It’s Valentine’s Day. I used to really really hate Valentine’s Day. And now I don’t. I don’t particularly care about it. I bought my husband some chocolate that I know he likes, because I passed it at the grocery store. But that is it. And even that was on a whim.
Valentine’s Day is caught up in a whole lot of muddy cultural mess. It comes with high expectations of Romance and Passion. It comes with a kind of female competition; who can get the most romantic gift, or the most expensive. It comes with an underlying theme of grand gestures and commitment!
I am currently in the only committed romantic relationship of my life. About a month from now my husband and I will have been together for 8 years, and married for 5. And I am 43. Let me do the math for you. I was single until I was 35 (almost 36.)
There are a lot of reasons I was single for so long, both internal and external. And I can see in retrospect that I had created certain barriers to me finding someone, based on a kind of negative, self-loathing chatter that went through my brain constantly.
But another big factor is that I was fat. And being fat meant that I was not desirable by societal standards. It doesn’t help that I am a straight woman. Straight men made it very clear to me throughout my life that they were not interested based on the fact that I was fat. Even the ones who were attracted were not interested.
I hated Valentine’s Day because society told me every day, all year long that I was not worthy of love. In fat jokes in movies and on TV. In the things people said to me on the street. In the way boys and sometimes even grown men would whisper to each other and laugh. And then once a year it had a huge, in-your-face celebration in pink and red for at least two full weeks that was clearly not for me.
We tell women all the time in our culture how they deserve to be loved, and why. Or if they deserve it al all. And a lot of us get told that we don’t deserve. And for a lot of us it is about our bodies. Always if we are fat. But sometimes if we are other things. Skinny. Black (or just not white.) Or sexually aggressive (not “pure.”) Or not feminine enough, whether that is “too butch” or “too buff.”
I used to hate Valentine’s Day because it was a reminder of all of the ways that I was considered less-than and unworthy. But I don’t need to hate it anymore. I mean, I don’t like it. And I don’t celebrate. But I don’t need to prove that I deserve the kind of love that it promises. I don’t think I even want that kind of love.
I have a husband who honors and accommodates me in my very complicated and time consuming food life, and who knows how to fight to fix the relationship, and not to win the argument. And who has the same ideas about money and time and togetherness that I do. And who is a partner in all things. (We even work together!)
I don’t need to be a pampered princess because I am the woman. And I don’t need material gifts to feel wanted and appreciated. I don’t even eat chocolate, obviously! And I don’t need a day on the calendar to tell me it’s time to celebrate my romance. I do that over and over, year round. Just maybe not in ways someone else would recognize as romantic.