In the past I’ve had a mixed bag of Valentine’s Day celebrations. Once, when I was in a new-ish relationship, my eager-to-impress boyfriend stepped up, taking me to a swanky dinner in Alexandria that actually required a reservation. We got dressed up, he presented me with a dozen roses. It was all I could have hoped for and nothing I expected.
Maybe my bar is low because the only previous time I’ve had a boyfriend at Valentine’s Day he did the opposite. The day of—nay, the night of—Valentine’s Day he picked me up from work and asked nonchalantly, “Where should we go get a bite?” Never mind that I was in a festive red dress and he looked ready for a lazy Sunday. I’m easygoing, yet sometimes the occasion calls for some prep work. “I actually think it’s one of these nights we can’t wing it,” I tried to tell him politely.
For the next 90 minutes or so we drove all across Athens, Ga. stopping at eatery after eatery to see if we could get a seat at the Valentine’s Day table. Nope. Sorry. We’re filled. Success only came when we set our sights lower. Way lower. Our ultimate destination was a dive bar downtown drinking beer out of plastic cups and scarfing down burgers.
Other single years I’ve played the role of the adamant single girl striking out against “this Hallmark holiday.” One particularly feisty year I decided to write out Girl Power-tastic poems for my fellow unattached females in the dorm, hand them out in the form of valentines and then drink copious amounts of red vino.
This year I took a different tact. A female friend and I had decided several weeks back that, date or no date, we were going to rough the day together. I found out about a spoken word event put on by the storytelling-focused nonprofit Speakeasy DC entitled “Sucker for Love.” We were in.
The idea was, as the nonprofit explained in its promos, a “love-fest of stories about the pleasures and perils of romance.” This would be the sixth year that Speakeasy was putting on such a showcase, so my friend and I figured they had an inkling of a clue about what they were doing.
What resulted was much better than expected. Eight individuals took their turns on stage and spun their tales as if reciting monologues from a well-rehearsed and well-written play.
There was the middle-aged man who described stepping outside of his comfort zone to go out with a flower child who wanted to know his birthday ahead of time to figure out whether their planets were compatible. Ultimately after that pairing didn’t quite work out, he hit on a student in an improv class he was teaching, “as lecherous improv teachers do,” he joked to the crowd. This woman took him to Burning Man which proved to be a relationship turning point bringing them together in a substantial way.
There was the late 30-something girl who detailed a two-year relationship in which she was the gardener tending to her plant (aka boyfriend). She was so willing to put in the TLC that she moved to Alexandria—“and not Old Town, we’re talking Outside of the Beltway. I liked him that much,” she deadpanned. (Probably the line that elicited the loudest response of the night). When she confessed to loving him, he thanked her and, soon thereafter, unceremoniously dumped her. The work she’d put in to improve her man would be appreciated by another gal.
The telling was, in parts, hysterical, and in other parts, soul-crushing. As love is. Other stories took on a man’s discovery of being in love with a friend and trying to switch out of the friend zone. Another woman humorously recounted three times she’d been involved with guys only to find out she wasn’t exactly their type. “See, you’re not gay,” she told one after a makeout session. “Uh, yeah I am,” he shot back. Later on in the program, a man who was a DJ throughout college was catfished “before catfishing was a thing.”
The experience of hearing these strangers’ innermost thoughts, insecurities and travails was such a delight. It surprised me that half of the eight ended their stories with a-ha moments and happily ever afters even after devastation.
The audience for “Sucker for Love” was a diverse mix of couples, women, gay men, young, old. Love, it seemed to say, affects us all. This may have been my best Valentine’s Day yet, because it reminded me of the full scale of love. Not the need to make reservations for an upscale dinner or the logistics of giving gifts; but the feelings that underlie all of the troubles we go to.