Please forgive me for the potentially offensive subject matter of this post. It’s a topic which tends to polarize people, and I if you disagree, that’s fine. It’s a bit of a hot button issue, yet doesn’t pertain to religion, The New York Yankees or anyone from Wasilla, Alaska.
It’s Valentine’s Day. You see, I hate, hate, hate Valentine’s Day. I loathe it more than the thought of French kissing Donald Rumsfeld or being fed Jiffy Pop by Alex Rodriguez. I despise this phony, guilt-tripping, panic-inducing day in February more than just about anything other than one of my daughters marrying a clown.
Why? And how did this seemingly harmless, processed cheese of holidays transform itself into a big syrup of ipecac sundae?
Allow me to retrace the events which precipitated my fall from grace. Roughly twenty-five years, sixty-seven days and three hours ago, I was in the midst of a college relationship. It had all begun so splendidly; she was bubbly and cute, dressed nicely, had a pleasing figure...and she seemed to be really interested in me, which goes quite a way when you’re an immature, twenty-two-year-old guy.
At the beginning, I found her little quirks endearing—carrying around a large enough purse to hold her hairspray and blow dryer and insisting that we always hold hands in public. She laughed at my jokes with a tone of confusion, but, hey, any laugh is a good laugh.
Oh, sure, she frequently criticized my clothing choices, informed me that beer drinking causes acne and suggested I shed a few pounds, since “everyone is looking.” She also required that I borrow someone’s car for our weekly dates on the town, or that I be on call 24/7 if she needed reassurance about a midterm or a new sweater. Nonetheless, I overlooked her idiosyncrasies. I was smitten. We inhabited that magical collegiate Greek system and emitted the essence of the All-American campus couple.
After about a year had past, I had become at least eighty percent over her. I frequently conjured up reasons to not see her, but we still spent a lot of time together.
On one such occasion, we met at the student union building to study and eat red licorice, which I knew would involve sporadic study moments mixed with my reassurances of her fears and anxieties: “Yes, you’re still beautiful, even though you’re twenty now.”
She floated the idea of participating in a “pinning” ceremony, an event signifying our engagement to be engaged. This gala traditionally involves the combined memberships the sorority and fraternity, and culminates with the guy (me) affixing a fraternity-crest-embossed pin to the recipient (her).
“How about if we schedule it for Valentine’s Day? That’s our favorite holiday, remember?” She stared resolutely at me, my eyes homing in on her lipstick-flecked front tooth, which she’d obviously missed during that morning’s forty-five minute primping session.
No, I hadn’t remembered it being our favorite holiday. In fact, no environment is ideal for breaking up, but if I truly wanted to douse this fire before it spread to the neighbors’ houses, I had to make a stand…right now. So, rather than opting for the difficult, yet honest, route by saying something like, “I’d rather eat my own arm,” I took a slightly less controversial angle and replied, “Okay.”
And in less time than it takes for your brain’s pain center to register a stubbed toe, the wheels of the pinnin’ where a rollin’. Flowers, champagne, kegs and cake were ordered. Each day which passed and hurled this event closer to reality was a day I vowed to end this fiasco...tomorrow.
From the pinnee’s perspective, each of the earth’s rotations further focused the culmination of her fairy tale illusion. Our celebration had long ago ceased revolving around us; it centered smack dab on her. What color dress should she buy to stand out, yet not look cheap? Which guys in my house should she ask to line up to hand her single red roses, culminating in my pinning the medallion of no return to her... dress strap, or something.
Oh, how the spineless suffer needlessly.
Valentine's Day, or VD, finally arrived, and a gelatinous fog of resignation surrounded me as my fraternity brothers and I traipsed the five blocks to her sorority. As I entered the foyer in the lead position, my shoes shiny and my suit—kind of old—I looked into the living room.
Sorority living rooms are a lot like funeral homes, because not a lot of people hang out in them. All of the fun happens in the fraternities, so the scene I came upon resembled a large group of girls who looked like they were attending a funeral before the prom.
And there, front and center, was the pseudo bride. I don't recall the ceremony very well, mostly because it went so fast. Songs were sung, flowers were exchanged, but really, the whole thing was a strange cultish wedding where you'd expect Tom Cruise to give a speech at the end.
We had beer and cake at the frat house afterwards, since sororities don't officially acknowledge the existence of alcohol, sex or eating disorders. Just as the evening appeared to be winding down, my betrothed approached me and informed me that she had a surprise.
She insisted that we perform a spotlight dance, again, for all to see. One of her pledge sisters then pulled out an alto saxophone and serenaded the crowd with "I only have eyes for you." As I again felt the eyes of many upon me, I wondered if they could notice that I was clinically dying.
Then, oh merciful Jehovah, it was over.
We stayed together about six more months, until even my cowardly self could stand it no longer.
I learned a lot about myself, relationships and honesty during my time with the only girl I ever pinned. I learned that it's okay to proclaim your love to the world and it's okay to do nice things for people you care about. I learned that by living a lie, it only gets worse with time.
I also learned that I hate Valentine's Day.