A Brief History of Valentine's Day

essay by Marie Mundaca

I usually stress over Valentine's Day, but not this year. That's because I don't have a boyfriend and I don't have to worry about the disappointment.

My first Valentine as an adult came when I was 13. Amy gave me a copy of a hard-core porn novel, called Two Swinging Families, that extolled the virtues of incest and pedophilia. Tucked inside the front cover was a hand-made card--a big red heart, below which was written "Happy V Day." Inside, the sentiment read "Happy VIRGIN'S Day. And stay that way until you're 30!" Later that semester, Amy wrote a story for class about running away with her boyfriend to the Galapagos, "where the big turtles spawn."

Fast forward to high school. Senior year, the Honor Society held a fundraiser where the Honor Society members would deliver a carnation, color of your choosing, to your true love or reasonable facsimile thereof. The members of the Honor Society obviously had nothing better to do on Valentine's Day. The flower was presented without a card, so it was completely anonymous, but the recipient could pay $1 to find out who sent the flower, unless the sender spend an extra $2 to have that information blocked. I sent my friend Joanne, who was beau-less that week, a white carnation with a block. I sent Mark, a lovely anorexic boy who played Riff Raff in the local Rocky Horror stage show and who sat in front of me in AP English, a red carnation with no block, but he didn't bother to find out who sent it. Mark thought I was 'intelligent' (his word), but clearly not dating material. Which was easy to understand, as I wasn't a boy.

On Valentine's Day at my first full-time job I discovered a red rose upon my messy desk, next to my cold coffee. Secretly, I wished it was from my friend Matt. Matt thought it was from Wayne. Wayne thought it came from my boyfriend, whom he used to hear me fighting with on the phone. But I was pretty sure it was the cleaning man, a scary guy who used to approach me every morning and tell me that he knew how to make me feel like a woman, at which I was already pretty adept, having been one for a while. What he did know how to do was make me feel extremely uncomfortable. I could have ratted him out to the boss, but since I was the office manager, I'd have to fire him and hire a new cleaning person. It was all way too much work. He left on his own when I threatened him with an X-Acto knife. Never underestimate the power of desk accessories!

I've had boyfriends for the last four Valentine's Days, and these have not been pretty scenes. F'rinstance, four years ago I ended up in the hospital. I had a relapse of the neurological disease I have (chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy), was getting plasmapherisis, and ended up with no clotting factor in my blood. I was a temporary hemophiliac! So, I was admitted to the hospital February 13. My romantic dinner plans with Erik were ruined, but he promised spend all Friday in the hospital with me, as it was his day off from work. Well, I waited. And I waited. And waited. Around 3 pm I made my way down the hall to the pay phones (I couldn't get a phone in my room, as when I was admitted I didn't have any money, and you need to pay up front for the phone). On the way, the hole in my leg where they had stuck the tube for the plasmapherisis opened up, spilling lots of my blood all over the slick tiled floor. By the time I got to the phone I had three nurses yelling at me, plus the buzzing in my ears from the loss of blood was a bit overwhelming, so I could hardly hear Erik when I reached him, at home, 'relaxing.' He showed up around 6 when I was getting a transfusion.

These days, what V-Day means for most women is this: in exchange for a cheap box of Russell Stover's purchased in haste at the drug store at 7pm on February 14th, she must spend $100 on Victoria's Secret lingerie, work on her sword-swallowing, and develop kegel muscles strong enough to pop the cork off a wine bottle. She also must lavish praise upon her hapless lover and later surreptitiously trash said box of candy, which is so bad even the office vultures won't eat any of it.

For much less money and effort, I can go get myself a nice box of Neuhaus at Macy's the next day--half-price.

Copyright (c) 2001 Marie Mundaca