Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fancy That: How a Cynic Came to Love Valentine's Day

I used to hate Valentine's Day. I despised all of it--the sappy cards, the pink candy hearts, the store aisles bursting with foil-wrapped chocolates, waxy plastic flowers and furry teddy bears holding said chocolates or flowers. To me, these commercial items didn't say love, they screamed obligation. Have you ever been in a grocery or drug store at 9:30 pm on February 13th? You'll find a bunch of last-minute suckers, frantically searching the already picked over rows of cards, desperate for any eleventh-hour token of love to hand to their sweetheart the next day. I wanted acts of love to be spontaneous, and I sure didn't want to share Valentine's Day with people who bought into the commercialism of love.

When I was in eighth grade, Valentine's Day fell on a school day and my boyfriend of all of one week brought me an oversized gorilla carrying a rose. The monkey was half my height and four times as wide as me. I had to wrap my arms around it and heave it around the Middle School hallways, pushing my way blindly through crowds of gawking middle schoolers. Not one for big displays of affection, I was mortified. We broke up not too long after that.

In High School I made a big deal to everyone that I was against Valentine's Day. When people would ask my V-Day plans, I would roll my eyes and sigh. "I don't celebrate Valentine's Day," I'd explain, telling them about how love should be shared every day, not just on the one day that the government decided. I was also against cards that already had a declaration of love inside them, leaving room just for a signature from the purchaser. I wanted long, hand-written love letters, and wanted them all year long. (Hmmm....was I cynical or just high maintenance?)

Valentine's Days came and went. Sometimes I was single, sometimes I was dating someone, but it didn't matter to me either way. In college a funny, adventurous guy named Thad who I had met a few weeks before asked me out for Valentine's Day. In lieu of a date with him, I threw an anti-Valentine's Day party with a bunch of my girl friends. He handled the rejection well, kept on coming around my apartment, and years later we got married. Throughout our relationship, Valentine's Day was just something we didn't worry about.

And then, Fancy Storytime happened. It wasn't a huge thing, really, that made me change my mind so drastically. It was just an event that we had on Valentine's Day--an hour of reading Fancy Nancy and other stories, eating petit fours, learning how to say bonjour and practicing a fancy parade-float wave. But by our second year hosting the fancy event, I was smitten by little girls in their Sunday best, and Fancy Storytime had risen to the top of the ranks in my list of favorite events at Little Shop. Last year I pulled my wedding dress out of its box and when three year olds came up to me and asked me if I was a princess, I smiled at them and said yes. The whole store was packed and we ran out of sparkling juice faster than you can say fancy. I didn't want the fanciness to end, so afterward Thad and I cooked a fancy dinner and went to the High Museum for drinks, dessert and dancing. I was a changed woman. Now I want to wear pink and red and send cards and eat chocolate. (Who am I kidding? I always want to eat chocolate.) But seriously, I can say it without hesitation. I like Valentine's Day. Because it's just too much work to be against something so fabulous.

And so this year, I'd like to personally invite all of you to put on your fanciest attire and come to our annual Fancy Storytime on Saturday, February 13th at 3 pm.


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