Lately, the number one question I am being asked isn’t, “When is the second book coming out?” or “What happened to your blog?” but “What are you going to do for Valentine’s Day?”
Valentine’s Day has never really meant anything to me.
As a former vibrator seller though, the day itself meant big sales. It was a great excuse to get women to book parties and the promotions were usually centered around romance or some way to make the night special for a couple.
You know the kinds of romance packages I mean, right? Like, one year it was a box full of rose petals and chocolate body paint and the next it was scented candles that you could melt directly on your skin. They were all lovely but to be quite honest, they were never my idea of romance. I was however a huge fan of a mid-year promotion called “Make Your Own Porn Movie”.
The gift with purchase came in a box complete with movie clapper, chalk (so you could write down the clever name of your home movie of course), various scenarios written out for inspiration and a CD of porn music to play in the background.
That particular gift was such a big hit it inspired my first $2,000 plus party.
But I digress…In the years that I sold toys I came to the realization that romance is not defined the same way for everyone no matter what Hallmark and all the big flower companies will have you believe.
I remember my very first Valentine’s Day celebration was in grade three. The teacher had us make heart shaped pouches out of construction paper and stick them to our desks. I spent hours working on mine. I figured out how to make paper lace and attached it to the edge of the large red heart. I stencilled a rose on the front and then spent the rest of the night filling the names of all my fellow students on the store bought cartoon Valentines my mother had purchased for me.
“Are you sure you want to fill them all in?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I want everyone to get a Valentine”.
On Valentine’s Day all the students taped the paper pouches they made to their desk. Our third grade teacher pointed out my paper heart to everyone else in the room.
“In all the years I’ve been teaching, I don’t think I’ve seen one quite as lovely as yours, Jasmine.”
I beamed like the future arts and craft queen I would become. Then we walked around the room and put our personalized cards in each other’s pouches. I excitedly returned to my desk and ripped open my heart.
One Valentine card.
And it was from the teacher.
I glanced around the room thinking there had to be a mistake. I watched as the pretty little blonde girl’s pouch overflowed with different sized cards and the thick haired charmer from down the street had more Valentines in his pouch than there were in the box we bought from the store.
Maybe they couldn’t spell my name. Maybe it was just a joke and I would find all the Valentines in my locker later that day. I went home and told my mother that I only got a Valentine from the teacher and I started to cry. She held me tightly in her arms and said, “You’ll always be my Walentine. Forever.”
The next Valentine’s Day that stands out in my memory was from when I was being courted, yes courted, by a suitor in the U.S. whom I had met through family and was interested in marrying me. I believed in arranged marriages and wanted it to work out but as much as he tried, I just couldn’t seem to grow feelings for him in my heart. When Valentine’s Day approached he sent me three foot long stemmed roses and there was perfume and a box of chocolates in the giant gold box.
I have to admit, I wasn’t blown away by his gesture as much as I was by the reaction of other women I would see as I walked up the street that day with the giant bouquet. There was mixed expressions of happiness, bitterness and outright envy directed towards me.
Suddenly I was that girl.
The girl who gets flowers on Valentine’s.
And a little part of my superficial heart grew two inches that day.
The next most memorable V-Day was while I was dating Lamby (by the way, the man I was in my first long term relationship with and who was a partial source of inspiration for “Sex & Samosas” shall henceforth be known as Lamby).
I had just graduated from sex school. Well, I called it sex school to make it more scandalous because it was in fact training on product knowledge for the vibrators and how to properly fill out paperwork. At the end of training, all the new consultants were given $1,600 worth of product to take home and try out.
Lamby called me when I got home and told me that he had just accepted a job in Mississauga and was moving. He hadn’t bothered to discuss it with me.
“What do you mean you’re moving to Mississauga?” I asked.
“I have to go. I need the job.”
“You didn’t even tell me you were considering it. I thought partners were supposed to share these things with each other. Not just make unilateral decisions.”
“There’s something else,” he said. His voice cracked slightly.
“I’m going to live with my ex-girlfriend while I’m there. But it’s just till I find a place of my own.”
Insert long, very awkward pause.
I imagined the pile of sex toys that I was so excited to share with him suddenly covered in layers of dust with a headstone over them that read: “Dead as a Dildo”.
After a moment’s thought I said, “I can’t believe this! I don’t want to see you ever again!”
He paused before hesitantly saying, “But tomorrow is Valentine’s Day….”
As someone who has spent the majority of her life being single, I have been treated to a myriad of suggestions on how I can find the perfect Valentine for me. Over the years I have read articles on “Finding Your Perfect Mate” that range from hanging out in places where you know you will meet someone of like-minded interests to wearing certain scents and the perfect right hue of red lipstick to attract your special someone. That advice doesn’t really work well for people in solitary occupations like writing but on the plus side, I now have a lovely collection of lipsticks ranging from “Salacious Strawberry” to “Raunchy Red”.
The advice from my South Asian culture was more aggressive and spiritual. I was given special stones to wear to ward off the evil eye and attract love. When that didn’t work I was told to climb the 300 steps at the top of a hill in Hyderabad where a temple was located. Once there, I simply needed to make an oath and love would effortlessly float my way. When it didn’t as much as waft in my general direction, I was given a mantra to repeat 101 times a night before I slept.
I did it.
I spoke that mantra in my sleep, climbed the stairs and wore the stones and still my beloved never showed up.
Valentine’s day after Valentine’s Day I spent alone and it never bothered me.
What always has upset me is the pressure everyone else puts on the day and the associations that if you are single on February 14th, somehow you are a loser.
Magazines and advertisers aggressively publish pieces on how to find a mate before that day as though they have a magic cure for the “disease” of being single. And the articles that tell you it’s okay to be alone on Valentine’s Day seem like they are only thinly veiled platitudes aimed at making you feel momentarily less like a leper and more like a selective loner.
The bottom line is that if you do not truly love yourself, you can’t expect someone else to on Valentine’s Day or any other day.
I have never been the kind of person who needs a date on the calendar to tell someone how I feel about them, or needed a special holiday as an excuse to show love. I don’t buy into the triple priced flowers and heart shaped boxes of chocolates as a means to celebrate the day either.
Needless to say, I think the holiday itself is far too commercialized like most holidays. But if it affords someone the opportunity to break the ice, spill their heart’s desires out where they might not have the courage to do so otherwise, then I celebrate the expression of love wishing that it might lead to the expression of it on every other calendar day that follows.
So to answer the question of what I’m going to do this Valentine’s Day, I’ll be spending it with the man that I climbed hundreds of steps to find, wore pieces of special stones to attract and prayed for incessantly every night for years to arrive. And you can rest assured that the night of love we spend on February 14th won’t be any different from the rest of the days on the calendar because I don’t need an excuse to tell him how much I love him.
That is, unless I can find the tattered box containing the movie clapper and CD of music in it. In that case, romance will not only be in the air but it will also be recorded!