Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013: It Doesn't Get Better

 Valentine's Day expectation:

"What a hitter!"

I didn't have a lot of dates on Valentine's Day in high school. By "a lot" I mean any and by "on Valentine's Day" I mean ever. Boys did not like me. They did not like me so much that my mom and my best friend's mom had a running, numerical list going of "Reasons why boys don't like you". It was in the hundreds by the time I graduated and included such gems as "Because you ask boys if they want to hear the most annoying sound in the world, then make it", "Because you are 17 and still go Trick or Treating", "Because you actively lecture your peers about the hazards of drug and alcohol use", "Because you're too loud" and "Because all of your inside jokes are about The Glass Menagerie". (Admittedly, at least half of those are still true.) In fact the only Valentines I ever received from boys in school were in elementary school. And then only because you were actually obligated to give a Valentine to EVERYONE in the class or you got in trouble.

I went to every high school dance with my best girlfriend. I didn't really get why no one asked me, until I got to the dance. There, all the girls were making out with their dates (something I did not do), and knew how to do their hair and makeup and get tans (things I did not know how to do). It pretty much went like this:

Actually I had one date to one high school dance ever, and he was my mom's student to whom she offered extra credit to go with me. I don't think we actually danced once. If we did it I obviously blocked it from my memory in that it was undoubtedly like a scene from Napoleon Dynamite where he told me he liked my sleeves and we left plenty of room for Jesus and then I ran away.

The closest I ever got to a guy in high school was one time when I hugged one and my braces got caught in his sweater. That happened.

I was the Hermione Granger, frizzy haired, over-achiever, President of all the clubs, Editor of the paper who sat in the front row with my hand raised so high and so hard that I actually had to hold my arm up with my other hand. I was the "before" girl in every high school makeover movie.

And that's fine. That's all just fine and good. Because every high school makeover movie and Disney and my mom all worked in tandem to give me the straight girl's equivalent of the "It Gets Better" campaign for gay kids. They told me that just because no one "appreciates me" now, that wouldn't be the case forever. They told me that in fact, before I knew it, my Valentine's Day would go from opening one lone card from my mom and pretending N*Sync's Chris Kirkpatrick was my boyfriend (yeah, that's the one I picked...) to UNICORNS ON UNICORNS ON UNICORNS ON KITTENS ON BOYS WITH CANDIES AND FLOWERS AND GLITTER AND RAINBOWS AND EXCUSE ME I THINK I NEED TO GO SIT DOWN.

This was, you see, the natural progression of things. I was supposed to get hot. And boys weren't supposed to be "intimidated" of the smart girl any more. And I would have dates. And Valentines. And boyfriends. I would have all of the things.

I guess beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but I'm definitely a vast improvement in the looks department over high school me. I never did grow boobs, but I lost the braces and became, if not hot, then at least passably bangable to a strong contingent of men with beer goggles at 3AM.

And yet I find myself still going to just about every single ball or gala with my best girlfriend from high school. (YOU SAID I'D HAVE DATES MOM. YOU LIED TO ME. I'D SLAM A DOOR RIGHT NOW IF I STILL LIVED AT HOME FOR YOU TO HEAR IT.) This Valentine's Day so far has consisted of girlfriends posting cat pictures on my Facebook wall, and tonight i'll probably be going full-on Marla Hooch "It had to be you" at some hapless, horrified stranger at a bar.

If facebook stalking gives any indication, it turns out that all the cheerleader girls who knew how to do their makeup in high school are still all the girls who are always "in a relationship" with someone or other new every few months, who unfailingly receive flowers (that they unfailingly post pictures of) from their love interest on Valentine's Day. And it turns out that all the girls who studied hard who never had dates are still by and large dateless and up all night on Valentine's Day writing or blogging (you know, hypothetically..).

I don't know what happened. Or I guess, what didn't happen. Still don't have all the dates. Or all the Valentines. Or all the boyfriends. I wasn't told that I'd need those things to be happy. But I was told that they'd come around.

So I think if I ever have a daughter, and she inevitably turns out to be the same type-A girl with braces who sits in the front row, who gets straight A's but doesn't get asked to any dances, I won't promise her "It gets better". I won't promise her that boys will like her. Because maybe they won't. But I can unequivocally promise her a life of adventure, which she wouldn't get to experience if she were the type of girl always tied down to a guy. And i'll promise that she'll find happiness. And i'll promise that she'll fulfillment. Just not in the way she might be hoping for in that moment, on that Valentine's Day where she is opening what will probably be her only Valentine's Day card... which is from me.

Oh and cats. I'll promise her cats. Or raccoons. Few things in life are certain except death and taxes and that if you live in a Grey Gardens-esque hoard, raccoons are inevitably going to intermingle with your cats, so you better damn well get used to it.

I can't say with confidence "It gets better". But your world certainly gets bigger. And you shouldn't lose sight of that on the one day of the year that asks you to look with tunnel vision at one aspect of your life.

And thanks for this year's Valentine's Day card, mom. And for the cardboard cutout Barbie charm bracelet that came with it.

Reason # 4,562 boys do not like me: Because I wear cardboard cutout Barbie charm bracelets.