Valentine’s day has haunted me since my early years as a teen Dominican immigrant. In DR, Valentine’s Day was when my Papi bought me new clothes and sent letters con dulces to my Ma, who at the time lived in the States. Pero, in the States everything changed. Americans are hard core about their holidays, ‘specially in school…
I rushed with my Ma to CVS to buy “Be Mine” cards with Looney Tunes drawn within hearts for my fifth grade class. “Which candy tu quieres mija? Em y emes or what?” I groaned an unsure sound, not caring at all which assortment would be best. “Pero muchacha, y que ‘eh?” She asked, annoyed. Though I wanted to whine and question why we were buying anything for those English-speaking-spoiled-little-a-holes, I knew better, so I shook my head, assuring her that nothing was wrong and placed the M&M’s in the small cart.
At school the next day, a galore of candy laid on my classmates’ desks. Some girls even had flowers. That year, I was crushing on Mark K., a little white boy with braces who had one leg shorter than the other. After my attempt to profess my love to him in a little “Do you like me? Circle Yes, No, or Maybe” note, he had circled no and had the nerve to pass the message back to my girl Keisha, along with this message, “she is ugly, fat and stupid”-hold the phone-“I’m fat?!” (insert ugly cry). This planted the seed for my weird weight complex that followed me until my early 20’s. I was heart broken. So on Vday I knew not to expect anything from him.
I also didn’t expect the disappointment I felt when I spotted my desk as I approached my classroom. Nothing. The lack of cards could be seen from the hallway and my heart sank. It was strange, somehow my tears were stuck at first, my rage suppressing my usual reaction when I encounter impromptu vulnerability. “These come mierdas didn’t leave me shit?!” And that thought sent tears to my eyes which blurred everything from my vision. I quickly composed myself and finally noticed a lonely pink envelope on my chair. I looked around, a little suspicious but opened it anyway, everyone else too busy to notice my sudden excitement. “Happy Valentine’s Day from your teacher and friend, Mrs. Fox. ” Friend? Friend! This vieja must be crazy! Students and teachers are not supposed to be friends! I just came from a country where you got spanked with a ruler if you ever called your teacher anything else BUT teacher. I was already calling her by her first name! (side note: later in life I learned that my grade school was full of middle aged hippies who preferred first names over last) I did appreciate the thought but I decided I was not going to share it with anyone, special not my Ma. She did not need to know that my teacher was my only friend; she would have wanted to bring her empanadas, volunteer for stuff at the school…no way! I was already teased by my looks and accent; teacher’s pet did not need to be a part of it too.
I have since tried to make peace with this Hallmark holiday by pretending it doesn’t exist. What’s the real issue here? Am I afraid that if I celebrate something I’ve hated for so many years I’ll actually betray the cynical side of me and nurture this sudden craving I have for romance in my life? Or is it the memory embedded in my own heart, crushed by a little boy who obviously didn’t know I would turn out to be so…cool.
Since those youthful years, I’ve followed the feminist/humanist /I don’t give a damn-ist movement to enjoy that day all to myself. I do my nails, wash my hair, take a long bath, eat a delicious meal and watch a movie. Everything I would do- If I had date. Of course, this feel-good-day happens indoors, God forbid I frolic about and run into the hand-holding and faces *smushing together for loud sloppy kisses. Not to mention, the over-crowed restaurants and rude-ass-cashiers who are upset to be working on a day where they should be buying lingerie at Vicki Secrets and getting ready for THEIR big date. Does this mean that my non Valentine’s Day tradition has left me yearning for tradition? As crazy as that sounds, it’s not far from truth.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Instead of waiting for others to make plans for you, make plans for yourself. It’s love day after all and there’s no better love than self-love.
*Smushing-I made it up, smooch and mush together.