Welcome to February. It’s been four days and I still can’t believe it’s February 2014 already. With February comes awful weather, the full return to college, and a day coming up that many refuse to observe or possibly even over-celebrate. Yes, in ten days, it will be Valentine’s Day. For some my age, it means spending the day (and a good heap of money) with the one you call your love. For others, it means the arrival of hilarious fandom valentines. Still, for others, it means the recognition that there is no one in their life at the moment with whom they are romantically involved. Some people are alright with this. Others, devastated. Some people feel extremely lonely on this day because they lost their love in some way. This day stirs up a lot of emotions for me personally. I pretty much go through all of these experiences and more on one day. When I was younger, say, in elementary school, no one had valentines. No one dated, although later on in life I learned that many other schools had students that did. I hardly even understood kissing and gender differences, never mind love or attractiveness. Anyway, I never belonged. I never had friends for long periods of time. I tried to hard to belong, but I was different. I actually started believing I had some sort of physical disability or difference that everyone was told not to mention to me. I felt unattractive and ugly. Which actually didn’t make much sense because no one was openly interested in one another– except every boy toward one girl. It must be in some ancient law book of elementary schools that there can only be one attractive girl. But still, I felt disgusting. I graduated and attended an all-girl school, which made me more comfortably with my femininity (because I had always pretty much been a bro, even today) but still not so much with the whole love-relationship thing. I felt alone and angry. Every girl (or at least it seemed that way) had a boyfriend or valentine or something, anything. But not me. And I was sick of it. So I decided to become a chaser (further proof that I’m in fact a bro). I chased guys, openly expressed my attraction toward them, and still got rejected. I tried to be everything guys wanted. I learned what to say and how to say it to make them drool. I learned how to move, how to walk, how to stand. I still was getting nowhere. I honestly flirted with every guy I knew. (If any of them are ever reading this, I’m sorry. Please understand.) I asked my friends to hook me up with guys, and still nothing. Finally, I decided I had been looking too hard. I asked out (or mutually asked out?) a friend from elementary school. I was in no way attracted to him, but BOY. So we went out. I dragged my now best friend with me to our first date, for it was a secret (I’m so sorry for that, by the way. No matter how much I apologize, I still feel awful). I didn’t understand anything. We didn’t exchange a word…only a shitton of saliva. I was satisfied with myself. I had a guy. The first time he called me, I was on the bus going home from school. All his friends were listening to our conversation, and one of his friends got on the line. He asked me how I liked it at my school…but the school he mentioned wasn’t the school I went to. My “boyfriend” didn’t even know what school I went to. We knew nothing about one another. A month crawled by, filled with not many words, except for his asking “what’s wrong with you?” repeatedly. I was coerced into doing and listening to things I had not wanted to get involved with. Long story short, every Valentine’s Day I recall all of this. I play back the film of two-going-on-three years ago and thank my lucky stars. No, I’m not thankful that I was pretty much abused. But I’m thankful for what happened afterwards. After the breakup, I continued being a fool, until one day the sense was verbally knocked into me. I found a guy, but was flirting with another. I chose the guy I believed was better for me, and told the other that he wasn’t capable of taking care of me. The angry, surprised words that resulted, I will never remember, but I will always remember that they changed my entire life for the better. The “incapable” guy became the only one on my mind. The guy I chose had a girlfriend the whole time he was talking to me. I was so unbelievably broken, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was confused and lost and hurt and had no self-esteem whatsoever. I finally decided to attempt to make things right with the guy I had hurt. A few days later, ten days after Valentine’s Day, to be specific, we met. (You see, we had always communicated through social networks and texting because he was a friend of a friend.) That February 24th, two years ago, changed everything. Terrified, I walked down the block to our meeting place. I remember him standing there, looking for me, with his Beats and a leather jacket on. We awkwardly hugged and went for lunch. He opened doors and pulled out chairs for me. Honestly, in my head, I was thinking, “a broken slut like me doesn’t deserve any of this,” Given what I had done at the young age of 15, given what had been done to me on every level, I knew I didn’t deserve this treatment. But the boy continued. He nervously talked about how he would have worn his Star Wars tee shirt but it was in the wash, and how he bought his leather jacket, and all these other wonderfully simple but charming things. I just stared. I stared and ate my pizza. I laughed occasionally, too nervous and shocked to speak. I hardly spoke. Given the chilliness of a February afternoon, this boy, this boy I had just met, this boy who I claimed could never take care of and protect me, took my hands into his and blew on them to warm them up. And this single act was the most kind I had ever experienced with a boy. I admit, I fell in love. But, you may ask, where does this lead up to? Well, my fine feathered friends, that boy is still around. And yes, he’s taking care of me just fine. More than fine, even. I can’t picture any day without his smiling face and varied laughs and calloused, caring hands and bear-like hairiness. That boy is now a man. And I, a woman. And together, in twenty days, we will be celebrating two years since that day that boy and girl walked together into a pizza shop as individuals and left as partners. I still think about the hurt, and sometimes it even comes back to me in ways I hate to even think about. But why focus on the hurt when there is so much love? Self-love. It took almost three years to love myself again, and I can’t thank my wonderful boyfriend enough for dealing with every terrible instance in the book. But now I can say that I love myself. So, my friends, celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sure, give some chocolate and roses to the one you love, if there is such a person in your life. Give them hugs and kisses as well, for those are the gifts one can never forget. But also be your own Valentine. And not just on February 14. Love yourself every second of every day. Embrace your differences. Do what makes you happy. Don’t spend your whole life searching to belong, because then you would have done nothing. Spend your time on this planet wisely. Don’t shorten it in any way. Realize that you are here, breathing, reading, for a reason. Make a change. Do something for someone else. Simple things make others’ days. You wouldn’t be able to count how many times a simple smile on a bad morning has made my day turn around. I tell you my story to help you. Never settle on anyone. Spend your life with someone you genuinely enjoy being with. With tired fingers and nothing left to say, I leave you for now. Happy Spring Semester, February, and Valentine’s Day!
Cheers, big ears!