This year, at Valentine’s Day, as always, I remember you.
I’ve washed my favorite black dress trousers and my favorite v-necked black shirt, and am prepared to sail out into the world, forcibly sharing cookies and love with everyone. And making them share back. (Okay, maybe not that last bit, but it kind of goes with the fascism: you have to elevate and impose the idea above the people. And the idea is LOVE, gosh darn it all. BE LOVING OR ELSE.)
I thought of you recently because as well as writing letters of appreciation to people every year, my friend Farida is rethinking Valentine’s Day. To improve myself, I am attempting the letter, but I should probably do that rethinking thing sometime. Instead, I am stuck with the version of me that you met junior year at Rio. Your junior year, anyway. I was a senior, and you were already far cooler than I.
I wonder what you really saw – the geeky girl in badly dyed black jeans, who over-earnestly read your back issues of Sassy and Jane and tried to emulate your dress sense? Or some wannabe trying to Make A Statement about the herd mentality of high school, and the stress-inducing pressure I felt to convey honest emotion on cue, in a prescribed way, on a proscribed day? How funny to me now that I told you that I was mourning the death of saints. I was mourning the death of an idea, too… that I would ever eventually be able to be in sync with the rest of the world.
I don’t know what you saw, but instead of laughing, you went back to your room and changed clothes. And you joined me in the wearing of Ironic Black In Protest every year that I knew you – despite the fact that both of us were nattered at and had eyes rolled at us for being sour grapes about Valentine’s “just because you don’t have boyfriends” (which you did sometimes) or because we were “feminazis” and with all kinds of anti-men issues (and I refuse to justify that stupidity with a response). You stuck with it, and stuck with me. And unlike mine, your blacks even matched, because you are That Cool.
And a thousand years past high school, I still think about you on Valentine’s Day as I pull on my black trou, and step into my black boots, and pull on my black gloves. My opting out becomes less ironic each year, and more of a conscious as I acknowledge the stresses which surround the idea of holidays. Opting out creates a sane space in my head so that I can say, “It’s not that I hate you along with the holiday – it’s just that I’ll tell you I love you tomorrow.” Instead of words, I can offer something which melts on the tongue – a little zingy, a lot spicy, a more realistic reflection of our lives, which are composed of both the sweet and a little sharpness of lemon icing.
Dear Susan. Thank you for, once upon a time, being my friend.