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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentine's Day Isn't Always Love-ly

I will preface this tale by saying I love Valentine’s Day. I always have. To me it doesn’t matter if you’re in love, single or something in between. It’s about love, and that’s a very good thing. One of my favorite things in life is giving gifts and doing things for other people. And I love hearts, so there you go, it’s a match made in heaven.

My tale starts with a realization, one that often comes too late for me – don’t they all  - that there is  a point in many relationships where you realize you are not having the same relationship your partner is. Sadly, I had that realization on a Valentine’s Day.

I had been dating my then-boyfriend for about seven months, for the third or fourth time. We had a bit of …history. But this time, I determined, was different. So Valentine’s Day was going to be special.

As a writer, dating another writer, there was sure to be some literary influence. A mutual favorite author was Nick Hornby of “High Fidelity” and “About A Boy,” fame. I had written a story about his latest book, thereby knowing his PR person and managed to score my beloved, whom for privacy purposes I will refer to as…Bolt, a signed copy of “Juliet Naked.”

Oh, but the gifts didn’t end there. We both also loved the Cameron Crowe cult classic movie, “Singles.” Now, if you’ve seen the movie, you know it’s about a group of friends in grunge-centric Seattle, and that garage door openers play a big part in symbolizing letting someone into your life. So, on top of the book, I also got an opener to my garage – sweet, thoughtful and symbolic. I was psyched.

I love to cook so I decided to make us a wonderful candlelight dinner. I decided on Asian. I shopped, chopped and stir fried. The dinner was wonderful, but the crowning glory was dessert.

I decided to make homemade fortune cookies. Yes, I am insane. Making these thin, momentarily flexible cookies, placing a fortune inside and folding them before they shatter like your romantic dreams isn’t as easy as you might think.

Staying thematic I had made long thin strips of lines from Nick Hornby books as the fortunes, lines like, “People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands-- literally thousands-- of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.” And “It's no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn't even speak to each other if they met at a party.” In retrospect, maybe I should have picked Jane Austen, or even Erich Segal, not the poster child for man/children everywhere, Hornby.

Nonetheless I could not wait to give him my heartfelt gifts and dinner.
I dressed up in my best fancy finery, meaning yes, I was wearing extremely uncomfortable lingerie under my dress, and waited. And waited. Yes, he was late, but as I waited I pondered what he’d be bringing me – roses in my favorite color – the palest pink, or maybe some clothes, fancy chocolates… my mind reeled at the possibilities.

When he finally arrived he came in bearing a bunch of slightly limp, cellphone wrapped supermarket flowers, and a card. I opened the card hoping for that elusive never uttered word… love, but there was no love, only an “XO, Bolt.”   

Okay. So gifts aren’t everything, just because I loved going all out didn’t mean everyone did. I would rally, it was all good.

He loved the book, but when he opened the garage door opener I couldn’t help but notice a look of slight discomfort, some might even say, panic cross his face. It was in this moment, the realization hit. I was moving this train forward and he was looking for the nearest exit. We were having different relationships.

Three weeks later we had an uncomfortable conversation that started with, “We need to talk,” never a good sign. Bolt had decided, for the third or fourth time, that this wasn’t working for him, and after eight months, we split once again.

I was sitting in my kitchen after he’d gone, crying, trying to decide if 10 a.m. was too early for ice cream, when he walked back in. He placed the garage remote on the counter. “I thought I should give you this back,” he said. I wanted to throw it at him, or dramatically crush it with my heel, but I didn’t, that thing cost like $20!

“We spent all those years talking about stuff we had in common, and the last few months noticing all the ways we were different and it broke both of our hearts.”  Maybe Nick Hornby is a relationship guru after all…

It's all good now. We're friends. You can't blame someone for not loving you. It's always better to have loved and lost, but hopefully you figure out if they love you back before you go handing out those garage door remotes.

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