Valentine’s Day is coming up and it is a holiday I detest. It is on my list of most horrible annual events, next to April Fool’s Day. Every Valentine’s Day I pretend very hard to not notice that it is occurring. However, in the spirit of openness and truthfulness – especially to myself – I admit this reaction is because I am terribly jealous.
You see, the most perfect thing in the world to me is two (okay, and sometimes three, but, hello, I’m not talking about porn!) people in love. Doesn’t your heart just soar to witness it? Most of my favorite movies are about people falling desperately, passionately, rightfully in love. But when it happens in real life? Oh, my goodness. Reality just has a level of complexity to falling in love – a grayscale of passion – that cannot be captured on film. Love is at once easy and difficult. It paradoxically falls into your lap when it seems like it is light years away. It requires something as simple as a glance and as complicated as a commitment. When my friends and family find love and are loved in return, I just know that all is right with the world, whether it works out or not. Most days of the year I’m just happy to be alive because I know that people fall in requited love.
Yet I have never experienced this. I know what unrequited love is. I know what happens when someone latches on to you because you have a sense of responsibility and money. I know what it means to go into debt for someone who will never feel that way about you. I know what it is like to meet cute, only to find you are a therapist to a suicidal drunk one week later. What I personally know of love is that it never seems to involve an “us”.
Yeah, I hear you: boohoo. “You’ve got to put yourself out there.” “Your expectations are too high.” “Put up an online ad.” “It will happen when you least expect it.”
I know that. You are right. But on Valentine’s Day expectation glows pink and red out of every advertisement, every card, every flower, every cheek, every heart. Everyone – on that day only – suddenly seems to care if you also have romantic plans for the evening. People look at you curiously, wondering why you are not a part of the day, wondering what is wrong with you, full of advice and side glances. I try to stay away from other people on February 14th until their good-intentioned but thoroughly annoying attention passes. On February 15th.
This year I vowed I would not become a grumpy old man or a cynic, even though I have spent the last few years trying to build a funny, curmudgeonly mask for myself. The grumpy old man beloved in fiction is in real life an asshole, and worse. I don’t want to wake up one day and discover that I am old, alone, and rejected by family and former friends because I am an utter asshole.
Instead I will become the kind of man who someone could fall in love with, the kind of man for whom I would fall: confident, educated, interesting, passionate, happy, of good humor, and skeptically awe-struck by everything. I’m part way there because of good friends who helped set me on a better path.
This Valentine’s Day, when everyone in the world seems to be celebrating with their significant other, I will remember that on every other day of the year I am very happy for them and not at all jealous. Love will be in the air, and if not for me, then I will take comfort in knowing that others are in love.
I will probably be studying, alone, this Valentine’s Day, but someday someone unexpected will recognize the worthwhile in me about the same time I recognize it in him. And how can I continue to be jealous knowing that that is in my future!?