As I said in Part One yesterday, 2007 I had a new plan and a new attitude for surviving Valentine’s Day.
When I was married, it never occurred to me how much I needed women in my life. I was too buried beneath diapers to change, birthday parties to plan, coupons to clip, papers to grade, and a house to clean. My husband and children were my center. Anyway, all my girlfriends had also been body snatched, living for the men and kids in their orbits as well.
But when my world was thrown off course by the end of my sixteen-year marriage, my worldview was shaken. Despite –-no, because of—a lot of pain, I learned to reorganize my priorities. With the help of some wise, older women who helped me start over, I began to take care of myself so I could better care for my children.
I freed myself from the “shoulds”that said before I could play with my children, exercise, or see friends, I “should”… have a straight house, an organized desk, and an empty briefcase. But the one should I couldn’t shake was that to be totally happy I needed to be loved by the right man. While I’d refused to settle for dating just for dating’s sake and while I enjoyed time alone, I still believed a significant other was required to navigate Valentine’s Day.
Christmas can be filled with family gatherings, office parties, even Rudolph and Bing, but Valentine’s Day is for couples. And while kissing is part of New Year’s Eve, friends celebrate in droves whether at parties, bars, or Times Square. There’s something painfully exclusive about Valentine’s– tables for two. Having a soulmate is the sole focus.
Previously, if a friend had told me there’s anything better than romance and chocolate on Valentine’s Day, I would have thought her to be lying, denying, or just sadly settling. If she then really pressed her luck and told me there’s something better than spending Valentine’s Day with The One, I’d have told her to stop worrying. Though I am pathetically passionate which makes the weeks leading up to mid February painfully poignant, I really didn’t need her to go on Suicide Watch.
Then again, Homicide Watch might have been a good idea. Waiting on Cupid had become Waiting for Godot.. I really wanted to take a hit out on the little sucker for directing my dating life as absurdist comedy as I watched and waited for a leading man over a decade. He knew I wanted nothing more than to be Heathcliff’s Catherine…Johnny’s June…McDreamy’s Merdith… or Harry’s Sally. In fact, for the girl who fell in love with Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights as a high school senior, anything short of finding my soulmate who would proclaim, “I am Cindy!” seemed to be settling. But not settling meant I had to be patient. And again, instead of focusing on what I lacked, it was time to focus on what I had.
And that’s when I thought of Chocolat—not just because I love Juliette Binoche and all things chocolate. Not just because I adore Johnny Depp as Roux more than any other part he has ever played. And not just because I, too, have a pair of red shoes and my child asks me why I can’t be like “all the other mothers.” Like Vianne, I wanted to reach out to others—particularly the women in my life—because I think goodness is defined by what we do, not what we don’t do, by who we include, not who we exclude. Rather than invite only close friends from this group or that, I decided to bring together the amazing and unique women I knew. It would be a chance for them to network, to make new friends.
So I abandoned the usual ritual on V Day of taking an annual inventory of guys I’d dated over the past 12 month. Rather than analyzing why each love connection short circuited or never even had enough electricity to fizzle at all—I had dated guys ranging in age from their twenties to their fifties and in occupations from songwriters to businessmen to blue collar workers. Most had been the usual One-Date-Wonders. Turning my attention instead to my guest list, I found my women friends were even more diverse…and interesting.
Sports nuts and Art lovers. Nurses and teachers. A publicist, a coach, counselors. Never marrieds, remarrieds, forever marrieds. Moms and Grandmothers. Dog lovers, vegetarians, democrats, republicans. Horsewomen, runners, farm girls. Californians, New Orleanians, Yankee Italians. A band leader. A band leader’s wife. It could have been a disaster. But something told me to chance it anyway. I was worried no one would come. Valentine’s Eve fell on a weeknight and everyone is so busy. But shortly after the invitations were sent, the replies began rolling in. Everyone was excited.
Thus commenced the “Valentine’s Eve Hopeful Romantic Party.” Those with sweethearts could still celebrate with their guys and those without would be too tired from the party to care. Either way we’d all usher in the Big Day together.
So….make your guest list and get going! Whether you use Facebook, send an Evite or an invitation by mail—store bought or created by you—do it now. Just one week till V Day. And this year it’s on a weekend—a real bonus. If you’re inviting women who have sweethearts, then make it next Friday, on Valentine’s Eve. That way you can still see your honey, and if you don’t have one, you’ll be too tired to care.