V-Day Musings

Valentine’s Day is coming to a close and I am at home alone wearing my ugly pajamas. The pajamas are ugly enough that, when we were married, my ex-husband asked me to please never wear them again. This plea came from a man who tolerated legs shaved only to mid-calf because I was too lazy to shave but still wanted to wear capri pants to the gym. Well, I think he tolerated it. He never said anything, but, then again, we are no longer married.

Either way, I lie when I use the word pajamas. When I think of pajamas, I think of a set, of a top and bottom that one puts on to lounge and eventually sleep. I am actually wearing a threadbare nightgown with stripes and hearts and little red polka dots and these amazing ruffles around the collar. I don’t know from whence the nightgown came. Perhaps it was my grandmother’s. Perhaps it was a Good Will cast away. I don’t really know. It does not matter. With my scraggly pony tail and mismatched socks, I am only missing a dressing cap and, perhaps, some spectacles.

While I am not exactly a fashion diva by day, I am somewhat obsessed with my appearance. I refuse to go pretty much anywhere without foundation and mascara. I’ll even risk my life and the lives of those around me to apply the junk while glancing in the rearview mirror as I approach red lights. (Yes, cringe. And, please don’t tell.) I almost always ensure that my eye color matches my clothing, going to such lengths as to remove and reapply if I change my outfit. When I don’t have the time to blend multiple eye shadows in the morning I have been known to comment to female co-workers my embarrassment at having had to use my accent color as my primary color. They just stare at me a moment and give an obligatory “It looks nice.” I don’t say this to men, but I cast my eyes down as if to say “Don’t look at me today.”

My co-dependency with cosmetics has been long term. It directly stems from the day, when I was eleven or twelve, when my cousin and I decided to get honest with each other. We sat crosslegged on the floor holding fashion mirrors and surrounding ourselves with Caboodles and stacks of Teen Magazine. We decided, after silently comparing ourselves to the young models within the magazine’s glossy pages, to tell each other about our best and worst features. She told me that my best feature was my face. Yippee! And then, that my worst feature was my face without make up. Apparently, that stuck. I might be the reason she still uses Botox.

Still, in the comfy hours of the evening, when the door is locked, the blinds are closed, and I am enveloped in indie rock, I release my inner frump. Aside from my ex-husband, my father and my brother-in-law may be the only men who have ever really witnessed this side of me. And, even they haven’t seen the ugly pajamas. They have seen, however, another of my antediluvian favorites– my plaid, flannel, also ruffled, not quite so threadbare nightgown– on which they both have commented. Once, when spending the night at my sister’s, and donning this plaid evening wear, I flopped on the couch, my umpteenth glass of wine in hand, and enthusiastically uttered (as Reader, you know I always do) “Let’s party like it’s 1999.” Without hesitation, my brother-in-law quipped “You mean 1899?” Yes, 1899. Funny.

So, here I am! Dressed to the hilt. Celebrating Cupid’s Arrow with a mug of tea, a pen, and an ill-fitting cotton nightmare. Yay! I could be fighting crowds at The Olive Garden.

Honestly, I’ve never been a big Valentine’s girl. Now that I think of it, maybe that’s because I rarely had a Valentine. In high school, I often dreamed about receiving a balloon or a rose or some such heart-shaped nonsense from a secret admirer, but, sadly, I wasn’t in the sightline of many (any?) admirers, secret or no. I went to both Proms with a group of girlfriends—once all dolled up in a rented flapper gown—and only danced in those lame ass girl circles that lame ass girls dance in. How awfully depressing.

In fact, even in elementary and middle school, I was not popular in what little romantic circles were developing. I had little confidence and a self-esteem that was in no way intact. In the sixth grade, I took up a fund for a future nose job and classmates actually donated. They were so moved by my withered sense of self that I once received a plastic dog bone on my desk instead of a valentine. But, don’t cry folks. I now feel like my confident energy is too big for my own good. When I send my energy out, I cast a pretty big net.

