Friday, February 10, 2012

The Joy(lessness) of a Valentine's Birthday

When you're a kid and Valentine's Day means little more than candy and Strawberry Shortcake/Transformers cards from your classmates, having a February 14th birthday is really not such a big deal.

Then you get older.

Junior high rolled around, and my priorities in life were:

  • Do I take the laces out of my Keds, or keep them in?
  • Are my acid-washed Edwin stretch jeans acid-washed and stretchy enough?
  • Do I have enough pins on my (acid-washed) Hard Rock Cafe jean jacket?
  • Is my hair permed enough?
  • Do I own enough yellow ribbon t-shirts to support our troops in Desert Storm?

In junior high, most kids didn't have "relationships" yet, and those who did were considered weird and/or sophisticated. My best friend Tia had a boyfriend who drove, and that was an enormous deal. 

What I do remember about Valentine's Day in junior high was that everyone got those shiny silver helium balloons to schlep around.

This was a problem for me, because it was also tradition to get your friends shiny silver helium balloons to schlep around on their birthdays, so that in every class they had to feign embarrassment and be all, "Yes, it's my birthday." 

But since my birthday was February 14th, my balloons from Tia went largely unnoticed. 

At least, I assume they went largely unnoticed. For my 13th birthday I was sick as a dog and had to stay home, and around lunch time I got a phone call from a pissed-off Tia hissing into the phone, "Where the fuck are you? Do you know I have to carry these stupid balloons around all day?"

As if I woke up on the morning of my own birthday with a 102 fever just to piss her off. Somehow she has managed to overcome this kink in our friendship and stick by me for the past 24 years.

Me at 16, circa 1992. Yes, those are clear braces.
No wonder I didn't have a boyfriend.

Then I got to high school, and the pain of a February 14th birthday started to sting a little bit. I had exactly two boyfriends in high school: one lasted for the first two months of my sophomore year, the other lasted for the first three months of my junior year. So, no Valentine's boyfriend to buy red carnations for me. No stupid pink bears to carry triumphantly through the halls. No chocolates to share. 

Most of my friends in high school just happened to be members of the school choral group - like a real life "Glee," but somehow even more gay. For Valentine's Day they did "Singing Valentines," where you could embarrass the crap out of someone by sending half a dozen or so singers to their class to serenade them. Since most of the singing group were my friends, they came to my 3rd period class for my 18th birthday and sang both "That's What Friends are For" and "Happy Birthday." 

To this day, that goes down as one of my best birthdays, ever. (Along with my 30th, when I took a personal day from work to stay home and watch the entire box set of "Firefly.")

Things I am sick of hearing when people find out my birthday is February 14:

  • Oh, your parents must extra love you! (Why, do your parents extra hate you because you weren't born on Valentine's Day?) (Also, do you realize this means that for 18 years my parents didn't get to celebrate Valentine's Day alone with one another?)
  • Do you get extra presents? (From who? My non-existent boyfriends?)
  • Your parents should have named you Valerie! Or Valentine! (Your parents should have named you Dumbass.)
  • Is it because you are extra loveable? (You tell me, after I finish punching you in the throat.)
  • Oh, that's Valentine's Day! (Is it? I HADN'T NOTICED.)
  • Don't you just love it? (No.)

Then I got to college and pretended like I was too existential to care about Valentine's Day. I wore a black knit beret and red lipstick, smoked clove cigarettes, and told everyone within earshot how nothing meant anything anyway.

My 20s rolled around and things got awkward. My girlfriends and I tried very hard to ignore Valentine's Day by focusing on my birthday instead, but even one's best gal pals can't hide from you the sight of all those lovey dovey couples out at dinner. One year we went to Eve Ensler's "V-Day" at Madison Square Garden, and that was kind of awesome. Queen Latifah performed and even Oprah showed up.

However, the year I was dreading happened for my 23rd birthday: the year all my friends had someone to spend Valentine's Day with, and I (still) did not. 

Back then air travel was dirt cheap, so I bought myself a ticket to England and spent the whole weekend in a small town where everyone thought my American accent was sexy and Valentine's Day was not a very big deal and I had to try real hard not to ruin the plot of "Friends" for people.

Finally, at the end of 2002 I met the Man Who Would Be My Husband. By Valentine's Day 2003 we were still too new, so I sent him an e-card and he texted me that he thought I was pretty, and sent me some chocolates and a little ceramic dragon.

And now all 26 of those lonely Valentine's Days don't matter, because all my future Valentine's Day birthdays belong to the man who has spent not one, but now two pregnancies of mine, listening to me talk about my digestive issues in harrowing detail, massaging my swollen feet, and picking up all the slack around the house, and still tells me, genuinely and sincerely, while I'm wearing the same faded grey undershirt (of his) and worn out maternity yoga pants outfit I've been wearing for four months non-stop, that he thinks I'm the sexiest, most beautiful woman in the world, and how he thinks he's the lucky one to get to travel our life paths together.

So, suck it, stupid Valentine's birthday. I win.


Anonymous said...

I love you, honey!


Meredith said...

<3 <3 <3

Ryan said...

The positive side of being a boy and having a valentines birthdayis that girls always seemed to think that I was some how much more romantic, little did they know. The negative side people calling me a "valentines baby" and still do into my 30's, and oh yeah your friends are never free on your birthday, unless they are social morons.

Meredith said...

your friends are never free on your birthday, unless they are social morons.

Like me???

Ryan said...

It was more of boy comment :)

Jane Wakely said...

Great post Meredith, and I agree...You definitely win! Happy (early) Birthday! :)


Mona Karel said...

My older brother had a Valentine's birthday, so he got a heart shaped cake and neat party favors. My birthday was early September, and we were a military family. So all too often I was in a new school on or near my birthday, and didn't know anyone to invite. I pretended it didn't matter. Much.

Meredith said...

Thank you, Jane!

Meredith said...

Oh, Mona, that sucks, too. :-(

Andrew said...

Which town in the UK did you visit?

As to birthdays, I noticed that a lot of my friends have a November birthday like me. When I thought it through I realised that my birthday is roughly 9 months after Valentine's Day, so I guess I know what my parents were up to on that day the year I was born!

Meredith said...

Coventry. I had a friend who was going to school there.

Elizabeth-FlourishInProgress said...

You TOTALLY win.

He sounds like a great guy. =)

Happy Valentine's Day.


Happy Birthday!!!

Meredith said...

Thank you, Elizabeth!