprays. Then he said: "Where should we eat?" Cue the sound of Valentine's Day expectations crashing.
Being 20 and relatively new at love, I did the most immature thing ever -- I cried. Real tears. Over not having the Valentine's Day that Hallmark and DeBeer's commercials had promised me. In the 11 years since, we have had traditionally romantic Valentine's Day full of calla lilies and little Tiffany's boxes. We've also had momentous Valentine's Days, like last year, when it was the day we decided to move to DC after 13 and 14 happy years in New York City. In 2006, the day was a complete bust. I'll quote from my private LiveJournal:
I was supposed to eat lunch with a coworker, but as it turned out, her boyfriend of many years had surprised her with lunch. It was a sweet gesture, and I was blown away by its thoughtfulness. Another coworker got flowers, and she didn't make a big deal about it, but I could tell she was pleased. As for me, I knew we were going to dinner, but I girlishly daydreamed about the possibilities of my gift: a book from my wishlist... a much-need facial or manicure... We aren't big spenders, especially for Valentine's Day, so I knew not to expect a robin's-egg-blue box or anything too extravagant, but surely something.
Instead, my husband came home with... flowers. Flowers he bought on his way to the subway... Flowers. No card, no gift, just flowers. Then, on the way to the car, he tells me it was his secretary's birthday. He tells me how he had to go to L'Occitane and get her a gift. Then, all of a sudden, I immediately felt angry. He was at L'Occitane? He couldn't get me a present there? I tell him this after he seriously, completely guilelessly acts what's wrong, and he says: "You really wanted smelly soaps?" How could a husband be so clueless? Yes, smelly French soaps, to me, are a much better gift than flowers, which he obviously spent 0 minutes picking out. I told him about the men, the men of all ages and sizes and economic backgrounds I saw today with their bundles and packages. He asks me if I honestly think those men love their wives and girlfriends more than he loves me. I say no, but they obviously thought of them more.
So this year, I emailed my husband on Monday and offered him a way to opt out:
why don't we use one of our 10% off coupons and order zingerman's? we can have a nosh-fest/LOST-fest in the basement after the kids go to bed on thursday. we could also buy a little something from amazon. just trying to make this easy, since i know you don't care but also don't want to disappoint me.
to which he responded:
you know me so well. we're a good pair.
So you see, it's not that my husband doesn't care about ME, he doesn't care about red hearts and Victoria's Secret and boxes of chocolate. He always tries, and yet sometimes comes up short of my little-girl expectations -- even after more than a decade of knowing my husband would much prefer to recognize my birthday and our anniversary than some arbitrary day in the middle of February. So I've finally grown up. I've finally seen the light. The kids can have their Valentine's Day cards and parties. As for us, we'll make ordering a box of gourmet goodies (we heart Zingerman's) and noshing down in our rec room a tradition. I am loved, truly, madly, deeply. I don't need a stuffed bear or a lacy red nightgown or even a three-course-meal to feel that way.