“Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who’d be kind to me. That’s what people really want, if they’re telling the truth.” – Doris Lessing
“Oh man, it looks like Valentine’s Day is on a Friday this year,” I say as we’re going down, down, down. I’m riding the elevator with a platonic friend of mine, desperately trying to make conversation. I talk about how this is the sixth snowstorm to hit NYC this season before I mention that Derek Jeter is retiring before I finally mention Valentine’s Day.
“Is it?” He says, so brilliantly blasé. As if he hasn’t walked into a CVS in the past three months and been doused in the smell of packaged chocolate and the fur from all the cute little teddy bears didn’t latch on to his black pants. “I really don’t care much about that holiday, anyway.”
“Yeah. No. Me either,” I respond. Brushing of a topic that keeps me awake at night as the elevator door flings open and we both go our separate ways.
I’ve never been good at lying and I’m really, terribly, awful at lying to myself.
So, when all my friends (who are engaged) started asking me what I’m going to do on Valentine’s Day this year, I fumbled to come up with something convincing. Something that wouldn’t make them feel sorry for my sad, single self. Something that wouldn’t require them to place their manicured nails on the small of my back and say “Aw, don’t worry, you’ll have someone next year.” Or “Ugh, I remember when I was single on VDay — it was the worst!”
None of that, please. So, I told them: “Oh, you know. Well, I haven’t really thought about it? Is it THIS Friday? Hmm. I’ll probably just come home from work and watchHouse of Cards and eat a few cupcakes. Nothing too crazy.”
Who am I kidding? I’ll probably eat more than just a few cupcakes. I’ll probably eat a third of my bodyweight in cupcakes and sprinkle on a few of those heart-shaped candies and any Hershey kisses I can get my claws on. And while I’m picking the sugar out of my teeth, I’ll probably do something extraordinary like stalk an ex-boyfriend or cry over a montage of photos of my friends and I from college until there’s icing all over my computer screen and the amount of high fructose corn syrup flowing through my veins is enough to put me in a sugar coma and I’ll top the night off by laying in the fetal position beside my refrigerator.
Here’s what really happens when you’re single on Valentine’s Day.
7 a.m.: You wake up. You toss. You turn. You check your phone and you see that you have no missed calls. No unread texts. Your phone buzzes. It’s your dad. He sends you a text message that reads:
JEN, HONEY, IT’S DAD.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I will always love you.
You gush with happiness. You start to believe this day won’t be so, so bad so you decide to take a peek at Facebook. You see photos of people eating breakfast in bed. Of people with their guy in one arm and an overstuffed teddy bear in the other. You see one, no two, oh wait that makes three, photos of someone’s brand new engagement ring. Ughh.
9 a.m.: You sit next to a couple on the subway while you’re trying to get to work and they’re trying to swap saliva. You actually hear the sound effects of their mouths suction-cupping each other. You actually swear a drop of their mixed up spit is on somehow on your elbow. You make a face. You make your own sound effects. They don’t pause for a second to even recognize that you exist. You feel the beats of their “No. I love you more” whispers pulsate in your eardrum. You want, no no no, you need a hug. There’s a homeless guy with one shoe in the corner. Not him. There’s a grandmother across from you. Hmm, maybe her. You see a guy in a suit with slicked-back hair holding a breakfast burrito. Yes, that would be nice. You decide to wrap your arms around your giant scarf instead.
Noon: You see the desks of all the other girls in your office sprout with fresh flowers like it’s the first sign of spring. You watch them finger the delicate pedals of their roses. You contemplate touching the thorns. You listen to them say, “Here, Jen, take a few roses. I have a DOZEN more!”
“Well you know what? You don’t say. “I don’t need your roses because I have a dozen donuts in the kitchen and I bought them for myself!”
4 p.m.: You hear the intimate details from the guy who sits across from you about how he has a reservation for two at some overpriced restaurant in the city where Jay-Z and Beyoncé went last Valentine’s Day. You help him use Google Translate so that he can understand the menu and impress his date with what to order.
6 p.m.: You take a crowded subway cart back home and your standing alongside a group of guys in their khaki work pants, clutching bouquets of beautiful flowers. A few of them are holding shopping bags from Victoria’s Secret or Godiva Chocolate or Bath and Body Works. You wink at one of them because you want to declare how proud you are of him for making this day special for his girlfriend. He thinks you’re creepy and walks to another subway car. You wink at another guy. He asks you if you have something stuck in your eye.
8 p.m.: You flirt with the delivery guy who rings your doorbell to drop off a stuffed-crust, medium-sized pizza. “Are you hungry?” You ask. “Do you want to come in for a slice?” He asks you to hurry up and sign the receipt. “It’s Valentine’s Day,” he reminds you. “I want to get done with work so I can celebrate with my girlfriend.”
8:15 p.m.: You’re still hungry. You decide to order more food. Never mind. You decide to skip to dessert. You order a dozen cookies. You text a friend to see if they want to come over and eat half. They say they can’t. They found someone for the night on Tinder. You text another friend. They say they can’t. They are out taking shots with a bunch of frat guys at a local bar.
9 p.m.: You’re in a sugar coma. You delete Instagram off your phone because you’ve seen too many couple-kissing selfies. Too many pictures of flowers. Too many hashtags that say #myboyfriendisthebest #hefinallyputaringonit #ilovevalentinesday
9:45 p.m.: You start blasting music. You change the lyrics from “No woman, No Cry” to “No boyfriend, No Cry.” You sing “Timber!” at the top of your lungs. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” comes on your Spotify playlist. You slow dance with stuffed animal moose.
10:30 p.m.: You decide to call it a night. You snuggle up into your bed. Your phone rings. It’s your best friend from college. She just got engaged. “He put the ring in a soufflé!” She says. You ask her how the ring tasted. You close your eyes.
10:45 p.m.: You remember tomorrow is a new day. Chocolate goes on sale. People’s roses will start to whither. All your friends will still be engaged and you’ll still be single. But you won’t care. It won’t matter.
Until next Valentine’s Day.
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