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The Cynical Romantic’s Guide To Valentine’s Day Survival….

For those of you who haven’t known me or read me for a very long time, I started my blogging/writing career with a personal website I called “Confessions Of A Cynical Romantic” (Nope, the phrase “jaded elegance” didn’t pop into my head immediately, unfortunately. Like many bloggers out there, it took me a while to find a succinct and catchy phrase that truly defined me.) “Confessions” was part blog, part love/sex/advice column, and part creative writing e-zine. It didn’t really know what it wanted to be, which is why it didn’t stick around for very long, and I ditched it to start Jaded Elegance.

However, I have a soft spot for it, because it was the first time I’d put stuff out there on the internet that was creative, had a perspective, and was clearly *me*. It taught me to find my voice, as a writer and as a person.

Some people are shocked to find out that I’m a romantic. I don’t come across as the hearts and flowers and happily-ever-after kind of girl, and I’m really not. I have a few too many rough edges for that. I have trouble believing in people, trusting people, making commitments, and not seeing the world through a generally cynical lens. I’ve never been one for sickeningly sweet romantic gestures, giving and receiving compliments too often makes me uncomfortable, and I’m not naive enough to put things like sex and love in nearly the same category.

Yet, I am indeed a romantic person by nature. I take chances on people. I moved to Atlanta because I fell in love with someone I met online. I’ve started more than one long-distance relationship or friendship through little more than words and a willingness to open up. I’ve invited people into my life because I fell for them within five minutes of meeting them. I still send hand-written letters, adore the “Camelot” legends, and have a wall in my bedroom filled with pictures, ticket stubs, postcards, event adverts, bar coasters, and anything and everything else that reminds me of good times I once had with people once in my life—and those who still are. I may not be the most conventional girl around, or look at relationships the same way many people do, and it’s not always terribly simple to be me. However, it doesn’t mean I’m not a romantic or an idealist—I think I’m both, more so than many people.

So, you can see how a girl like me might have some mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. Recently, I was chatting with a friend about how I love holidays, but dislike holidays rooted in some convention or that pose some obligation as to how a person is supposed to feel and behave. (In particular, I’ve never much cared for Thanksgiving.) Valentine’s Day largely falls into that category for me, and almost as if on karmic point, a majority of my Valentine’s Day’s have involved a lot of expectation and planning that didn’t end up going well, because something happened. It’s that day where I’ve found out someone has been cheating on me, someone I loved was planning to marry someone else, and that you can’t fix a broken relationship with sex and chocolate. It’s that day I’ve gotten angry at ambitious former significant others for having to work late, or had to field phone calls from drunken emotional ex-es. It’s the day I’ve had to hear, “I love you but I just don’t see a future”, the day I’ve spent crying because I chose to be alone while the person I loved was with his wife, and the day I’ve sent irrational and impetuous e-mails to people I had feelings for because they were about to embark on relationships with others. (Yes, I did this twice. On Valentine’s Day. It worked out both times and I don’t regret it, but now that I’m older and wiser, I wouldn’t choose to have such sucky timing again.) It’s the day The Guy I Am Currently Dating showed up at my door sick and by the time he was better, the only place open for dinner was Moe’s. It’s the day we went to the Botanical Gardens and I learned I was allergic to their Valentine’s display. It’s the day there was an ice storm that trapped us inside for a week, that my ex-roommate got us pulled over by the cops and we almost got arrested, and with one ex, the day we could never celebrate because it was his birthday, and he celebrated it with his family—who couldn’t stand me much.

The best Valentine’s Day celebrations I’ve had were the ones where nothing special happened. Last year, we played trivia and ate Tex-Mex. One year, some friends and I hung out at an abandoned, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. I’ve never been one to feel sad and desperate over being single, and wanted to hit a meat-market club in order to avoid spending the day alone. In NYC, where my average relationship lasted 6 weeks, I had some great times with equally single friends. This is why I have a tradition of throwing a Valentine’s party at a venue that is one of the least romantic choices possible. This past weekend, it was a brewery and a gothic-themed club where everyone wore masques.

Valentine’s Day can evoke some negative emotions and angst about your current relationship status, no matter which of the Facebook-acceptable categories you happen to fall into.

For instance, if you’re single, there are tons of parties that promote themselves as hook-up parties, ways to meet other singles, or just a place to go to avoid being alone. Attending these parties is a sure-fire way to make you feel less than awesome about yourself. In fact, the ancient Roman lottery system of picking a partner for the evening from a spinning wheel was probably a more entertaining one. Singles Awareness Day typically involves one of the following feelings:

* “OMG! I can’t believe I’m single and sad and alone. Even my friend, who is ugly and broke and has a bad personality, has someone to spend Valentine’s Day with. What’s wrong with me? Am I going to die alone eating chocolate? I might as well get fat, since nobody is ever going to love me. “
* “Look at these people at this club. They’re all so sad and desperate. I’m nothing like them. However, since love and relationships are generally a waste of time, I’m capitalizing on this opportunity for no-strings attached sex. It should make it easier to meet someone, because everyone has severely lowered their standards for the night.”
* “I hate my ex. If he/she wasn’t such an asshole, I wouldn’t be feeling like this. Why does everyone suck so much?”

