Putting aside the constraints of perpetual singlehood (or restless relationship syndrome, as some call it), I’ve never been much sold on the idea of Valentine’s Day: the thought that greedy, conniving forces outside your bedroom should dictate how you feel about someone and when. I’ve been glad to see this belief is now somewhat commonly held or at least spreading virally like so much Middle Eastern revolts. But there is always the threat that someone, somewhere, may just be expecting you to cave a bit to tradition and put forth some show of old-fashioned romanticism. And what of the folks who wander gingerly into relationships in the dregs of January, not sure if the pink sticky mess of mid-February is a trap waiting to spring or a puddle of too-candid emotion awaiting your false step?
Around noon at register 13 today, a young happy couple walked up, a baby in a pink cap draped over the guy’s torso and tattooed forearms.
They handed over their canvas bags and we started some friendly banter. “Any plans for Valentine’s Day?” I asked
“Spending it with you at the grocery store,” the girl responded with a smile. At least that’s someone, I joked back.
“We’ve never been much for Valentine’s Day,” she said. “We started dating at the end of January so it was weird. Sometimes all you need is the phone call and it’s OK.”
We talked for a few more on the outrageousness of the tyranny of Hallmark, how people fall into consumerist rhythms that substitute for actual emotion. Then she stopped, as if something had just come back to her, pointed to the baby hanging noiselessly from the father, and said, “In bed this morning, she kissed us both for the first time without being asked. That’s our Valentine’s Day right there.”
I smiled as they hoisted their bags over the shoulder and got ready to leave. “But we did put her in her heart shoes today,” the dad said, pointing to the little girl’s footwear. “They’re part of her regular rotation, but we picked them out specifically for today.”
They said goodbye and made their way toward the exit. On a 50-degree day in the dead of February with hearts and flowers smashed on the walls all around us, the allure of a valentine you don’t buy in stores shone through.