So, this Valentine’s Day. Until I decided to sit down and write about it, it almost passed me by unnoticed. But, I wonder. A holiday dedicated to love—generally romantic love, although some seem to dedicate it to self-love, or even just to ripples of love. A holiday of invisible arrows crisscrossing one another through the crisp February air. How beautiful, really! Although some of my friends get bitter about the day, calling it “fake” and “Hallmark,” I think that any holiday is what you make of it. We may get tired of window displays, but of love? Brew me up some Number Nine!

Once you cast the expectations and the materialism aside, Valentine’s Day seems to hold its own value and mystery. A relative of mine (who must go unnamed) lives in a small, frostbitten town (which must also go unnamed) and, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, runs about the town with her artist friends and plasters the streetlamps and the shop windows and the public mailboxes with handcrafted Valentines. “Take me if you like me” many of the cards say. This anonymous display of goodwill has caused quite a stir. Everyone deserves a Valentine. Everyone is beautiful. Love wins.

Still, the difficult part about Valentine’s Day, especially for those who take up funds for future plastic surgery, is the high expectation and then the inevitable wallow in that which we don’t have or don’t possess. For the single folk, it may be a reminder that they have no one to buy them roses. For those in relationships, perhaps roses are not enough, perhaps they are a reminder of what could be, should be had on a day to day basis and not just on a holiday. “Aren’t I good enough?” we all cry.

Jack Kerouac once said “…and the whole world opened up before me because I had no dreams.” So true, Mr. Kerouac, so true. How nice to just settle in without an outcome in mind, because, we all know, nothing is ever as we dreamed it to be. As the Grinch could have remarked about any celebration: “What if [Valentine’s Day] doesn’t come from a store. What if [Valentine’s]… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

In May of 2013, I told this story:

Once upon a time there was an astoundingly beautiful young woman (yeah, that’s me) who didn’t have a boyfriend, or a husband, or a lover on Valentine’s Day.  She was only twenty-one or twenty-two so she still bought into that shit.  However, instead of wallowing in her own emotional cesspool, she went out and bought herself a bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates, some candles and some fine cuisine.  She fixed up the food, fancied up the table, and, in a set of sweet lingerie, sat down to eat by candlelight.  She cranked up the jazz, toasted herself with a fine Cabernet, and savored her dinner-for-one. She expected nothing more than what she had given herself and thoroughly enjoyed it.  This confident, sexy (did I mention this was me?) and tearless young woman went to bed full, happy, and not at all longing for someone to share her heart or her bed or her soul. The next morning, upon waking, she stepped out of her front door for a glimpse of the sunrise. On the doorstep, were several thoughtful and wildly beautiful flower arrangements.  Of course, this wildly beautiful young woman assumed that they were for her roommate who had a very steady steady.  But, in fact, when she picked up the first bouquet to read the card, she saw that they were for her. A small gaggle of her male friends had delivered her Valentine’s Day flowers in the middle of the night.  Of course, she was struck.  And, she decided then, and still believes now, that the gifts from these sweet, handsome young men stemmed directly from the gifts and self-love that she had given herself.

So, while I did not treat myself to Valentine’s treats this year, I did allow myself to let go. Let go of my appearance and of my expectations. The holiday held no “triggers” for me. Why poo poo a fundamental human need with unreasonable demands upon ourselves and upon others? Let the magic be. Maybe I am a Valentine’s girl.

I have come a long way from the youngster who did not believe in herself. I have stated here before that I think I totally rock, even if I am addicted to mascara. Because of this, I have decided to celebrate life despite its bouts of pain and loneliness, despite its unreasonable demands. I am constantly working on a better me and trying to live by Kerouac’s revelation. The world is opening up to me. I am, albeit single, surrounded by love. Let Valentine’s Day be a celebration of that. Let love, love.

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