I was seven years old when I sent my first Valentines card. It was to myself.
What kind of fucked up school encourages kids to send Valentines cards anyway? They put up a special red post box a week before the “big day”, then handed out the cards during registration. From that moment on I was convinced that the whole song and dance was just another way to shame people for being lonely. At seven I realized I was undesirable. Validation through popularity…was this what school was all about? Spoiler alert: yes.
So, young as I was, I was clever enough to opt out of the shame game and send a card to myself. Thank you me. I feel like I’ve always had my back.
The next Valentines card I remember writing was when I was 11. Same school, but a few different faces. Alice and Kylie, two new girls who had the good fortune to prematurely grow tits, were the chosen ones, the desirables. I didn’t think I was going to get any real cards but by this point I’d entered into a pact with my closest gaggle of girl friends; we’d send them to each other. So there. But this year there was a boy. His name was Josh May and he wore a Pokémon t-shit and had gelled, crisp, spiky hair. Little turrets of status. The outside of the card had dancing hearts listening to a stereo on it and on the inside I wrote the lyrics to Mel C and Bryan Adams’ Baby When You’re Gone. He thew it in the bin.
Things just feel so wrong. Yeah, baby when you’re gone.
When I started secondary school, Valentines cards were a strict army mission that required strategic planning and negotiation. Ashley Baker and I agreed to send each other one, not out of romantic interest, but to avoid the shame of being left out. Some utter twats would strut the Science Block corridors yielding a mass of red balloons in one arm and their best squealing gal pal on the other, looking on adoringly, of course. I get it. You’re popular. You’re hot. You cloud the changing rooms after P.E with plumes of Charlie Red, your mum let you have highlights and you actually seem to know what you are doing with eyeliner. I could only marvel. Although my popularity daydreams were rudely disturbed when I was bopped in the face by six stray balloons from a passing globular deity.
I’ve always been awkward. That doesn’t really change over time.
Last year my mum bought me a Valentine’ card. She signed it from Bracken the dog. My sister got me one too, signed by my niece and nephew. I love them so much. I could have cried. Although I think it is important to note that I didn’t. I was back in England for nearly a month recovering from my break up with Will and that just so happened to coincide with my first single Valentine’s Day in six years…not that when we were together he made a big deal of it…except for the first year.
Valentine’s Day 2012. The first one in which I knew him. We had literally just met. I was 23 and still occasionally falling asleep wearing my shoes. Our student days were over and my friends and I were kind of living in a post university, pre adult life bubble where we were all working shit jobs but throwing dinner parties at the weekend with desserts made in martini glasses because we thought that is what real adults did. I’d known him just over two weeks and so we (dramatically) were not spending Valentine’s Day together. I was having dinner at one of the gentrified pubs in New Cross with my flatmates instead…but Will…he liked me. Weird awkward me. He had hand made me a card…a beautiful card using a scalpel and peacock feathers. He gave it to my scariest room mate at one of our dinner parties. The whole crew had scrutinized the poor boy but agreed to leave the card outside my bedroom door on February 14th. I think that was the first time anybody had ever MADE me anything. My uni boyfriend Nick was good as gold, of course, and twice supplied a bunch of roses from Tesco Express. At 19 THAT was romance. That and a bottle of on the turn rosé from the corner shop…and maybe a Kinder Bueno. But Will…he had sat for hours and made me something and I was touched. The fact that he cared enough to create something made me think that perhaps he could be my boyfriend after all.
That was the first and last hand made Valentine’s card I got from him. I don’t think we even celebrated the day in our last year together. That’s sometimes the thing isn’t it. People make a lot of effort when they don’t have you, but when they do…they forget how much it means that you are there. I hope neither of us makes that mistake again.
So there I was. Opening up a Valentines Card and a chocolate heart from my mum. 29 and newly single.
My mum has always been a good Valentine’s sport. She was the one who funded the ill fated card to Josh May and picked up the strategy pack for friends and associates. She didn’t ask too many questions and I appreciated it. When I was 13, she sent my sister and I off to school with a Valentines card in our lunchboxes. I opened it up to see she had bought us tickets to see Craig David play live on stage. I screamed in delight. Craig. I loved him from afar…although not as much as Julia. I let her have him.
When the crowd say “Bo”, selecccccta.
Not wanting to spend the night in with my mum and my stepdad, I made plans to hang out with a friend last Valentines Day. I still have a lot of friends back home and she was single too so it seemed as good a time as any to get pissed on Prosecco and eat some gourmet M&S macarons. Fuck I miss M&S. Maybe I’ll write them a valentines card one day….although I did see they’re peddling some love sausage abomination these days that I’d rather disassociate myself with. That’s the problem, isn’t it. People change. Major food brands change.
A year on and I am in a much better place. Last week I went to a very weird Valentine’s theme car event where I ended up getting “matched” to a KIA whilst swilling back my third cocktail and trying to keep a straight face as the valiant marketing team tried to sell me the damn thing like I might have more than $308.59 in my bank account. Love. What a good opportunity for an up sell.
Valentines Day. I’ve had good days and I have had bad. I’ve been on top and I’ve been rejected. I’ve laughed and I have cried…which to me makes it just like any other day of the year. My point being, don’t worry. Don’t worry if you’re alone this year. It’s not a big deal either way. Your time will come around, because that’s life. And this is just another one of the days in your life.
As it so happens, this year I do actually have a Valentines date and I want to admit that I am looking forward to it. Not because it’s Valentine’s Day, I honestly couldn’t give a fuck, but because I’m spending the evening with someone I think that I might be excited about…. And those butterflies…the fresh air of change…that is something you cant buy. There is no day for that. It just has to find you. And so you wait. But know this; in my experience it always comes. Eventually. And when it does, you won’t care at all that Josh May ripped up your letter and that your last few cards were from your mum and your family dog. I promise. Until then. Chin up…there’s always the M&S Love Sausage….