I’ve never done Valentine’s Day. I just don’t care. Single, coupled or somewhere in between, I have never felt despair at failing to have someone to “celebrate” with nor triumph at being romantically involved on this particular day. I’ve also never been angry about it, nor reclaimed it as a self-love holiday. It’s not not a thing that’s ever weighed that heavily on my mind (though I get why it could be, for other folks).
I do have an important romantic date in February, though. That date is February 6. It was the day I had my first date with the guy who would eventually become my husband.
When we met I didn’t expect it to be a thing; I was sort of coming off a massive soul-destroying crush on a close friend, to whom I had finally confessed my feelings and who had responded by getting weird. In retrospect, it’s not really that much of a shock; at the time I had a long history of point-blank telling individuals I wanted to date that I liked them and wanted to date them, and in every other instance the person had responded positively. I was probably due for a little rejection.
But the rejection especially sucked because I had been extremely close friends with this person, and after my overt declaration (which came after months of heavy-handed hints -- including some meticulously crafted mix tapes designed to subconsciously inject my adoration into its object’s very brainmeats -- so it couldn’t have been a total surprise) we basically stopped hanging out. It was a classic case of ruining a perfectly lovely friendship with FEELINGS, which I knew happened to other people. It just hadn’t happened to me.
At any rate, I met this guy, a graduate student, in one of my film classes, and he was kind of an arrogant fuckhead, but I like that so when he asked for my number I gave it to him. And then when he called and suggested we see “The Replacement Killers” I said OK, cool. I would meet him at his apartment and we would head out to the movies.
When I got there, he asked me if I wanted to come inside for a minute, where I immediately noticed (in the disheveled funk of the standard bachelor apartment) that he had a paused game of Mario 64 going. Barely able to contain myself, I excitedly spoke the words that have become legend in the history of our relationship, “IS THAT A NINTENDO?”
We didn’t go to the movies. We played video games and... did other stuff. Then we went and got dessert at the Pizzeria Uno’s around the corner. He paid for my cab home, as the trains had stopped running. It was all geekily romantic.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
We didn’t get married for years after, and when we finally did, while it was meaningful in its way, it didn’t really change anything about our relationship. We’d been living together and combining finances for a long time. All the marriage really did was change how we filed our taxes.
That is the anniversary people expect you to celebrate: the day of your legal hitching. But aside from usually having a nice dinner out around that day, we rarely do much to mark our wedding anniversary (and I use “wedding” VERY loosely, as we got married at city hall, with nobody else present save us as the JP who did the job).
Indeed, last year we were sitting in our living room late one evening, with Dennis -- that’s my husband -- playing video games and me reading (as is pretty standard) when my father in law called, Dennis putting him on speakerphone just in time for me to also hear him wishing us a happy anniversary.
We looked at each other and burst out laughing -- we had totally forgotten. Both of us. Forgot our wedding anniversary.
So February 6 has always been the day, the one we don’t forget, the one where we get all sickeningly nostalgic and reminisince out loud like old folks. And this past February 6 marked 15 years since that first date -- a pretty inconceiveable length of time, if I’m honest, as it sure doesn’t seem possible it’s been that long.
We celebrated this in the best way we know how: we went to Disney World.
For those who haven’t had the experience, Disney loves it when you celebrate shit. They even have special buttons for certain occasions. When we checked in to our resort and mentioned we were celebrating our anniversary, we got buttons alerting everyone to that fact. Which I, of course, insisted we both wear the whole trip. Because wearing them meant that everyone -- and I mean EVERYONE, from park cast members to other tourists visiting -- wished us a happy anniversary.
I loved this, because seriously, it is such a rare privilege to have random people wishing you happiness everywhere you go. Dennis got a little sick of it toward the end of the trip but humored me by wearing his button anyway.
What was interesting, though, is that people kept asking us how long we’d been married. Married, specifically. As though there is no other anniversary a couple could celebrate. At first I made a point of saying, “We’ve been TOGETHER for fifteen years,” which in one instance resulted in a cashier apologizing thoroughly and saying that she shouldn’t have assumed, as not every happy anniversary-celebrating couple is legally married.
But most people just seemed sort of perplexed, and eventually I got tired of correcting everyone. Which was itself upsetting, as so many people in the US cannot legally be married and it’s bullshit to assume that the only worthwhile and legitimate relationships are the ones that include saying “I do” in front of some official person with some forms for you to sign.
But it got me wondering if we’re just weird -- if it’s that out of the ordinary to celebrate an anniversary not connected to a wedding date, when you are also in fact married. My relationship and marriage has been occasionally difficult and even unconventional in a few (mostly uninteresting, so don’t get excited) ways, not least for being sort of accidental, and because the guy I would eventually marry came into my life literally at the moment I had decided to be single forever, and happily so.
I think a lot of the frustration, sadness, and pressure associated with Valentine’s Day for some people comes from this idea that there is one right way to meet someone and get married, and that there is one right person who will be instantly awesome and there will only be minor and easily resolved conflicts and the whole thing will just fall into place like the pieces of a meticulously cut puzzle -- that if you haven’t managed this feat then you are to some extent a failure. And if you have, then you have achieved something enviable. Something to celebrate.
But fuck that noise. We celebrate what we want. As should you. Do you have an unconventional anniversary you celebrate, be it relationship-connected or not? Is a wedding date still the end-all in your mind? And if I told you it was my fifteenth anniversary, would you assume I meant actual legal marriage? Am I fighting a losing battle here? I just think the important moments in our lives should be determined by individuals, not notarized documents. Maybe I’m weird.
Actually, I know I’m weird. But maybe you are too. About this, anyway.