Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Another Valentine's Day Post

This is a post about why Valentine's Day sucks, but stay with me because it's not for any of the lame-ass reasons you've probably heard people bitching about today.

I didn't expect to think anything of being single on Valentine's Day, or to comment that it was Valentine's Day at all. My Facebook friends who have mentioned VD today either gush about how much they ♥ their lovers, or make a big show of grumbling about how stupidly commercial the holiday is. (Predictably, most of the latter are single.) Others insist they don't need the holiday and make sure we know what wonderful spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends/fuck buddies they are, by declaring they love equally each day, all year long (translation: "I'm cheap").

My stance on VD, ever since I got into my first long-term relationship, has been a resounding, "meh." Whether single or attached, I never felt strongly either way about the holiday. I certainly never (or, at least, not since middle school, when I thought that having a boyfriend was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER) felt like the holiday was invented to torture single people or increase sales - although I think those have been side-effects of VD's exposure to our culture. That doesn't mean I didn't go out for a nice dinner with whomever I was dating and appreciate any flowers or gifts (especially chocolates) I received - it simply means that I don't spend each February 14th alternately ecstatic or suicidal, depending on my relationship status.

Truth be told, I forgot VD was coming up until late yesterday, and barely thought about it until later in the day. I was scheduled to do mail in the morning and cover a reception desk the second half of the day, and my biggest concern was dealing with all the flower deliveries that would be coming through (there is a strict rule at this place that says we cannot accept deliveries without getting the recipient to accept them over the phone). The morning came and went, and I relieved the receptionist after lunch. Before long, a harried delivery driver brought three lovely bouquets into the lobby, and I called all the employees to let them know they had arrived. In the stretch of time between my call and the moment the ladies came to retrieve the flowers, several employees stopped to comment on the arrangements, and then ask if any were for me. I said no, and then some asked follow-up questions: "Do you have a Valentine?" or "What did your Valentine get you?"

I was not prepared for either question; I didn't even think people asked things like that. I'm not at these places every day, so most people have no idea about my relationship status. Even for those who knew I had a boyfriend, few were aware that we are no longer together. It's been less than three weeks since the relationship ended, and I've only been going out of my way to bring it up with people I'm close to; the rest will find out if and when the topic comes up. I'm not inclined to discuss details, and that's not the point of this post. For the purpose of clarity, though, suffice it to say that he and I were together for two years, and are not anymore as of late last month. In summary, it was a significant relationship that ended very recently. I find myself in that odd stage where I am, for all intents and purposes, single, but don't quite feel it yet. I don't say the word "ex" yet. We are on good terms, so I am not wrapped up in angry, high-strung, post-breakup drama. I'm just here, quietly reshaping my life.

So when people asked me about my Valentine's situation, I had to awkwardly answer that I didn't have "anything special" going on. I wasn't ashamed, but caught completely off guard. I realized too, astonishingly, that I have not been single on VD since 2007. Part of the reason such questions never felt like a big deal is because, when people asked me if I was doing anything "special," I had a real answer. The strangeness (and, in my opinion, prying nature) of such questions did not strike me back then. Today, they felt invasive.

Still, the people who didn't know me could ask me that question and then leave it alone when I said I was single. Those who did know my circumstances before, however, asked in innocence what I was doing with my boyfriend tonight, and I had to tell them the truth. Even this wasn't that big of a deal - I just stated that we were no longer together, and offered no further details. There was one slightly complicating factor, though, an unfortunate result of that particular receptionist choosing to take today off and require my coverage: I ended up in a position where I had to tell a guy, who already asked me out a year ago, that I was now single.

I have since removed the post where I talked about this, but last year I was covering this very position, and one of the cafeteria workers asked me if I would "like to go out to dinner sometime." I acted appropriately awkward (believe me, I am not a head-turner, and this dude flirts with everyone), and told him that I had a boyfriend. Of course, that was the end of that, but if I'm being truthful, I would not go out with this guy no matter what my situation. He is either twice my age, or looks it because frequent smoking has aged him so much, and I'm simply not attracted to him. I resolved to delay letting him know I was single for as long as possible, especially once I found out recently from the housekeeper that I had a "secret admirer" (gee, I wonder who - men are just lined up at my door over here) at the site.

My dumb ass, however, did not realize the significance of the fact that I would be going to this site on Valentine's Day, heretofore known as "It's Totally Okay to Inquire About Someone's Relationship Status For Any Reason" Day. So when Joey* approached the desk and asked me the question I'd already been asked about five times, I told him the truth, knowing that I couldn't get away with saying otherwise in that gossip-infested building. He offered his condolences, and returned to the cafeteria. Not five minutes later, Joey returned to the desk with one of the cafe's decorated, heart-shaped cookies and a page from a sticky pad with his phone number on it.

"Text me," Joey said. "I'd really like to take you out to dinner sometime."

I thanked him, but did not show signs of taking him up on his offer, and he left again. The next time he passed me, he mentioned that he knows a lot of good Greek places, Mexican places, etc. and informed me that he would be spending his VD weekend in Atlantic City with guy friends. He apparently told the mail girl this morning, however, that he was going with a woman (after also asking her if she had a Valentine and, when she said no, declaring that would have to be changed - though he didn't specify by whom). I didn't exactly need another reason not to want to go out with the guy (I'm pretty sure that just having gotten out of a 2-year relationship and not being into him are reasons enough), but such conflicting stories would have troubled me under any circumstances.

What happened next made it worse. When the mail girl came out, I waved her over to show her the cookie and phone number, since we'd been previously been discussing the VD situation. But instead of just holding up the items, I slapped them onto the counter to display. She kind of laughed and walked away with them toward the mail room, which I thought was totally normal until I remembered I had only come to do reception for the second half of the day, and would not be going back to the mail room. (This is what sucks about having a terrible short-term memory and switching positions constantly - it takes me a second to even remember where I am, why I'm there, or what job I'm doing half the time.) So, now I don't know if she thinks the number and the cookie were meant for her instead, or if she thought I was just giving them to her because I didn't want them, or why in the hell she walked away with them. Thankfully, I'm going to a different site tomorrow, but nonetheless have a really awkward situation on my hands if some big misunderstanding blows up because of this.

Moral of the story: Valentine's Day sucks because, unless you're in a relationship (or just not me), you have to make a total douche of yourself at your job. And you don't even get to eat the cookie.

*Named changed, of course - I will continue to withhold names on this blog, just not my own

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