Peaked too soon

14 Feb

The honest, and oft-repeated, truth is that I don’t like Valentine’s Day. And I blame Adam Jenkins.

Adam was my best friend at Scott Mill Lane preschool. We sat next to each other during carpet time, we roughhoused on the playground, we even had play dates at each others’ houses. He was my best friend. In kindergarten we had a Valentine exchange. And despite the fact that was 34 years ago, I remember it as if it were yesterday. Because I grew up in an age where you were allowed to give Valentines to whomever you chose, and were not forced to include every single person in the class (even if they were a paste-eating, wedgie-giving neanderthal) our exchange took place one student at a time. All the other students were to sit with their heads down on their desk while the person went around and stuck Valentines into the construction paper envelopes that were taped to the back of our chairs. I was peeking through my folded arms as a very earnest, slightly embarrassed-looking Adam approached the teacher and started whispering to her. I closed my eyes as she glanced my way, afraid I was going to get into trouble for peeking. As he went about the business of delivering Valentines to their proper recipients, Adam came around the front of my desk and slid something towards me. Despite the fact my head was still down, my eyes squeezed tight, I felt it bump against my arms. When we were finally allowed to lift our heads I saw it, a small, heart-shaped box filled with conversation hearts. And just like that my best friend became my boyfriend.

So, to you, Adam Jenkins, I say, “Thanks for nothing!” No, I’m just kidding. Here it is, 35 years later, and I still remember his name. All because of that tiny box of conversation hearts. And there hasn’t been a Valentine’s Day since that could even touch the sweet romanticism of that day. Because isn’t that the ideal way for love to evolve? When your best friend singles you out, lets you know that you mean more?

And that’s why I could never get behind Valentine’s Day. It is a day fraught with unrealistic expectations. It is a holiday tailor-made for disappointment. Because, as the multiple Valentine’s Day related memes featuring Admiral Ackbar have pointed out, “It’s a trap!” Can you trust your girl when she says, “You don’t have to get me anything for Valentine’s Day”? Do so at your own peril. But then there are girls like me who truly don’t want you to buy flowers or candy. Yes, if we were dating I’d want you to acknowledge the fact that Hallmark insists you show your love on February 14, but a post-it with a heart drawn in red Sharpie will do. I just can’t stand the idea of forced romanticism. Bleech. It’s false. I’m sure there are people to whom a mylar balloon, a cellophane-wrapped grocery store bouquet, and a Whitman’s sampler is the most perfect expression of love. But not me. To me love is taking your garbage can up to your house because I don’t want you to have to do it when you get home from work still wearing your suit. Love is a picture texted because the view makes you wish that person was sitting right next to you. Love is watching a movie I raved about, or reading a book that made me cry, because you want to better understand my obsession/point of view. To me love is thoughtfulness expressed every day, not just on February 14. Now, that said, if it takes a Hallmark holiday to force your hand, to push you over the edge, then I can see the redeeming quality of using it as a jumping off point. But if you’re already in a relationship, then it should be acknowledged, sure, but overall just treated as another day filled with love and respect. Any day of the week I’m going to buy your favorite sour gummy candy when I see it on sale. But I’m not going to pay full retail for it on February 13.

Love is rightfully expecting reciprocal respect, even during the other 364 days of the year.

So, wherever you are Adam Jenkins, I hope you’re happy. I can’t see conversation hearts without thinking of you. And I can’t stomach forced, saccharine displays of false affection when you made me smile with a simple, surprising gesture, an expression of love from one friend to another. It’s sad really. I peaked too soon. Reached my romantic pinnacle at the age of 5. Oh well,fingers crossed for Arbor Day…

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim