Is it weird that, most Valentine’s Days, I wind up thinking about my single friends?
In my thirty eighth year, I have had a steady Valentine for eight years now, but for the first three decades of my life I spent most Valentine’s in a bitter pool of resentment. I remember attending a special square dancing “workshop” in fifth grade, where the boys and girls were asked to pair up and…I got left the odd-man out, having to dance with the teacher. I remember thinking to myself, “This is how it’s always going to be. I’m always going to be the one left alone. I’m Quasimodo.” And every Valentine’s, even now, I think about that moment. But since Valentine’s Day 2004, I have kind of a different perspective.
At that point, I was already pretty cynical when it came to love. Point of fact: I was in the early drafting stages of a one act play called “Two Fools: A Cynic’s Fairytale” at the time all this went down. I had become accustomed to thinking of myself as That Jilted Girl, the wallflower that never got her own flowers on VD.
I have been ridiculed both to my face and behind it, been not-called-back by enough men to form a professional football team and stood up? Don’t get me started. I had one guy stand me up (actually, physically, standing at the screen door for ninety minutes waiting for him to show) and when I finally heard from him he said he didn’t come or call because “Dave Matthews was on Storytellers and he couldn’t tear himself away.” (Dave Matthews. Textbook Douche.) I went out with one guy who sat with me at the table of a pizzeria for five minutes, got up to go to the bathroom and never came back. Fun fact? After twenty minutes of waiting, I called his phone and he had changed his OUTGOING VOICEMAIL MESSAGE to a message to me that said, “I’m sorry, Sarah…I had to bail.” Another charmer: the friend I’d asked to escort me to my first sorority formal who showed up half an hour late. When I asked why he didn’t call to let me know he was running late, he LITERALLY SAID: “I’m not your boyfriend, I’m never going to be your boyfriend, so I saw no reason to call.” By the time 2004 hit, needless to say, I didn’t have a great deal of faith in men.
I was in New Brunswick, New Jersey attending my first year of graduate school at Rutgers. A few days prior, I had met a man at Doll’s, the bar my friends and I frequented (GOD, I miss that place). We had talked all night and, I thought, had hit it off. He asked if I wanted to go out with him sometime and I agreed; mentioned that I had theater tickets for that Saturday night (which just so happened to be Valentine’s Day). He had just gone through what he claimed was a tough breakup and, admittedly, expressed some hesitation about going out with someone new on Valentine’s. I told him we could do something else on another, less hot-button-y day, but he persisted, said he thought it’d be good for him.
That Saturday morning he called and cancelled. I was less than pleased, but the situation worsened when I spoke with a friend who claimed that the bartender had overhead this young man making jokes at my expense that evening when I hadn’t been listening. I dropped my basket, going from Zero to Quasimodo in about…ninety seconds. I tried to get through my day, was miserable to be around and in the early afternoon, found myself smoking a cigarette outside the theater building.
There, I was introduced to a friend’s roommate, Shawn. She’d been telling me I had to meet him, that he and I would be best buddies if we knew each other. (He is not romantically inclined towards women, I don’t want you to get the idea that this was that kind of love-connection…) When he heard what had happened to me that morning, he offered to take my date’s place and see the show with me that night. This began a friendship that, twelve years later, is still quite profound. Shawn went on to become my roommate, to spend a stranded and memorable Thanksgiving with me, to take me to my first and only Broadway Opening Night (Alas, poor People in the Picture. We hardly knew ye). You guys, Shawn officiated my wedding.
The effect of his addition to my life was instantaneous. I returned to my apartment for the rest of the afternoon and changed my attitude. I decided to make homemade Valentine’s cards for my classmates, like you do when you’re in grade school. On the front of each one was a black heart with a quote from a John Mayer song:
And I put inside each one a bay leaf which, according to an old gypsy wive’s tale, would bring you dreams of the person you would marry when put under your pillow (I did not, in fact dream of Jason-or anyone-that night, sorry gypsies…your shit’s broke). I handed them out to all my classmates at the show that night and slowly, the spell of resentment was broken. For me, every Valentine’s Day since, I remember this moment with gratitude.
Because of that day, I truly do think there’s a balance to the universe. I think you get back what you put out, but it’s important to do the putting-out (spoken like a true ho, I know). I think to truly love someone (as cliché as this sounds), you do really have to love yourself first, to value the unique brand of love you’re putting out into the ether. And I think karma exists, that sometimes we’re meant to be alone to teach us what we need from other people and from ourselves. But more than anything, I think sometimes there are people who are meant to be in our lives no matter what, people whose light attaches to ours for good and makes it burn brighter and last longer. I have several of those cherished people in my life and I was just lucky enough to get to meet one of my best ones on Valentine’s Day.
So, if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, you’re in my thoughts. Whether you’ve loved and lost or never loved at all, I hope my story brings you comfort. Not all fulfilling relationships are the ones that involve flowers and scented candles, as fun as those may be. Reach out to those that are important to you, put your love out on display, because your life will see it brought back to you. I’m a living testament.
And, if nothing else, remember, kids…tomorrow candy is 75% off!