Thirty Years of Valentines, Thirty Types of Love

Okay, maybe not thirty. But at least six.

For me, Valentine's Day has never really been about romance. At each stage of my life it has been about a different kind of love and a different kind of lesson.

Right in the Childhood: Treasure Hunts 

When my brother Brady and I were kids, Valentine's Day was one of my favorite holidays because my mom would send us on a treasure hunt around the house. After handing us the first clue, it was up to us to figure out where the next clue was. Each rhyming clue would send us to the next location until finally we reached the treasure - usually a basket with candy and stuffed animals. Maybe some heart-shaped sunglasses. 

Childhood Valentine's Day was all about family love, with Brady and I giggling and racing and shoving each other out of the way to find the next clue. And adding one more notch to my lifelong love affair with words and wit.

Elementary School: BFFs and Social Landmines 

While the merits of this practice has been hotly debated with certain friends as an adult *cough Teresa cough*, my elementary school's policy was that if you gave anyone a Valentine, you had to give everyone a Valentine. So my mom bought packs of cards and I would spread them out to examine each one. Of course, the best ones were reserved for my best friend(s). It was okay if they said things like "I love you" and "Be my Valentine" because we were girls and not icky boys. 

Once the easy decisions were made, it was time for the intense scrutiny. Which ones did you give to your female acquaintances? The ones you said hi to -- but weren't really your friends. Which one did you give to the girl who made fun of your Disney shirt that one time? Worst of all, what did you give the BOYS?! You had to be VERY careful with that one. They could not say love. They could not say "Be mine." Because what if they made fun of you? Worse, what if they actually had a crush on you? 

It seems that even as an 8-year-old, I internalized that it was my responsibility to keep boys from going after me. But that's a soapbox for another day. 
Elementary School Valentine's Day was about friend love -- and learning that words and emotions have meaning.

Middle and High School: All About Daddy... and Candy 

During these years, Daddy was always my Valentine. Sorry, Mommy. Even when I pined and angsted over my dead-end crushes, it always came back to my dad and the cards and Russell Stover/Whitman Samplers he brought from CVS.

Teenage Valentine's Day was about the daddy/daughter bond.

College: The Show's About Vaginas 

I actually finally had a boyfriend in college. And poor Greg... Valentine's Day still wasn't about him.

It was about female empowerment -- and vaginas. For all four years of college, I performed in The Vagina Monologues each Valentine's Day. A group of about 30 women, one of the most diverse groups I was a part of during college, dressed all in black with red feather boas and talked about vaginas onstage. All the proceeds from the shows went to a different women's charity each year, and I remember volunteering at a women's shelter. This time of my life is when I started to see myself as a feminist.

College Valentine's Day was about sisterly love. Love for myself, love for my classmates, and love for women everywhere.

Young Adulthood: Just Me, Baby 

For the next 8 years post-college, I was single. There were many times I felt lonely and depressed and super sorry for myself. But Valentine's Day wasn't really one of them. On Valentine's Day I did whatever I wanted. Sometimes I hung out with girlfriends. Sometimes I binged on chocolate (but usually on February 15th once it went on sale). Usually there was a cat involved. Once I was asked out for Valentine's Day by a guy who really liked me -- but I didn't feel the same way. I couldn't bear the thought of faking my way through a holiday I love. So I said no.

Young Adult Valentine's Day: self love. And some kitty love.

Today: Karaoke and My Future Husband 

Tonight I'm going to be spending Valentine's Day with the man who makes me laugh every day and who I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. He sent me gorgeous flowers. Took 30 years to get here. But I'm also spending it with my other loves: my karaoke loves. Yup, I'm spending Valentine's Day with a bunch of talented, fun, amazing drama queens and kings who make fools of themselves for votes. Tonight the theme is Love Stinks. Because of course it is.  

Today Valentine's Day is about silly, no-holds-barred love.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. To my friends, my family, my strangers, myself. Spread all the love you can. We need it.


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