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Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue. I’m Dreading My First Valentine’s Day...Are You, Too?

Valentine's Day Dread: illustration of Valentine’s Sweethearts candies
Adrienne Bresnahan/Getty images

I was 12 years old when I received my first Valentine’s Day gift from my crush. It was the Hallmark crap of a sixth grader’s dreams—a plush, white stuffed bear holding an embroidered sign that read, “I Love You” with a giant Ghirardelli heart-shaped box—from the cutest, curly-haired boy in the grade. Nothing reads Be Mine like caramel chocolates.

This is it, I thought. He’s mine and I’m his. That is, until news broke that He Who Must Not Be Named gifted the same thing to a girl in the grade above. That day in the sixth grade proved two things: Valentine’s Day was nothing but empty words and, sooner-or-later, the chocolate will run out.

That first “love” came with unforeseen conditions. I love you…but I love her, too. I love you…but only if you love me back first. Like a dodgy Valentine’s cutout card, I was left to glue myself back together.

So forgive me when I say I’m dreading my first real Valentine’s Day.

With no ‘other woman’ this go-around, I’m left to take a long look in the mirror. I’ve never felt more secure, more loved and more wanted in my one-year relationship. So why does the thought of dinner with candles, The Notebook-level love letters and lingerie at the end of the night absolutely terrify me?

(Babe, if you’re reading: It’s not you, it’s me. No…really.)

It’s safe to say the sugar in this box of chocolates has been diluted over years of a shaky self-worth, social pressures and a seemingly high romantic bar. I think this is partly because I, like many women, have always questioned, “Am I enough?” Call it maturity, defiance or what have you, but when I think about the one day of the year dedicated to that four-letter word, there’s a deafening voice desperate to break free from my head and shout why?

Why do I feel the need to purchase a risqué lingerie and garter belt set? Will he deem me sexy beyond belief when I wear that dental floss thong or think me wife material when I present a home-cooked meal? Even typing this out makes me want to roll my eyes. This largely has to do with the society I grew up in, watching my stay-at-home mom dote on my bread-winning father. And while today’s perceptions of what a partnership looks like continue to evolve, the expectations of Valentine’s Day stay relatively the same; courtship with all the stops—nothing spared.

But here’s the thing: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it, either—that glitter-adorned kitschy Hallmark illustrated card, chocolate boxes with the coconut-filled squares left out of sight because “I know you don’t like those,” never-ending stolen glances followed by sappy, “I love you’s” and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. (I can buy myself flowers, Miley, but I don’t always want to.) While every part of me runs away from the notion of being mushy-gushy for the sake of show-and-tell, there’s a part of me that wants to revel in every second of it. I’m realizing more than ever that love, though not reserved for a one-day-only deal, is OK to be celebrated ad nauseum. If love is the expectation, then let there be love, gosh darnit!

Almost 15 years after that fateful sixth grade V-Day fiasco, some things haven’t changed, but like the 12-year-old letting go of her bear, it’s time I let go of this dread—the dread of not living up to the nauseating standard of a perfect Valentine’s Day. And, thankfully, sixth grade me got some things so wrong: “I love you’s” aren’t always Valentine’s fluff…but if they are and you run out of your box of chocolates, there’s plenty more to buy in the clearance section, tomorrow.

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