Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to remember that from now until the end of time, I’ll always have a candy heart in my corner that reads I-M-The-1-4-Me.
I was in my local drug store the other day just in time to catch the official changing of the seasons. Down came the Christmas swag – the wreaths, the wrapping paper, the bows and bangles – and up went box after heart-shaped box of chocolate: i.e., the universal sign of love (and/or terror, depending upon your DNA).
Not that there was any question in my mind that Valentine’s Day was coming. It’s hard to miss, what with all the Match.com and eHarmony spots running night and day and restaurants already reminding us to make our reservations now for that Special Night of Unforgettable Romance Upon Which Your Entire Happiness and Self-Worth Will Hinge for the Rest of Your Life.
I love a no-pressure holiday.
But even with everyone from People magazine to the pope pronouncing Valentine’s Day some kind of day of reckoning for singles (spawn or die!), for me it’s more of a time to reassess, to look back on the ghosts of relationships past and see how they measure up to the one I’m in today.
First stop down memory lane is The Live-In Boyfriend, a Southern writer who won me over with the poems of William Blake and an exquisite gift for clear, concise prose. Unfortunately, his laundry skills weren’t nearly as crisp. Although my favorite jeans certainly were after he’d dried them for two hours on high, then yelled at me that “if I wanted to fit into them again, maybe I should try losing some weight!”
Then there was Mr. Helpful, a fellow I dated for a couple of months who seemed to be jockeying for some kind of regular slot. Calling his bluff, I asked if he’d be willing to help my sister and her husband with an impending move. He readily agreed but on the day of the big event, called an hour before he was supposed to show up (with his truck) to say “he must have been on crack cocaine to agree to help some stranger move this early on a Saturday morning.”
Another fellow, who I’ll call Honest Abe, turned to me one night – in bed, mind you — and informed me he couldn’t do breakfast the next day because he had “a date.” Apparently, during the four months we’d been seeing each other, he’d also been seeing a handful of other women who’d responded to his online ad. And then there’s my personal favorite — Veiled Insult Guy — who presented me with a couple of sticks of babies-breath after a nasty fight. That’s right, he didn’t give me flowers; he gave me floral filler. Complete with the 99-nine cent price tag.
I could go on (and if I dated women, I’m sure I could share some choice behavior from the other side of the bench), but rather than dwell on the flaws of relationships not meant to be, I prefer to focus on the positive one I’m in now.
This person has never betrayed a trust or made me look a fool in front of my family (well, there was that one drunken Christmas a few years ago, but we won’t go into that here). They wouldn’t dream of drying my jeans on high, particularly during mashed-potatoes-and-gravy season, and whenever they do bring me flowers, I know it’s out of sincerity, not some snide play from the passive-aggressive handbook. They’re there to congratulate me on my successes and call me out on my crap and while their jokes are often corny, they have a way of making me see the world for the silly place it truly is.
Who is this person and how did I ever find them? Simple — I looked in the mirror one day and there they were. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the relationship each of us has with our single selves, a relationship that seems to get kicked to the curb more and more as our couple-crazed culture teaches us that being on our own is so inconceivably awful that we should be willing to do whatever it takes — backstab our buddies, bitch-slap our BFFs, or wrestle around in a tub of metaphorical cream corn in our underwear (have any of you ever watched The Bachelor?) — in order to find someone. Anyone!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for love — it’s a wonderful and rare thing if you can find it — and I’ve certainly spent my time in it, out of it, and generally scouring the countryside for it. But after going through years and years of good, bad and ugly relationships, I’ve come to realize that no matter what the folks in those online dating ads and cheesy Lifetime movies tell you, a single life is not a life that’s incomplete or second best. The relationship you have with yourself is in fact the one affair that will never disappoint or come up short and it’s also the one that will last, particularly in a day and age when even marriages can be as fleeting as the seasonal displays at Walgreen’s.
So as this telltale heart of a holiday approaches, I’ll do my best to ignore the shameless commercial hype, the media messages that assure me that my day, my week and my life are going to be ruined if I don’t strong-arm some hastily-scrounged soulmate into coughing up a bouquet of limp-necked roses and a diamond tennis bracelet (whatever the hell that is).
And instead be happy that for now until the end of time, I’ll always have a candy heart in my corner that reads I-M-The-1-4-Me.
Copyright © Diane Mapes/2017 Singular Communications, LLC.
Diane Mapes has published more than 200 essays and reported pieces in both local and national venues and is the author/editor of two books: How to Date in a Post-Dating World and Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness. She’s a regular contributor to MSNBC.com and MSN.com, and has written about the single life for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Match.com, Bust, Health and Singular magazine. She can be reached via her website, www.dianemapes.net.