Of course, it’s no easier if you’ve just started dating someone, or if you’ve been in a relationship for less than a year, and this is your first Valentine’s Day.

* “I really like this person, but this is a lot of pressure. I don’t know what to do that’s special enough, but not too special. I can’t even pick out a card. All these cards say “love” in them. Isn’t it way too soon to use words like “love”? Or maybe I’m with the wrong person because I don’t want the card to say “love”. PLEASE HELP ME, SOMEONE!! “
* “I’m totally not sure I know this person at all. We’ve only been together for a few weeks/months. But now we have to spend Valentine’s Day together, and I have to prove I care and am not lame, so I have to make a super-awesome romantic gesture. But, wait. Maybe I don’t want a relationship. Should we still spend Valentine’s together? Then again, being alone sucks. And you can’t break up with someone on Valentine’s Day because you don’t love them. That’s rude. Do we have to sleep together just because it’s February 14th? Can we still sleep together if we’re going to break up next week? I really wish I were hanging out with my friends and drinking.”

If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time or are living together, it probably goes something like this:

* “This is like the 8th Valentine’s Day we’ve spent together, and we’re still not engaged. I wonder if this relationship is going anywhere. Maybe we’re going to break up and I’m going to be middle-aged and alone. Maybe my mother/father/best friend is right, and we’re not right for each other. We do fight all the time, and he/she has all these annoying habits. I don’t feel like we’re soulmates, but we’ve been together for so long! I don’t know anything about relationships or life and I’m so confused. But dinner at that place was awesome. See? We have so much in common. I think this is completely meant to be. Yeah. I don’t know. Do I have to think about this now?”
* “I am totally AWESOME at buying gifts and planning romantic surprises for my significant other. Well, I thought it was. Then, I found out this other person we know was taking their partner to Aruba and made a rug on the loom they built themselves out of wood from the trees in the backyard. This holiday sucks. Am I going to have to be increasingly creative every year for the rest of my freaking life? Also, we see each other all the time. How is this day magically different because it’s February 14th?”

If you’re engaged or married, it’s not really any easier:

* “I know Valentine’s Day is supposed to be awesome and meaningful and stuff, but we have no money because we have to plan a wedding/buy a house/plan for the baby. Seriously, when did life become so serious? I remember how awesome it was when we were single. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a girls’/guys’ night out? And we already gained 30 pounds in the last year. Why do we have to eat chocolate?”
* “Well, this is inconvenient. Valentine’s Day. We’ve already exchanged every sort of cheesy present there is, and since we managed to find a babysitter, we can do whatever we want. What I mostly want to do is sleep. Is that a choice? I guess I should at least get some flowers or whatever. Does it count as quality time if we share the remote?”

If you’re divorced, separated, in a really confusing kind of undefined relationship, are doing the long-distance thing, travel on Valentine’s Day, have a blended family, are in a poly-oriented relationship, are seeing someone you’re not supposed to be seeing, or have parents who live within 15 minutes of you, Valentine’s Day is the day that you can rest assured that somebody, somewhere, is going to have negative feelings about you. The instability or unconventionality inherent in any kind of relationship for which there isn’t a Hallmark card is going to come to the surface, and in some way, you will be totally screwed. Someone will yell at you about being a dysfunctional person, ruining his/her life, not appreciating others enough, not loving your family, not loving other members of your family, not taking your relationship seriously, using someone for something, or having no idea the way love really works. “If you really loved me, you’d be here and not there.” is probably going to come up at least once. You may just want to buy a bottle of vodka, pretend your phone isn’t in service, or go somewhere that anyone you don’t want to deal with will not find you.

Is it possible to have a happy Valentine’s Day? Absolutely. This year, Valentine’s Day is on a Thursday. Do whatever you did last Thursday, only with the person or persons that are important to you. February 14th is only a day of obligation, unrealistic expectations, and catalyst of quarter-life/mid-life crises because we all decide to collectively buy into it. There are alternatives, whatever that means to you.

For me, it means having Thai food, which I really like and we don’t do very often. Maybe we will exchange small and not overly-romantic gifts. Maybe we will watch a movie from Redbox, or catch up on Shameless. The Guy I Am Currently Dating will probably leave after Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are done mocking things, because it’s Thursday, and work happens the next day. If we make it through the evening without fighting over anything or anyone getting sick, I’m going to call it a win. :P

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!


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