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I remember being a freshman in college on Valentine’s Day and getting the most carnations from male admirers amongst the girls in my dorm.  This was a big deal at the time.  The carnations were $1 and sold in the student union and sent to your room.  Myself and the other newbies were all running up and down the corridor every time a flower arrived.  We spoke in high-pitched tones about how cute this was, as well as how much we really didn’t care which one of us got more.  All parts of which were untrue.

This was a popularity contest with a side of beauty contest thrown in.  Everything teenage girls are made to understand is important in high school. This was our first try at this as freshly minted adults with new contestants.  I’m so bad at numbers that I sometimes forget my own childrens’ birthdays and yet I remember a lot of carnation tallies from that day.


I also remember a college junior named Naomi who was the only upperclassman willing to show just how bitter she was (as opposed to just being mean for the rest of February to the new girls on the floor.)  Naomi strode to the women’s showers to get ready for her date with the sole sender of her carnation saying, “Enjoy it while you can girls, because it all goes downhill after this.”


I don’t believe any of us knew then that Naomi was a sooth at how romantic interest wanes with familiarity.  But now being old enough to have a college freshman of my own, there are no carnations in my room, ever.


That’s not to say that I would like any.  Even at eighteen I knew the carnation was a sadness flower.  One that barely makes it out of the weed category.  But today the only flowers in my house are the ones I grow and pick myself.  Seed to table all done by yours truly – like so many of the romantic things in my life.  Because after a decade in a committed relationship and a couple ‘o kids, there are only four types of presents married people get for Valentines day.


The overcompensation gift is something that most men and women are jealous over – because they don’t understand it’s subtext.  These are the gifts ranging from overpriced jewelry to something you park in your driveway.  They are big, they are flashy and they cost a bunch.


However they are so big because they are almost always meant to fill a giant hole in a relationship.  One created by one person working too much, talking at them too much, not talking to them at all or having marital relations with other people.  So when you see that diamond tennis bracelet at work this week after Valentine’s weekend – maybe you shouldn’t wish it on yourself.


The Judas gift is one that comes in the form of a kiss, or a hug or a head rub if your betrothed is feeling really unromantic these days.   This “gift” comes at you somewhere over the course of Valentine’s weekend when your partner remembers (or perhaps is reminded) that it is a romantic holiday.  Said partner will immediately lean into you with some form of affection which is meant to cover the fact that they spent no time, thought or money getting you anything.  Making them the Judas of your bed.


The self-fullfiling prophecy gift is the most common amongst romantic lifers.  It’s the one you tell your partner to get you.  Either subtly or threateningly depending on the current mood of your relationship.  Sometimes one member of a pairing will go so far as to actually buy it for themselves – and may or may not even let their other half know they paid for it.  Which all may seem like things you are meant to work out with a therapist but let me save you some money:


People are busy.  Sometimes it’s just easier to do it yourself and not overthink it.


The gift you don’t want is that nice box of chocolates when you don’t eat dairy.  Or the flowers your dog spends the whole day trying to knock down and then eventually eats.  And possibly dies from.  Or the cheap earrings you will never, ever, wear unless you are in Brazil and thinking of joining in on the parade.  For these I often tell myself, it’s a re-gift gift.  It saves me time when I am heading to an event I have not prepared for and therefore it is a gift even if I hate it.  (A little more money saved on therapy right there.)


All I really wanted for Valentines day was a card from my partner.  Hand written.  With at least four lines talking about what makes me special.  Because today I can put it in the pile with the cards from those carnation I collected a quarter of a century ago and actually know that it’s worth more.

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