Walking down the halls of Oldham County Middle School on February 14th was always intense. From the second you crossed the threshold through those heavy metal doors, sentiments of love swirled around you. Heart streamers dangled from the ceiling & pink doilies were taped to all the walls. The Beta Club had sold Valentine’s Day suckers/cards during the week prior & would be delivering them later on…DURING CLASS. If you didn’t receive one, or some other sugary validation of your likability by the end of the day, it could be devastating to your fragile early-adolescent ego.
You might never recover.
In my seventh grade year, for the first time ever, I walked in that day with killer confidence. After a recent choir outing I was officially “going out” with someone. And he was a catch. His name was Travis, & y’all he was dreamy.
I strolled toward my locker, head held high, excited for what my new boo may have up his sleeve. When I turned the corner, he was there. Leaned up against #96, arms crossed, waiting. He saw me & smiled big, holding out two closed fists inviting me to pick.
I tapped a hand & he revealed a note. A poem he’d written for me. My first love letter. The last line of the poem was, “And on this Valentine’s Day I have but one thing to give…a kiss.” He opened the other fist to reveal a silver wrapped Hershey kiss & then planted one on my cheek before we hugged & went to class.
Yes, I remember the details. Yes, it was cheesy. But, it was also great.
Later that week at the Valentine’s Dance he laid one on me for real, right in front of a chaperone. My first real kiss. And it was a doozie. Not to be graphic, but he put his tongue in my mouth…& I liked it.
I went home swirling with all the feels of puppy love. I’d had a Valentine.
And I haven’t had one since…LOL.
Don’t be sad for me. I’ve dated, just not on a holiday & to be honest, I’m happy with that.
You see, all this time I’ve been flying solo, I’ve also been watching the people around me weave in & out of relationships.
I’ve purchased LOTS of ice cream & wine for man-bashing post break-up girls’ nights. I’ve been the girl guys call to ask the unanswerable questions about my gender as a whole & whine about how crazy we are. They weren’t totally wrong.
I watched my little brother fall for the best girl, pursue her for almost a decade & then manage to marry her. I witnessed my Gimmer say goodbye to her almost 50 year husband as cancer took his life in a hospital bed. And I still occasionally catch my Dad tickling the back of Mom’s knees on the way up the stairs. He loves to make her laugh.
I’ve stood beside my dearest friends watching them make vows & even officiated one set of friends’ special day. Some married for all the right reasons. Some because they just didn’t want to be alone. I’ve seen people grow in love through the hardest times. And I’ve watched others fight hard to convince the outside world that they are happy when they’re really living alone.
In short, I’ve seen the best & worst of love in my 23 years of mostly single girl living since that seventh grade sweetheart, & those observations have gifted me perspective & patience.
I have seen that even the grandest of partners have to work at things sometimes. And I’ve come to believe that relationships aren’t worth that work if there’s no wonderfully fierce flame to fight for.
I am not interested in “fine”.
I don’t have unrealistic expectations of love either, & I’m relieved that my hopeless romantic nature & affection for great British literature & cheesy movies didn’t get the better of me on lonely days or push me onto Tinder. I’ve also let go of the idea that Channing Tatum might decide he’d like a curvy Kentucky girl who can rap every word of The Real Slim Shady while making a mean cajun chicken alfredo. Hehe.
I’ve learned that romantic relationships can add great happiness to life, but they can’t be the source of your sense of self-worth or what you depend on for fulfillment.
I’ve loved being swept off my feet by places while flying solo around the world over the years, & I’ve been blessed to have the very best of friends hold me when I’m hurting & laugh with me singing the best of the 90s late into the night just for fun. I’ve never been alone or missing anything.
And even if Travis was my last & only Valentine, I never will be.
Thank you to all the people whose lives have taught me. Now enough of this gushy reflective stuff…target, take-out, & the tub are calling.