Coronavirus means lovers across the globe are spending Valentine’s Day apart. It’s ironic that after having been without a true Valentine for most of my youth, now that I’m romantically involved with someone, I can’t be with him. It’s long-distance love of the most extreme kind, as we don’t know when or where we can next be together.
I’ve learned that Valentine’s Day can have a very different meaning depending on your culture and upbringing. In Britain back in the Stone Age when I was in my teens, the tradition was that Valentine cards were always sent anonymously. It was a sign of secret love, that someone had the hots for you. This was unless you already had a boyfriend or girlfriend, in which case, the card would be sent by them, but still always unsigned.
Pupils at my all-girls high school would brag about how many cards they received. I usually got absolutely zero. My circle of friends was very competitive about interest from boys and we were all absolutely desperate to lose our virginity. One Valentine’s Day, I was thrilled to discover that a large red envelope addressed to me had been pushed through the letterbox on our front door. No mail boxes at the end of the driveway in England-instead everyone has a slot in their front door for the postman to insert the mail. I opened the envelope, full of anticipation. Who could the card possibly be from? “Be my Valentine…” proclaimed the front of the card in huge letters. Then I opened it and read, “…or I’ll tell everybody you’re a virgin!” I was totally crushed. I only found out years later that the card came from one of my so-called best friends. Oh, the cruelty of teenage girls! But it wasn’t as if I was particularly virtuous or sympathetic in the way I treated some of my classmates. One of my schoolfriends had a speech defect and mispronounced her Rs so that they almost sounded like a W. She had the misfortune to be called Rosemary. I would invent sentences with lots of Rs in them, such as, “Create rural druids,” and get her to repeat them while we all sniggered and tried not to laugh out loud. When she finally realized why I was doing this, the poor girl burst into tears. Maybe that virginal Valentine card was giving me some sort of cosmic payback for mean tricks of my own.
It was weird to come to America and find that everyone would send Valentine cards signed, and that they didn’t need to have anything to do with romantic love. Every year, while my children were in Elementary and Middle School, we would have to buy boxes of very unattractive Valentine cards to be given out to every single one of my children’s classmates. All those my kids received ended up in the trash on February 15.
My American ex-husband would rarely give me Valentine or birthday cards, and did not pay much attention to what was on the cover. One birthday card he gave me said “From your Loving Wife” on the front. Nevertheless, until I found out about his infidelity, I would send my husband a Valentine card every year, even though lovey-dovey stuff wasn’t his thing. If he had lived in Victorian England, most likely he would have exclaimed, “Bah, Humbug!” just like Mr. Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. “I don’t believe in romance, I believe in karma,” my former beloved once declared. I must be a very spiritually unevolved being, barely out of the animal realm, because I could never understand why these two concepts should be mutually exclusive. No followers of Buddhism could ever be romantic lovers? Clearly, Elizabeth Gilbert was dead wrong in her Eat, Pray, Love book.
I’m glad that my British boyfriend is an incorrigible romantic. He loves rom-com movies that my ex would never be willing to watch. For my ex, a romantic film was only of interest if it also incorporated plenty of shoot-outs, car chases, death, destruction and general mayhem. My boyfriend never forgets to send me a Valentine card, although he did get black marks in my book one year for giving me a Valentine e-card rather than a card actually made from card. However, this year I would gladly put up with an unromantic electronic Valentine rather than a physical card if it meant that the two of us could be together and celebrate a physical Valentine. We are currently under pandemic separation, exactly 7,237 miles apart as the crow flies. Crows don’t need passports or Covid-19 tests and are not subject to lockdowns. Sadly, my boyfriend is under an extremely restrictive lockdown in London and doesn’t have the right passport to get into the United States. Maybe I should have dated a crow instead.
Originally published at https://www.adultererswife.com on February 12, 2021.