Love where you live!
I don't like Valentine's Day. Well I don't hate it exactly, but it's not one of my favorite holidays, despite the fact that I'm in the greeting card business and Valentine's Day is a huge money maker for many industries, including greeting cards. So you'd think I'd like it a lot, but I don't. I wonder if it's because of that date I had in high school way back in the 60s…
I actually had a date for Valentines Day, which in and of itself was a miracle as I almost never had a date, so having a real live date on the most romantic day of the year was astonishing.
When my Valentine's Day date called to tell me what time he would pick me up, he told me he had a surprise for me. "It's turquoise and white," he said with his deep, dreamy voice. My mind raced through all the possibilities. Then I was suddenly struck by the thought that I had nothing for him, so after major badgering, my mom agreed to take me to Grossmont Center to get him a card and a gift. "He got me something," I implored. "I have to get him something too!"
Oddly enough I don't recall now what I got him. I know I got him a card that was probably inappropriately mushy, but I had such a huge crush on him and he was, after all, getting me something: it was turquoise and white! He even said so! I recall agonizing over just how to sign the card. Love? Love and Kisses? Sincerely? I settled on drawing a small heart and just signed my name. I thought it was subtle but was sure he'd get the point. At least I hoped he would.
When he came to pick me up that evening, I got in his car and handed him his gift and the card, both of which he accepted with a kind of blank expression on his face. Or maybe it was more of a guilty look…I didn't see my gift anywhere. But with an optimism only a love-struck teenager could summon, I decided maybe my secret wish was true: he had gotten me a romantic and Valentine-y turquoise and white teddy bear. Probably with a big red ribbon. It must be in the trunk, I thought.
Driving to The Helix Theater from my house in El Cajon, my date said he needed to stop for gas. And use the restroom. He reached across me to the glove compartment and grabbed a pen and what looked like a card and headed for the men's room. While I sat there in the glare of gas station's neon lights, I rehearsed what would be my surprised reaction to the plush teddy bear I just knew he had gotten me.
When he came out of the rest room, he was indeed carrying a card, a card without an envelope. I began to get that sinking feeling that my Valentine's date was not going to be everything I'd hoped for. I couldn't have been more right.
He walked around to the trunk. Be still my heart. Maybe it was going to work out after all. Then he hopped in the car and handed me the card. I noticed he had taken off the Pendleton jacket he had been wearing. That's why he opened the trunk: to put his jacket there. Now I saw the surprise he'd hidden under his jacket: he was wearing a brand new tee shirt with wide turquoise and white stripes.
"Like my shirt?" he said with a grin. "I thought it was so cool I bought it for myself. It's the new surfer style." And without even looking at me, he said,
"I knew you'd love it!"
Now, I was, ( as people often say, but not until it's happening to you to you get why they say it) choking back tears. I could have sobbed. Really, really sobbed. Big sad stinging tears. His Valentine's day surprise for me was him in a new shirt. No teddy bear, I thought.
This is the worst Valentine's date ever.
(But it's "worst-ness" wasn't over.)
I looked at the card in my hand through a blury sheen of tears.
I think it had a dog on it. Or a bear. It might as well have had a picture of him in his new shirt on it. I really don't remember. I only remember what it had in it: his enormous signature.
He had signed his name in large block letters, written with a broad-tipped black marker pen. The pen he had grabbed from the glove compartment. It read simply, "DAVE."
No Love, no xoxo, no Sincerely. Just DAVE. In letters four inches tall and one inch wide. As I stared at it in disbelief, I could see in that bright gas station light that he had signed his name over someone else's signature, over someone else's name. And while I could not make out the name, I knew he had given me a valentine another girl had given to him.
He gave me a used Valentine.
The funny thing about moments of heartbreak when you're young is that you almost never forget them. We may forget some of the details of the event, but we never really forget the event itself nor the way it made us feel.
So I guess that's why, even though I'm in the greeting card business, I pretty much leave the Valentine's Day sentiments to Hallmark. Although there might actually be a market for cards with a friendly disclaimer on the back:
"This card came with an envelope. It you did not receive one, please hand the card back to the person who gave it to you and have a good cry. You'll never forget it, but you'll get over it! Happy Valentine's Day."
Maybe I'll have some of those for sale next year...