When I was in middle school and high school I used to love it when Valentine's Day came around. The school administration and the student council organized the sale of carnations as a fundraising opportunity. We would bring our money, buy single flowers, fill cards with the name of our friends, and leave it to the various student messengers to deliver the flowers to the intended recipients. It was fun when they would barge in right in the middle of class to deliver red blooms to everybody. Everybody wanted to see who gave a flower to whom, and who had the most flowers.
I wasn't one of the popular kids, and I did not have a boyfriend, so I could not compete with the girls that had armloads of flowers, but I had enough friends (boys and girls) in school that I always received flowers. When I changed schools my junior year of high school, I missed this greatly. I can't remember what we did for Valentine's Day at my new school, which probably means that nothing was done, or nothing that was memorable to me.
My last year of college, in a pathetic attempt to get my best friend/unrequited crush to pay attention to me, I gave myself a bouquet of yellow marigolds for Valentine's Day. What's more, I did not even pretend they were from someone else. I dialed up the pathos by letting everyone know I had bought them from a vendor at the Río Piedras market.
I don't know what I was trying to accomplish with this stunt, tantamount to yelling "love me, damn it" at the top of my lungs. My friend ignored me. Try as I might, he would not have been responsive. He was gay, still in the closet at the time. In the back of my mind I knew this from the first time I met him, yet chose to ignore it as we became close friends and he pulled me into his orbit. He revelled in the ambiguity of our relationship, he loved it when people wondered if we were together. For two years we were inseparable. He was my best friend. I was his sidekick. We wrote each other letters, handwritten on paper. Well, I wrote mostly, and he would say he was saving my letters to publish them when I became a famous writer.
The marigold fiasco happened about a month after my father died, and after that I started to pull away emotionally. Shortly after that, the man who would become my ex-husband saw me at the plaza by the University clock tower, burning my copies of the letters I had written to my friend. I had quite a flair for drama in my youth. We had been introduced by a mutual friend, but I did not remember him. He remembered me, though. But that's another story for another time.
To get back to the topic of Valentine's Day and flowers, I could write that I am jaded and appalled by what the holiday has been reduced to thanks to the dictates of our consumerist culture. But I would be lying if I did. The truth is, I like to get flowers. I like outward gestures of affection. But they have to be sincere. Buying flowers and candy for Valentine's Day can either be an opportunity to give a gift to someone you love, or something that you do only because it is expected of you. If it's the latter, it rings hollow.
As much as I like flowers, pragmatism wins in the end. Instead of spending on gifts, Gabe and I are going out for good meal at a nice restaurant tonight. Valentine's Day is an excuse for us to go out by ourselves. Most of the time we are either at work or at home with the girls. Dinner for two is a much needed a respite.