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The Ghosts of Valentine's Days Past

Some memories are more vivid than others. Why does it have to be the bad ones?

Honestly, I know I've had good Valentine's Days. The evidence on my bulletin board bears witness to the fact that someone feels I'm worth paying homage to when pressured to do so by a greeting card cabal. But the good V Days blur together--a slide show of pleasant dinners and pretty cards. It's the bad ones that play like a Bunuel/Dali film in my brain.

I'm thinking about a certain second date...

We'd had a great first date and joked about the coincidence that we'd scheduled our second on Valentine's Day. The constant reminders at the restaurant, though, started to weigh heavily: waiters offering champagne and hinting at hot sex to come, couples mooning at nearby tables, high-priced Valentine's Day "specials." The fact that I'd bought him a cute/funny/no-strings-attached card didn't help. He seemed alternately freaked out by this minimal expression of holiday spirit and guilty that he hadn't thought to do the same. We never saw each other again.

On another V Day, my inability to find any card that adequately represented my feelings forced me to confront the truth about a long-term boyfriend: it was over. I was unable to get past a fight we'd had about electricity (the incompatible can fight about anything, so why not this?). Due to a blizzard that kept us apart on Valentine's Day, I had to break up with him over the phone, but it still felt good not to have to give him the hideous card I had settled on a few days earlier. I kept it for years to remind me of the dangers of falling for the wrong person.

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