My all-time, number-one favourite Valentine’s Day Memory also happens to be one of the most humiliating memories of my life. (Yes, I know that’s weird.)
This memory lacks the deliberately awful jabs that were so evident in my baseball encounter but it still has all the hallmarks of a terrible experience. Crowds of people? Check. Unnecessary (albeit unintentional) cruelty? Check. Feeling vulnerable? Check.
So prepare yourself dear reader, this is going to get good.
This Valentine’s Day, in the lovely and not nearly futuristic enough year 2015, marks the 10 Year Anniversary since ‘it’ happened and I am actually rather fond of retelling the story. I’ve told it hundreds of times and have really turned it into a near perfect performance. I know the best moments to pause and I have the sad yet nostalgic smile down to an art. Heck, I even know the exact second to let a tear quiver in the corner of my eye. (Alas, knowing this hasn’t helped me to produce the tear. I have unfortunately never been able to cry on command.)
I just wish I could go back and tell my 17 year old self how great this memory would become because at the time I certainly didn’t see any humour in the situation.
Let me paint the picture for you, dear reader. I am 17 years old and in my final year of high school. My three closest friends are all lovey dovey and annoyingly happy with their significant others who they have been dating for ages and were totally going to marry and love forever and ever. Everyone else in my social group is with someone whether seriously or ‘just having fun’.
I am the only one who is single.
Still, that didn’t bother me overly much. Sure I felt awkward being the fifth (or sometimes seventh) wheel on our super awesome Friday Night Movie Nights but I’ve always possessed enough self-deprecation that it’s never been hard to laugh at myself and brush the worst of it aside.
Until Valentine’s Day.
Unbeknownst to me my darling besties were all quite concerned about my single state. Imagine, being alone on Valentine’s Day. Alone. Unloved. Unwanted. It was a serious tragedy.
Which is why in their love for me they decided to cheer me up in what I am sure seemed like a good idea at the time. (You know, kinda like how it seems like a good idea at the time to tie a rope around your waist, stand on a skateboard, and have your friend drive you around the neighbourhood really fast. Road rash may not last forever but the YouTube video certainly will.)
So here I was on Valentine’s Day, single and ok with it, working my afterschool job at Taco Time with another good friend (who also happened to be in a relationship). The restaurant was completely full, busy with all of the couples clamoring for their tacos (no euphemism intended). And then in walks my friends, boyfriends in tow.
The six-some stood right up next to the counter, edging between tables of people to get as close as possible and presented me with the ugliest stuffed heart pillow (purple and pink and red and just plain hideous) and then all looked at me with identically pitying glances.
My best friend at the time took the lead, offering me a sad smile. “Sarah, we wanted to let you know that just because no guy loves you doesn’t mean that we don’t love you. Thank you for being you!”
I promise you, dear reader, with no word of exaggeration that the entire restaurant went quiet as she spoke, her voice carrying in the silence. All eyes turned on me as I blushed furiously and accepted the Heart Pillow. Then the snickers started. Then laughter took over. Even my co-worker had to run into the back room laughing so hard she almost peed herself.
I was humiliated and left to stand there at the counter helping customers as people at their tables sat and pointed or just stared, the same pitying expression in their eyes that my friends had carried with them. My friends all left, eager to get their dates started now that their errand was complete.
I went home and cried that night huddled alone in my room watching ‘Titanic’ and cuddling my dog, still burning with humiliation. It was awful.
It’s been 10 years and the memory is now coloured with humour and fondness instead of the dread that it used to inspire. It is still so fresh and vivid in my mind.
Dear reader, you could not pay me to be young again.
Disclaimer: I spoke to my friends the next day and they were all genuinely horrified to find out my reaction to what they had honestly thought to be a kind gesture. What can I say? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.