The first and and last time I had a Valentine was in my last year of high school. And thank God for that. I say thanks because at my high school, up until the 4th form (grade 11 for you muggles), Valentine’s gifts were delivered to your homebase classroom by your class prefect during the second last period of the day. (These details are fuzzy but stick with me).
So, the bell would ring and overexcited young girls who had worked themselves up to hyperventilation all day, would scamper past their lockers, playing Oracle about who would get what from whom. (Or, who would get nothing from nobody.) What this meant was that if you were like me and weren’t popular with the boys (read not popular in general), the absence of flowers, oversized stuffed creatures and other love themed paraphernalia from your desktop was only witnessed by approximately 27 other females. (Yes, I’m an elite all girls school survivor).
This worked really well for me because I always got that one face- saving gift. From my young brother at an all boys high school at which he was much like I was, fighting for his life. In exchange for his familial duty, I would do the same. He was a dork, I was a nerd, it worked well. Of course everyone knew where the roses would come from because we would inspect each other’s takings once the handing out ceremony was done. I made it through this custom unscathed for 4 years straight. Then final year happened.
The difference with 6th form (the final two years of high school, again, for the muggles) is that all the sixth formers were required to congregate in the school hall and travel from the seats on the floor, to the stage, in front of each other, to fetch whatever presents the vermin had deemed we were worthy of receiving. This was fine if you were in Lower 6. You were new to the senior game. Your importance was viewed the way one considers a wet piece of leftover bread-with just enough disdain to imply that whilst you are an eyesore, you aren’t enough of one to be paid much attention.
In Lower 6, you’d assemble with your crew, sit at the back and hope the final years wouldn’t notice you almost crawl to the stage to get your measly parcel. And they wouldn’t because they’d be concentrating on one of two things. The first was each other-she who received the largest/loudest/most of anything, ruled. Forever. The second was to make sure that said ruler was not a Lower 6th former. (read wet piece of bread.) If that ever happened, ESPECIALLY if the gifts came from someone whose affection had been mentioned in the same line with the word “dibs” by a final year, then screwdom. (use your imagination here).
Right. In my final year, I began a fated dalliance with an attractive, popular young man who happened to attend the same school my brother did. When I say I was a nerd, I mean it-glasses and all. But I was a clever, smart mouthed, sporty, funny nerd. And one of my best friends was the most beautiful and popular people in our stream. So I wasn’t a complete social pariah – I just missed the cool factor. So when I look back, I know 17 year old me could not believe that this popular individual picked me. I digress.
So when V-day (vomits in mouth) rolled around, panic levels were at Defcon One. “What if he’s just a fuck boy?” (we didn’t have that term back then but the species was strong), “what if he sends nothing and my crew is embarrassed because I got only the customary present?”I was a wreck.
I need to emphasise that at this point, I’d come into my own pretty nicely. I was a school prefect, well liked and respected by my peers and staff and showing some promise in the boob department. Boys still however, baffled me.
Final period rolled around, we congregated in the hall and all eyes were on us. And guess what? My name was called TWICE that year. I went out with a bang. I had a boy friend (kind of, I think) and clearly the boobs were working.
Fast forward 9 years. I’ve been in relationships and situationships but never have I ever had a Valentine -not since that February afternoon. The first two years I looked back with sad fondness at my high school triumph and wondered if I was to die a bitter spinster (melodramatic phase). The last 6 years have been a breeze. I’d book myself a movie and kill myself with red wine (my favourite anything) and live. Because Valentine’s Day is a scam. I’ve been quite happy.
But this year, in the build-up to today, I’ve experienced a sense of aloneness. Not loneliness. Just being alone and mildly concerned. And when I consider the sheer volume of dates I’ve been on in the last year, and for what-cheap thrills, bad kisses, mommy issues, short man syndrome, mediocre conversation and egos the size of The Donald’s head?(I Tindered A lot).
I’m alone in the adult world for the first time and that feeling of camaraderie- constant cheering and support from a large group of girlfriends has slowly tapered to “are you alive?” texts in between coffee runs and pap smears. I’ve tried to fill the empty feelings with dates to keep busy. See, I wasn’t even looking for meaningful connections or even the traditional Tinder hook-up. I was looking for time pushers just so I wouldn’t be that girl who really likes to sit alone on her couch after work and read a book for three hours whilst listening to scratched New Edition CDs. All so that on Monday when people asked how my weekend was, I wouldn’t say “great, I watched 32 episodes of Arrested Development and finished a book”. I was looking to have something to do for one Valentine’s Day.
This morning I deleted Tinder and went shopping online for a book I last read in high school. I found it at a book store near my house. I’m on my way to pick it up now (along with a good bottle of wine because I can afford non-poison now). This Valentine’s almost reduced me to that insecure mess I was on the last V-day that meant anything. All to prove to perfect strangers that I’m loveable.
I’m alright. I’m alone and rather pleased that I’m not frantically calling restaurants for a last minute booking (because that’s the human I am). So to you who doesn’t have a date tonight and is currently swiping right on everything (with your “I’m going out” settings on), it’ll be okay. Today doesn’t define you. The huge chocolate cake on your counter you bought as backup? That defines you. (chuckles at own joke)
Happy Valentine’s Day (read Tuesday)
The Empress. x