So, I’ve had this lifelong talent of being able to shit all over everything. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. If I didn’t like something, I could pretty much tear it to shreds within a matter of seconds. This charming quality came from the arrogance I used in order to compensate for the fact that I hated myself.
The good news is that I purged this nasty habit when I got my HIV diagnosis. When you face your own mortality, hating yourself (and shitting all over everything) suddenly doesn’t feel like a life well lived. Happiness became a choice for me and I chose to find the positives in things rather than the negative.
The bad news is that this nasty habit never truly goes away. Like HIV, it lies dormant in the most hidden of places. Mine might be lurking around in my pinky toe; I’m not sure. My affinity for humility and gratitude usually keeps it in check. Although certain triggers can still coax it out.
And now I will admit that one such trigger is that of Valentine’s Day. I remain diplomatic about it on the outside, but on the inside, I am the grinch who wants to shit all over it. I spout off the same old Bitter Betty rhetoric. “It’s a greeting card holiday. It’s isolating to single people. It’s not even romantic.”
My poor partner, Luke, who is a hopeless romantic, has tolerated my distaste for V-Day ever since we got together 10 years ago. Typically, he’s fantastic at showing up with flowers on any given day. So, on Valentine’s Day, his romantic side is like a dog trying to sit for a biscuit.
On a few occasions, he has brought home V-Day flowers. I’d give him that look that says, “Really?! We could’ve gone to Chipotle with that money. I could’ve gotten guacamole.” That’s how good my brain is at registering romance. Guacamole.
This year, a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, a friend of mine, who owns a successful flower shop, asked if I’d like to work for him on the big day. He needed extra delivery men and would pay me mileage on top of a decent hourly. It seemed like a no brainer. I didn’t celebrate the holiday anyway and, with being a broke ass writer, I could use the money.
I figured this could also make for a good blog post. Maybe the experience would help shift my negative way of thinking about this holiday. By seeing all the joy on people’s faces when they get their flowers, my grinchy V-Day heart MIGHT just grow three sizes too big. That was the story I intended to write when I accepted this job. Then something else happened.
On the night before Valentine’s day, a close friend of Luke’s and his family (someone who they grew up with) unexpectedly passed away. A blood clot had passed through her heart which is apparently very deadly. By the time they got her to the hospital, she had lost oxygen to the brain and was quickly put on life support.
This woman was a wonderful person who I felt fortunate to spend time with at family functions. Luke had even officiated her wedding ceremony a few years back. The husband and family waited for Luke to get to the hospital before they took her off life-support so that he could say goodbye. We didn’t quite know this was going to happen otherwise I would have gone too.
Going to bed after losing someone is very strange. I held on to Luke tighter than I had in a long time and we both took deep breaths. We also both took a Xanax. Still though, neither of us got much sleep. In the morning, it felt extra difficult to pry ourselves away from each other. We were like magnets instead of spoons.
With all of this happening, I ended up being fifteen minutes late for the courier job at the flower shop. I texted my friend about what had happened, worrying that it might sound like a fake excuse. He was very kind and understanding.
By the time I got to the shop, the whole place was a tornado of scurrying florists, vases that cost more than my entire outfit, and flowers that I couldn’t name. It was such an aromatic and colorful flurry of panic. As the florists all yelled at each other, my friend looked at me and smiled.
“I know this seems crazy, but all of these florists have said this is the least stressful shop they’ve ever worked in on Valentine’s Day.”
We loaded my car with big extravagant bouquets - some that would hardly even fit. They taught me how to do the proper order of delivery, how to make the person sign for them (you do it before handing over the flowers), and what to do if they aren’t home. Even though we strapped down the vases in elaborate ways, a florist warned me to drive VERY VERY carefully.
As I jetted off to my first location, I put my iTunes on shuffle not knowing exactly what music I needed at the moment. And of course, the first song to pop up was “Blue Monday” by New Order. If you were born after 1997 and aren’t familiar with this song, the lyrics say “How does it feel to treat me like you do?” Needless to say, I flipped to the next song immediately.
My first delivery was at an office building. I ended up leaving the flowers with the receptionist and didn’t get to see the woman’s joy who’d be receiving them. The second was for a woman who worked at a trendy architecture firm. I didn’t get to see her either. Instead, I handed them to a guy talking on his cellphone who seemed fairly annoyed with me.
