February 11, 2011

He's the Sweetest

One of the great flaws of womankind is that she (well, me) is ruled by expectation. We are set up from a very young age by fairy tales, movies, and our girlfriends. We run in packs from childhood and are influenced by our girlfriends on how all things romantic should be.

That "should be" is where the problem is. I spent my whole life waiting for My White Knight (as in Broadway's The Music Man) and when he arrived I had a whole set of expectations sprinkled on me by Tinkerbelle's Magic Wand.

Damn if he didn't want to sit somewhere in a cottage with me in the State of Iowa (well, Indiana) and I would like him to be more interested in me than in himself and more interested in us than in me. And if occasionally he should ponder what makes Shakespeare and Beethoven great, him I could love 'til I die. Him I could love 'til I die.

Valentine's Day is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year, according to fairy tales, movies, and the greatest reference source of all: my galpals.

Herman and I started dating in late 1982. He moved to Florida to be with me and life was difficult for him at that time. In the previous six months, he lost his job as a newspaper reporter and his parents were in a terrible car accident. His father died at the scene and his mother suffered injuries that left her handicapped for the rest of her life. Several teenagers in another car were killed. His mother moved in with his brother, and Herman's childhood home was sold.

As Cleopatra, Queen of Denial, I expected our first Valentine's Day as a couple would be unbelievably romantic and sublime. At twenty-five I was still extremely immature.

Herman had a temporary job in purchasing at the hospital where I worked, and money was a real issue for him. These two realities clashed head on, and I don't come out looking very good in this.

Herman bought me an ankle bracelet with little tiny hearts all around a gold chain. It was lovely, though as a "chubette" (this is a Sally Swift term that I just love) it probably wouldn't have been my choice or style. I gave him a book and a card. I also gave him hell about giving me an ankle bracelet. (Why he didn't break up with me I have no idea...) This did not make for a very pleasant evening.

I also learned later, after I made my unhappiness clear to him about the ankle bracelet, that it was his father's birthday. This was his father's first birthday after his death only three months before.

I know, you want to quit reading because you cannot believe what a horrible bitch I was. I agree.

To start a new tradition the next fall I made a huge deal for Sweetest Day, a Hallmark holiday each autumn.

Check it out: yes, there are cards and gifts and all the usual stuff. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweetest_Day

While we will exchange cards for Valentine's Day, our tradition is better expressed on Sweetest Day. For weeks before the big day, we will say to each other many times a day, "You are the sweetest" with the answer, "No, you are the sweetest." We leave each other notes, and of course there is the requisite cake.

Next Monday my father-in-law would be ninety years old if he were still alive. I am thinking about doing something special to honor his memory. That will be the best Valentine of all for Herman.