I had my first real Valentine at the age of 20. Before that, I was enthralled in a routine of rounding up troops of my single friends to balance out the weight of the couch while we all stuffed our mouths with pink and red sprinkled cupcakes as if we were in an eating competition. Scoops of vanilla icing and greeting cards from my parents were my idea of a Valentine’s Day gone right. This was until I got a phone call at the age of 20 from a boy that I had been on a first date with a week earlier wanted to take me out for

Our first date was nothing to write home about. The conversation was dry and the only thing we struggled to find in common was that we were both from the same hometown and had April birthdays.  But a date on Valentine’s Day was an offer I could not refuse. Move over cake batter and chocolate hearts. No. This year my spot on the couch was going to be auctioned off to some other lonely girl. I was going out. I was going on a date!

When 7 O’clock came I walked outside of my apartment like I was on a mission—not to let him see me stumble and trip in the high heels I adorned my dress with. I saw his car parked on the side of the road so I took one last deep nervous breath and went forth. I was ready for my first Valentine’s Day date ever.

I opened the car door, sat down in the seat, buckled my seat belt and turned to the left. I realized, the guy I was about to reach over and hug hello, was not him. I was in the wrong car. Paralyzed with shock, it took me a good ten seconds before words and movement were exchanged to the poor fellow who just had some overdressed and nervous girl invade his personal space. I got out of there as quickly as I could only to find my date in a car across the street. He had a front row seat into my misery.

I got into my dates car and attempted to turn my most embarrassing situation ever into a laughing matter. Except he didn’t really find it funny. And as soon as my flushed checks returned to a normal color and my heart returned to a normal speed, I asked him where we were off to.

“I hope you are excited,”  he said, “because we are going to a steakhouse.”

You are probably thinking that this is when the story gets magical because for most a steakhouse dinner equals prime success.But for someone who has been a vegetarian for around 14 years this is beyond a nightmare. Not only was he aware of this fun fact about Jenny Glantz but we spent a good fifteen minutes discussing how it is I survive without eating animals.

I convinced myself to suck it up. I told myself to eat a salad and some mashed potatoes. It was Valentine’s Day and I was living every girl on that sunken-in leather couches dream.

“Oh,” I said in a voice that expressed disappointment combined with shock.

“Yeah, well my uncle gave me a gift certificate to this restaurant and I had no one else to go with so I figured it would work for Valentine’s Day,” he said.

There is just so much wrong with that sentence that even until this day I re say it in my head and feel daggers hit my heart after the phrases ‘gift certificate’ and ‘no one else’.

It was precisely the moment that the waiter brought over a large tray of cow carcasses and asked us to pick which piece we would like to have for dinner that it hit me. We were both using each other. Instead of sitting on our separate couches, myself eating more calories than humanly possible and him playing  Call of Duty till his eyes burn from staring at the screen, we were together, on a couch, passing by a day neither of us wanted to be alone on.

That ungodly Valentines date was just the back-handed slap to the face that I needed. The 14th of February is the day to reflect on and admire the nouns in your life that bring you so much love throughout the year. It is not a day to sit and sulk about not having a lover or a ring on your finger. It is to be thankful for the people, places and things that make your heart rise and fall on the hardest days of the year.

Steak boy, wherever you find yourself this Valentine’s day, I hope that you have found someone who has taught you the true meaning of  one of the most misunderstood days of the year.

It is two years later and I am experiencing the best Valentine’s Day in my life. I am single and 2,700 miles away from my family and closest friends. Yet this year I have so much love to be thankful for and so many people who spend countless moments of their days filling in the space between us.

This Valentines Day, no matter who you spend it with, your significant other, your single ladies or your loyal dog, be thankful for the love you have no matter where in the world it is.

I’m Jen Glantz. I’ve been a published writer for over 13 years, spilling my words into magazines (ranging from style to scuba diving), newspapers, websites and even this one time, a speech, for someone who didn’t speak a word of English. What drives my words, my site, my writing, is the power of relating to people. I find that many people, especially young girls, feel so alone and quite often they feel embarrassed. I want to shatter those feelings! I want them to read what I write and understand that it’s okay to be a little outside of the box, but most importantly, that it is okay to just be who they are.

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