Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Will you be my Un-Valentine?

A strange phenomenon is rippling through my world lately.  Everyone I know who has been single for ages and ages is suddenly part of a couple.  Conversely, I, the one who has spent the bulk of my adult life in a serious relationship, am fiercely single.  The world has turned upside down and it’s throwing me way off balance.

I know this post is being written on Valentine’s Day.  For the record, when I have spent this “holiday” as part of a couple, I’ve never put much value in it.  It’s a very commercialized thing and I’ve mostly either done a nicer dinner at home with my person, or we’ve grabbed something quick out and about.  No fancy restaurants with reservations, no gifts.  I’ve not gotten flowers for V-Day in years. 

The last festive thing I did for Valentine’s Day was for the guy I dated after my divorce.  We were together for a year and change, February to March, and for our first and only V-Day as a couple (which also happened to be his birthday) I went old school and made him a Valentine’s Day box.  Shoe box, tissue paper, construction paper hearts, glitter, stickers.  I filled it with dozens of different little Valentines, writing something on each of them.  It was a project that filled me with nostalgia and flutters of anticipation of presenting the gift.  I remain proud of my efforts.

I miss Valentine’s Day as it was in elementary school.  Everyone got a Valentine from everyone in their Valentine’s Day envelope or box.  Little boxes of candy, conversation hearts, red and pink and hearts everywhere.  It was innocent and sweet and equal opportunity.  No one was left out.  Everyone got something.

As an adult, this is no longer the case.  If you are single, you will be left out.  Your Valentine’s box will be empty.  There are no consolation prizes, no required cards.  This year I got a Valentine’s Day card from my mom and another from my grandfather.  An online dating guy I’ve been messaging for a day or so wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day. That was actually nice, even if we never get beyond messaging online.  I appreciated the words.

Seriously, though----what is in the water?  Friends I know who have been single for years and years are now immersed in sudden relationships that are strangely serious for their short duration.  They are madly in love, they are talking about marriage after a single handed count of dates.  Some of them are involved in more realistic, easier to understand situations, ones that have been percolating for a long time, coming to a slow boil and giving off an aura of serious staying power.  Either way, though, right now it seems like everyone has someone but me.

It is becoming alarmingly obvious to me how much I define myself by my relationship status.  I’ve always been in one until this last year, and now I just have these periodic moments of flat out panic where I feel like I am flailing about, directionless.  Shouldn’t I, after a year, be okay with this?  Shouldn’t I be used to it by now?  I feel sometimes like I will never be used to this. Yet in other ways I feel like I am too used to it. 

I worry that I’m getting too used to being alone, even though being alone feels fundamentally wrong in some ways. I feel like I’m getting jaded and cynical, and that with each passing day the window for letting new people in is growing smaller, and my discouragement with the world is getting bigger.  I’m getting set in my solitary ways, forcing myself to stop relying on people for much, big or little, because I am growing so, so tired of people bailing on me.  If I expect nothing from anyone, then I will never be disappointed when they give me exactly that.

This year, my Valentines will be a party of three, all on four legs with a lot of fur to spare.  Me and my animals, at home.  I never liked those chalky conversation hearts, anyway!

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