I have been thinking much these past few days on Valentine's Day: specifically, the fact that the romantic dinner is so the thing to do on Valentine's Day with a Significant Other a/k/a boyfriend or girlfriend, and the angst that this ritual can pose to the outsiders, those in a rut of singlehood, and to even the most seemingly successful, together, and hip of single women. The day is just a big in-your-face reminder that, yes, you're on your own - go get your own flowers and artisanal chocolate - and you're, yes, in a state of being that is contrary to the societal inclinations toward considering "normal" as the couple and not the Table for One person.
For many years, this holiday, or whatever it is, conjured up for me about the same level of warm fuzzies as do memories of P.E. class at my small Catholic grade school and my being inevitably among the last dregs of the class to be picked for whatever awesome team sport was on tap for that day. (To this day just hearing "dodge ball" makes me flinch.)
But this year is different. I wonder what on earth I would actually want from a beloved Significant Other, if I had one, on such a day. I realize I don't know. If I don't know, I wonder how on earth a guy in this equation is supposed to know. (As it seems to me, again from observation only, that it is typically the female in the equation that has the expectations about this day along the same lines as daydreams about the gorgeous trimmings of The Wedding Day and the Dress but not so much the realities of Marriage.)
I guess the ideal is that the SO would know you so well he could come up with something interesting. [You know, in my case it would be easy. I could be surprised with, for example, an order of a case of a certain wine that I loved somewhere, sometime, and Tweeted about. (Except I would perhaps note the fact it is wrong for an ordinary busy single mom to have so much red wine in her house at one time.) Or I could be surprised with a certain outrageously decadent salted caramel chocolate bar over $10 at Antonelli's (wrapped up and presented very nicely of course), which I cannot bring myself to buy for myself but would not turn down if someone else showed up with it. (But for the fact it is Lent and that outrageously decadent chocolate at this price is a bad choice for a time of year when decadence avoidance is more the norm....See? It's complicated. Even for me thinking of my own appropriate token of thoughtfulness.)]
But does one really want this forced thinking on what an appropriate sign of affection would be on this particular day just because everyone else, so it seems, is on that bandwagon? Seems like one would gladly trade a bust on this one overcommercialized day for a healthy, fun relationship the 364 other days of the year.
One big problem I have these days, as 50 looms closer than I like to think (and I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up), is that because my food-centric life has recently been so, well, fulfilling in terms of going to great places and being with great people, that a non-spontaneous going out again for Valentine's Day almost sounds like a chore. Indeed, it has been a fantastic food week already leading up to 14 February:
1) Friends from Angers, France arrived to prep for the SxSW indie rock bands they are bringing for SxSW. Had lunch with them at Second and their P.R. agent. I of course wanted to use this as an excuse of having wine with lunch. (Only one other person joined me.) And on Wednesday we visited with (1) Iliana de le Vega at El Naranjo - she truly is a lovely person in addition to being a spectacular cook - and (2) Valerie Broussard at the W Hotel, as a "forager" or scout of the best of the best produce for the restaurant, Trace, and so in touch with local produce, local farms, and game for future collaborations with our sister city Angers.
2) Had dinner with new or putative potential friends at Winflo Osteria who just wrote me here, on the blog, and thought it would be neat to get together with me for dinner. Yes, that definitely counts as pretty dang awesome (though if Hugo (Desnoyer) wanted to track me down this way, sure, that may be a few degrees cooler in the cool things column).
3) Party-giver extraordinare neighbor had her annual Pink Tea on Saturday, and continues the streak with a small dinner party on Saturday.
3) Gratitude is front and center this week: I am grateful that after much away time the past few weeks, it just feels so right to be (mostly) at home and cooking (sort of) real meals for the son, whose smile on his face when I walk in the door from a long trip, despite his best efforts to hide it, he cannot suppress because it is so involuntarily genuine and spontaneous.
In light of the blessings of friends and family, I wonder why we (i.e., some womenfolk) persist in thinking this one day is the barometer of our lives in general -- in terms of "success" or "failure," even though most of the single moms (mostly lawyers) I know do not have the energy left, if they were honest with themselves (which I am on this front), to even entertain the option of a relationship beyond a few dates.
In short, I am looking forward to thoroughly enjoying Thursday evening at home, making something perhaps with my overload of turnips from my Greenling Local Box, drinking a lot of water given the wine and great food overload these past few days, making sure the son has finished his note cards for chemistry class, and - if I'm really lucky - I'll catch an NCIS marathon.
And I will have no one else to blame for what is this year, for me, the perfect Valentine's Day.