When I was in high school, I worked in a flower shop. We sold candies and chocolates and plants, christmas houses and ornaments and fine china too, but on Valentine's Day it was all about the flowers. Let me tell you something. Valentine's Day is every florists nightmare. Sure, it's great for business, but it means one blasting and terrible week full of phones ringing off the hook, and cranky floral designers with their fingers stuck full of thorns like ten-digit, wiggling porcupines. My job was to work at the cash register, taking phone orders and ringing up the purchases, but mostly helping the endless line of poor fellows who left it to the last minute throw together a beautiful bouquet.
It was long hours moving at high speed, but nothing is quite so ridiculous or romantic as the idea of love when one is in high school. It is still perfect then, unfractured. It is a word that opens into caverns of possibility, a place where day dreams of grand gestures and silly, romantic surprises dwell, before disappointments and heartbreaks come calling and knock the wind straight out of us. I had boyfriends in high school, and in four years must have benefitted from one or two romantic gestures on Valentine's Day, but you know, I can't remember. When I look back at the past Valentine's in my life I don't remember the ones full of romantic love. I remember the time I made heart-shaped cookies for all my classmates in middle school. Or the time my father, hearing me lamenting about one boy or another, surprised me by sending a Valentine's bouquet to be delivered at school via the high school office.
Will you be my Valentine, Signifer? His note read.
In fact, when it comes to romance, aside from one or two occasions I've tucked away in my brain, what I most recall about Valentine's Day is the feeling of loneliness, that gnawing sense of yearning for something just out of reach, just around the corner. And there is no worse occupation than working in a flower shop when you are miserably single on Valentine's Day. I would stand there for hours, building bouquets with bleeding fingers, forced to participate in producing evidence of another's love for some ridiculous and PERFECTLY WONDERFUL HOLIDAY AND WHY COULDN'T MY CRUSH JUST APPEAR ON A WHITE HORSE BURSTING THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR OF THE FLOWER SHOP AND SAY, COME ON, I'M TAKING YOU TO PET SOME GOATS AND HERE IS A MIXED VARIETY OF ROSES AND SUNFLOWERS AND LIMONIUM, THE WORLD'S GREATEST FLORAL FILLER, BECAUSE I KNOW YOU HATE CARNATIONS AND BABY'S BREATH!
Sigh. Of course, being a witless romantic, there was a side of me that loved the knowledge that I was making someone else's Valentine's Day special, too. That truly sustained me.
In the years to come there were flowers and candle-lit dinners. But many Valentine's Days and one terrible louse of a boyfriend later, I was in my late twenties when I was finally forced to take a look at the source of all that Valentine's sadness - that undefinable yearning. What did I truly want? I asked myself.
I wanted flowers! Well... I could arrange that for myself.
I wanted someone to draw me a bath! Well... I could do that for myself.
I wanted a beautiful candle! Well, I supposed I could go out and get one, even though it was raining.
And suddenly going to buy myself a lovely candle in the New York City rain turned out to be one of the most romantic outings I'd ever had. Because I was living romance. It was coming from within me. I wasn't searching and longing for it to come from someplace else. I didn't need to long for others to do romantic things for me. The empowerment was real. I could manage my needs myself. Slowly, as I began to ask myself, What do you truly want?
A crepe in the park! To be barefoot! To dance on the bed! To cook to old french music! To make a salad full of edible flowers! The answers came rushing as fast as I could fulfill them.
A lot of people find themselves feeling lonely on Valentine's Day. But the source of it extends far beyond any commercial holiday. The longing is fixable. Romance yourself. When you can fill your own life with the romance you are yearning for, you find any additional romance is the most incredible surprise! Even better, you find that when you radiate romance, more romance seems to magically come your way.
I wanted to share this post because it took me too long to realize this. And still, I sometimes forget.
So to all of my friends who might be "alone" on this very romantic Valentine's Day, I've written a little Valentine, just for you.
Romantic love is lovely, it can make your heart feel full of feathers, but loving oneself means you are never alone; self-love lasts forever.