The first Valentine's Day I distinctly remember was when I was 15 and was dating my first real boyfriend. I'd assumed we weren't going to do anything for Valentine's Day, because that just wasn't really us. (We were those obnoxious "above it all" types in high school.) Then the week before Valentine's Day, he sent me one of those Facebook gifts of a heart-shaped box of chocolates (so not real chocolates, a picture of chocolates), with a note that said "Fake chocolates to precede real ones." So my thought was, "Shit, I have to do something for Valentine's Day?" The morning of Valentine's Day, on the way to school, I stopped by the grocery store and picked up some heart-shaped cookies and chocolates. When I gave him the goodies, he was like "oh thanks. Happy Valentine's Day?" And I was like, "uhhhhh, what. I wasn't going to do anything if you hadn't made it seem like you were going to do anything!" To make it worse, I had history in the same classroom as he did but the period after, and when I got to history, I saw the cookies I'd gotten him on the floor next to his desk. He had forgotten the stupid cookies that I didn't even want to get him! So then I took them back and ate them all, because fuck Valentine's Day and fuck boys.
After that relationship ended poorly (surprise!), I was pretty much single for about 5 years. I was the bitter, single, hates Valentine's Day type. My Valentine's Day activities ranged from getting super drunk at parties at the LGBT house (I'm straight, but many of my friends aren't), watching chick flicks with other single girls, or completely ignoring the holiday and doing homework. So when I was in my first serious relationship in college, I told the guy "Sorry, I just don't do Valentine's Day." He was really disappointed, because he wanted to do all of the big mushy romantic stuff, but I was like, nope, I'll be watching Clueless with my friend and drinking wine on February 14th.
That night, when I got to his place to spend the night after watching Clueless and drinking wine, he was acting kind of strange. I was going to go to bed and he was like, "no, you can't go to bed, we have to hang out!" And I was like, um, okay. So we hung out for a bit and around 11:50, I said, "okay, seriously I'm going to sleep." And again, he said, "no, you can't go to sleep yet!" I had no idea what was going on, but at exactly midnight he pulled out a flower and a card that said "Happy random day in February! I love you every day!"
So that melted my cold bitter heart a little bit. And although that relationship also ended pretty poorly (despite the romantic gestures, turns out he was kind of a jerk), it did warm me up to Valentine's Day.
Last year, the Constable and I had been dating about 4 months when Valentine's Day rolled around. We went out to dinner, and he got me flowers, and I got him personalized cupcakes. In retrospect, I think I ended up eating most of the cupcakes, but it's the thought that counts, right? One of his good friends actually broke up with the girl he'd been seeing on Valentine's Day, and called the Constable begging him to come over after dinner, so that threw a bit of a wrench in things, but over all it was a very romantic night that my cynical self would have totally hated.
This year's plans are much more low-key. We had breakfast at a cafe near my house before I dropped him off at school, and when he gets home he's making me fettucine alfredo with steak and I'm making him strawberry cheesecake, and we're going to watch Netflix. (Side note: he's voting House of Cards, and while I did watch all of the first season, there was a certain episode where I was like, fuck you Frank, because he did something really evil, and I haven't enjoyed it as much since. I kind of want to see The Spectacular Now. We'll figure it out.) And I get it now. I was always the person who argued, "Why can't you celebrate love every day? Why would you want to celebrate the same day as everybody else, if your relationship is so special?" But this year, the Constable is a month away from a massive exam in grad school that is damn near impossible, but he has to pass to continue in his program, so he's studying at least 8 hours a day, on top of going to classes and teaching, and he's always stressed out, and even when he takes time off from studying, he feels guilty about enjoying himself if he hasn't gotten enough done that day. And because of this commercial, Hallmark holiday, he's allowed to take the day off and enjoy himself and not think about school at all while we have a nice dinner and just relax together. Hell, he has to, it's Valentine's Day! Yes, I still think that extravagant flowers and jewelry and balloons and cards for Valentine's Day are kind of dumb (though more power to you if that's your thing), but this year, I am really thankful for Valentine's Day.