Ah, love. If I dust off the ancient memories trapped in the corners of my mind I vaguely recall a time when I got excited about Valentine’s Day. High school was by far the most dramatic. Would a mysterious admirer send me a fundraiser carnation? Would the boy I like send roses to the school making me feel super important yet totally awkward at the same time? In college the expectations were a little different. Is the guy I just met at the bar a serial killer? Should I be worried that the teddy bear the dude down the hall gave me has a camera in it?
Seventeen years ago I started dating the man who is now my husband. He did a really good job those first few years, showering me with flowers and fancy dinners and all the things a courting guy is supposed to do on Valentine’s Day. He even proposed to me on February 14. (Get me some wine with that cheese, am I right?) In his defense, the ring came in early – and he just couldn’t wait to put it on my finger.
But time goes by, you have a few kids, up becomes down and you’re no longer sure what year it is let alone if it’s a holiday. Gifts of jewelry are replaced with new appliances and gourmet meals become chicken nuggets from your kid’s leftover Happy Meal. But that’s okay. Really. There’s something fabulous about the ease at which this once frantic holiday now operates. Here are my top six reasons Valentine’s Day gets better (or at least easier) with age:
1. The Gifts
When it comes to shopping, guys have it easy on Valentine’s Day. Hey, baby. Here are some roses, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a pretty necklace…Now as a girl, I always had a terrible time buying gifts for my sweetheart. While edible thong underwear for men may seem like the perfect gift at the time, trust me, you’ll regret it later. When you get older, necessities replace holiday gifts, or at least in our house they do. Last year I bought my husband a Dustbuster. This year? We’re going for a new toaster oven. Romantic? No. Making my life easier? Yes.
2. The Wardrobe
What will you wear this Valentine’s Day? If you’re anything like me it’s a pair of fleece sweatpants, a sweatshirt three times the age of my eldest son, and a pair of slippers that look like they were knitted by someone’s blind grandmother. Don’t get me wrong, I do wear nice clothes every now and then, but gone are the days of stuffing myself into a mini skirt and heels to go out and order a salad at an expensive restaurant. Who am I kidding – I’d never order a salad. I’d order a 16 oz ribeye and curse myself for not having the foresight to wear something with an elastic waistband. My current look comes with an advantage, too – when I do dress up, I look really good in comparison.
3. The Dinner
One Valentine’s Day long ago we waited two hours for a table at a fancy-pants restaurant that didn’t accept reservations, a restaurant that would have been fairly empty had it been any other night. I was so hungry I nearly ate the leather off the dining chairs, and by the time my dinner met the three drinks swimming in my empty stomach a territorial battle ensued, leaving me with stomach cramps followed by explosive diarrhea. These days if we go for a nice dinner it’s on any day but Valentine’s Day. Pass the pizza and Merlot, please.
4. The Disappointment
Have you ever been dating a guy, a guy who was quiet about Valentine’s Day, a guy you were sure was planning something spectacular behind your back, only to end up playing Mario Kart and eating cheese sandwiches in his filthy living room? Planning the perfect date is tough on everyone, especially when expectations are high. One year my date took me bowling – I’m a simple girl, so that was just fine – until I ended up getting a foot fungus that took me three years to get rid of. I’m sure it’s not the worst disease a person has picked up on Valentine’s Day, but it was still pretty gross. My expectations these days aren’t exactly lower, but they are different. I mean, unloading the dishwasher before I get to it is quite the romantic surprise.
5. The Magic
Remember those awkward moments that riddled your younger years? The “is he going to kiss me?” or the “Oh, my. Did he really just put his hands there?” moments? Your heart goes boom, the adrenaline courses through your body in anticipation of the unknown… Yeah, they’re gone. Now if I get that feeling I take an aspirin and dial 911. I hate to be brutally honest, but after your husband wakes up to your dragon breath for roughly 6200 mornings and witnesses you push a watermelon from your hoo-hah there’s really not a whole lot of mystery left. Don’t get me wrong – we still have magic. It just happens before midnight and never after eating Mexican food. Our Valentine’s Day foreplay this year will surely involve wrestling over the last slice of pizza.
6. The Love
Every day is Valentine’s Day for me. And I’m being totally serious about this. I hear I love you so many times each day that it could actually start to lose its luster if I let it. I hear it from my husband, my sons, the pool boy…(Kidding about the last one, honey.) Every day my five-year-old brings me love notes home from school; every night before bed my three-year-old whispers, “I love you so much, Mommy.” I no longer need to be wined and dined and showered with roses and Russell Stover chocolates with mystery fillings to quantify how much I’m loved. I get it from slobbery kisses, shared fruit snacks, extra long hugs, the silent entwining of fingers as we drift off to sleep. I’ve finally gotten to a point in life where love isn’t in the grand gestures – it’s in the little things, the things that really, truly matter. And that, my friends, is what makes my heart go boom.