This morning I presented my husband with a Valentine’s Day card and a box of chocolates. He looked at me and shrugged. “Sorry, I forgot,” he said.
I got on with my day until he eventually offered to take me to lunch at a local joint. They serve a mean chili cheeseburger, so all was forgiven.
I believed in it all as a little girl. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White—my prince was out there, all I had to do was wait until I was old enough to go in to the world and find him. In the meantime, grade school was awful. I was too tall and too skinny. The girls called me names and the boys laughed at me. But I waited, and by high school things were looking up.
My high school boyfriend gave me a watch for Valentine’s Day and took me to a fancy restaurant where I nearly froze to death in a little black dress while he pulled at his necktie and fidgeted in a sports jacket. I ordered trout on the waiter’s recommendation and when it came to the table with its dead eye gazing up at me, I covered the poor thing with a linen napkin and ate my mashed potatoes. My boyfriend drank two beers, and I had a brandy old fashioned. We were just kids acting like grownups. The whole night was an expensive disappointment.
I dated a lot in my twenties, but couldn’t seem to find the right guy. Those years included Valentine’s Day gifts presented to me in the tell-tale pink Victoria’s Secret bags. Looking cheap in feathers and lace, I felt shy and inexperienced. One boyfriend gave me a teddy that fit like a medieval contraption. By the time he wrestled the thing off me, the mood was ruined and we turned on Saturday Night Live in hopes of putting the whole ordeal behind us.
I had all but given up on the fairy tale by my thirties. I traveled a lot and went back to school to get my Master’s degree. Slow to mature, I continued to pick men that were bad for me. Midway through the decade, I was done with the lingerie and looking for a soulmate. Someone brilliant and worldly who could challenge me. A much older man caught my eye whom I eventually discovered was married. Disillusioned and heartbroken, we spent Valentine’s Day hurling insults at one another until he told me he loved me. It took months for the spell to break, but I learned my lesson.
By my forties, I had a list of what I wanted in a man—something I’m sure I copied out of a magazine or self-help book. This caused only more hurt and regret. Then I met him. Ron invited me over to his place for our first date. When I arrived, he led me to a bonfire outside the tiny fifth-wheel trailer he was living in. We sat on straw bales and ate food we picked from his garden. I wondered if he even had a job until he told me he was an engineer. Surely this wasn’t the guy for me. But it was, and he is. The lingerie is long gone along with expensive dinners to celebrate this day for lovers. I’m thrilled I didn’t have to don the little black dress for a night out. There are more exciting things to do. Maybe we’ll sit in the hot tub for a while, or maybe we’ll watch a movie on Netflix. Either way, I’m happy. I found my Prince Charming.