While I understand people pushing back against the over commercialization of Valentine’s Day—and certainly I don’t think today is the only day we should express appreciation to our loved ones—I’m not a hater. I’m going to revel in the heart shaped mug Precious used for my coffee this morning, the roses that were just delivered to my front door, and the candlelight dinner he and I will share tonight because I waited a long time to be loved like this.
I’m lucky that my parents didn’t raise me to think a prince was coming on a white horse. Frankly, they didn’t tell me anybody was coming and instead made sure I got enough education and sufficient professional chops to be able to support myself. By the time Precious presented me with his mother’s diamond when I was 40 years old, I had decided I would never marry and that, yes, that would be okay. I had a good life and I trusted I would continue to do so, even without a ring on it.
I was used to being alone by then, intimately familiar with being passed over for dates to proms, formals, and college fraternity parties. When I lived in DC in my late twenties, I think I went two years (it was probably longer but I don’t want you to pity me) without so much as a flirtatious glance from a man. Occasionally I’d get a little sad about my apparent lack of womanly skills, but I tried to make sure I had enough inner resources to be content, and enough outside interests to stay connected with the world.
I had single friends who made noise about being happy: “I’ve got a good job,” or “I love my apartment,” they’d say. But they didn’t seem happy to me, disengaging from society and rarely leaving their homes. How they planned to meet anyone that way I have no idea. Although I realize not everyone will—or even wants to—partner long term, I dare say your chances of meeting someone special increase exponentially if you get off the couch. I did the hard work, because I wanted to live the fullest life I could regardless of my love life. I went to a workshop for singles led by an Episcopal priest, based on imago therapy. I saw a psychiatrist, who helped me realize I was not the only woman in Davidson County questioning my self worth simply because I wasn’t married. I did online dating, mainly to make sure I didn’t forget how to powder my nose and engage in polite conversation with men.
“Weren’t you scared?” asked a friend when I told her I’d joined an online dating service. “No,” I responded. “I was never scared, although I was very nearly bored to death on more than one occasion.”
It all helped. It helped by reminding me I was not alone in my search for wholeness, and that such completion was my responsibility, not someone else’s, not even a handsome, smart man. It showed me how to reach out when I got so lonely I worried I might expire on a Friday night and have no one notice until the next Tuesday. It reassured me I was still connected to others, at least in the cosmic sense. Although at the time I was probably more interested in having a companion to go the movies with than I was in any spiritual union with humankind, I remain grateful that I confronted the depths of my loneliness in order to befriend myself.
So on this day so many have come to hate, I’m going with love.