According to all the yoga studio newsletters I subscribe to, Monday is Valentine’s Day and we should be celebrating by loving ourselves, loving the people in our lives and doing yoga that facilitates all that. Normally I’m all about spreading the love, but I’ve found myself pursing my lips and feeling rather resistant to Valentine’s Day themed yoga. And then I realized it wasn’t really about the yoga, it was about Valentine’s Day. I always thought I would hate it less when I had someone to spend it with, but if anything, the “doing something special because Hallmark says you have to” aspect of it only stresses me out more. Digging in a little deeper, I realized I must have some sort of PTSD around Valentine’s Day. Here’s why (my mom is rolling her eyes right now):
As a child, I was sick EVERY Valentine’s Day. Look at my school attendance records and you will see that every year from kindergarten up until junior high, I was absent on February 14th. Most years it was just a cold or the flu, but highlights include the Jell-O Jiggler incident in first grade (where I spent all night puking up red Jell-O. To this day, I do not eat Jell-O and jelly is guilty by association. I made one exception in college for Jell-O shots, and guess what – I threw up then, too), and my second round of chicken pox in fourth grade – or maybe that was “fifth disease” (I really did get the chicken pox twice, though, and the second time really was in fourth grade). It got to the point where we just assumed I would be sick and didn’t even bother buying valentines for my class. I have no memory of Valentine’s Day in junior high, but I’m pretty sure that’s because even if my physical body was present at school, the rest of me had bolted for the door the second anyone mentioned boys and “liking” them.
To be honest, I don’t really remember the Valentine’s Days where I’ve been in relationships (sorry boys) and Japan’s customs around Valentine’s Day brought about a whole new level of anxiety for me (in Japan, only the girls get stuff for the guys on V-Day). But there is one Valentine’s Day that I remember pretty vividly – the anti-Valentine’s Day I spent with my friend Julia during our freshman year of high school. We were 14, relationship-less, angsty and incredibly awkward (this was at the end of the braces and bangs years for me). We spent the day at her parent’s house Hallmark holiday-bashing, drawing on each other with Sharpies, talking about the risks/benefits of body piercings with safety pins, spraying our hair purple and hoping to god we could shock our parents with at least one of these activities (I think our parents were amused more than anything). The next year, Jules and I would have grown apart, I would have a boyfriend and both of us would have negotiated a piercing or two out of our parents, but for some reason that Valentine’s Day always stands out to me. Maybe it’s because it was the last Valentine’s Day spent in innocence – before the word “love” took on any other connotations or conjured up so many varied and complicated emotions. Before I’d had my heart broken, before I’d broken any hearts, before I loved someone so much that I would do anything to keep them close, before I loved someone enough to, for the first time, be willing and excited to sacrifice and compromise, before I loved myself enough to know when to walk away.
As I write this, I imagine that love takes on an entirely new dimension when we become parents. To love someone even when they say they hate you, to love someone so much that you willingly give up all the things that you thought mattered, to love someone fiercely, but oftentimes from a distance as you give them space to grow and find their own way. My parents still send me cards or texts on Valentine’s Day. When I get them, I usually say something like, “Oh gosh, my parents are so silly,” but it’s the one thing I really like about Valentine’s Day. I like that, even after all these years and all the other stuff we’ve been through, I’m still their Valentine.