Finally on the third delivery, I arrived at a woman’s house who answered her door. She liked the flowers and called them “lovely.” But I was hoping she’d be a little more blown away. After all, her husband (I assume) spent $149 on them. They were super extravagant. The least she could have done was a cartwheel or something.
In between deliveries, the song “Blue Monday” proceeded to play two more times. Once by the band Orgy, who gave the song a super angry flair with their industrial sound, and then by the band Nouvelle Vague, who gave it a super sexy flair with their bossa nova sound. I immediately flipped past these tracks again and wondered how many more versions I have of this god-forsaken-phenomenal song.
Finally, one of the few songs that Luke and I actually have as a love song popped up. “Dry and Dusty” by Fever Ray - a spacey track with dark, distorted vocals that sing “Never leave me / Walk close beside me / Your hand my hand / Fits so easy.” I pulled over to take a photo of it on my stereo screen and texted it to Luke. He responded with a text that simply said “I needed that.”
I went on to deliver more flowers to more office buildings to more receptionists who seemed to get more annoyed as the day went on. When delivering to the houses, most of these women wouldn’t answer the door. I kept thinking “C’mon you dumb whore. I have flowers for you. I’m not a solicitor.” They were robbing me of my ability to see their joy.
At one point, I had to pull over again as I emotionally broke down and just started sobbing. While delivering all these followers, something occurred to me about Luke’s friend who died. What if her husband had ordered flowers to be delivered for her? When they would arrive to their door, she wouldn’t be there to receive them.
It wasn’t the flower deliveries that was changing my grinchy heart on Valentine’s Day. It was thinking about this woman and her husband. It made me think about how every opportunity to celebrate love should probably be taken - even on a silly holiday. Because you never know when it might be your last chance.
As the day went on, I realized just how much angry music I had in my collection. So I finally gave up on music and just switched it to audiobooks (which I still call “books on tape”) by comedians I love. Tina Fey popped up right where she discusses critics hating on female comics and how she responds to it.
Tina says “It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because YOU don’t like something it is empirically not good. I don’t like chinese food but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”
This made me think about my left pinky toe and its dormant desire to shit all over things like Valentine’s Day. Tina was right. Just because I didn’t like something didn’t mean that others shouldn’t (or couldn’t) find joy in it. How, in all of my desire for humility and gratitude, did such a thing slip past me?
Is Valentine’s Day a greeting card holiday? Sure. Is it less romantic than spontaneous romance? Yeah. Is it isolating to single people? Well, most definitely. But is celebrating love and doing nice things for each other bad? Not at all.
And writing this now, I don’t think that V-Day has to be about whether you’re partnered or single. Any moment an opportunity exists to show love, be it with a partner or family or friends, it’s probably a good idea to seize that moment.
My day of delivering flowers taught me several things. I learned that driving is exhausting. I learned that your car gets soaking wet when driving around with a bunch of flowers (side note: my autocorrect just tried changing that to “...your car gets soaking wet when driving around with a BJ”). And I learned that lots of people have WAY more money than I do.
When I pulled into the garage, I saw that my delivery sheets were all tattered and had coffee stains on them. This was strange seeing as how I don’t drink coffee. Then I looked down and saw three different spoons in my car from all the times I ate yogurt while driving. I bet all those rich people who got flowers today don’t have yogurt spoons in THEIR car, I thought.
I then thought about how lucky I am that Luke puts up with a mess like me. I needed to do some kind of romantic gesture immediately. Since I didn’t bring home any flowers of my own, I rushed into the house and picked up an origami set that we once bought as an alternative to watching TV.
I flipped open the instruction booklet and found a heart to make. I picked out some pretty red paper. I began folding. Then I stopped folding. The instructions got too complicated. I found a youtube video of a seven year old boy doing it. I resumed folding. I successfully made two hearts.
I arranged them with a vase of sunflowers that some AirBnB guests left for us. I also added these mismatched, stuffed Bert and Ernie dolls that we have as a silly romantic joke. When Luke got home, he didn’t notice them. His heart still weighed too heavy. But when he did notice them, his heart suddenly found joy. And with that, my grinchy Valentine’s Day heart finally grew three sizes too big.
Edited by Glen Trupp
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