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Valentine’s Day. The mere mention of this Hallmark holiday brings ice to my heart. On February 14th, while many women are dreaming of romance, I am trying to suppress the bile that is rising from my churning stomach. Oh, fine. Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic. However, I am a true unromantic, an anomaly in the female population and, not unlike the albino alligator, a freak of nature.

It probably stems from the fact that I never once had that Valentine’s Day that women fantasize about. And, knowing me as I do, that’s probably a good thing. I’m fairly certain that if some guy started serenading me with a love song he had written for me I would probably have to work to avoid an exaggerated eye roll and to stifle a hearty laugh. I have never been the type of gal who appreciates that sappy, cinematic version of romance. (I loathed Pretty Woman. And, don’t even get me started on Dirty Dancing.) Now that I’m married with children, I consider it romantic if my husband cleans the bathroom without prompting.

I’m sure some of my disdain for this pseudo-holiday is a result of the years I spent working in retail, watching men rush into the store at 6 p.m. looking desperately for something, anything, to bring home to the girlfriend/fiancee/wife who expected something magical because the calendar happened to read February 14th. I saw the looks of confusion, panic, and fear on their faces, and I felt sorry for them. Worse, though, were the guys who were completely apathetic and just grabbed something quickly, paid for it, and flew out of the store without a second thought. Those guys depressed me. I vowed never to become that woman who put so many expectations out there for Valentine’s Day romance that not even Prince Charming himself could come through appropriately.

Men have tried to make my Valentine’s Day one for the memory books, and they have succeeded. There is the guy who told me he’d be picking me up at 6 for a surprise and then took me to a 7 o’clock play. I hadn’t eaten because it was Valentine’s Day and I had expected dinner would be on a schedule that began at 6 p.m. I spent the entire two-hour play trying to disguise the fact that my stomach was growling more than a junkyard dog, and then I was just plain cranky because my blood sugar was so low. On another Valentine’s Day, I wore some new lingerie for my boyfriend because he had told me how much he liked it when his ex-girlfriend wore something similar; apparently he didn’t like it on me, though, and told me that it didn’t “suit” me. Nice. The one time I actually received a dozen, perfect red roses at my house on Valentine’s Day, it turned out to be just a fluke; I found out later that they had been ordered more or less to secure certain sexual favors, presumably as some type of reimbursement for the flowers themselves. Ugh. And people wonder why I am so cynical about Valentine’s Day.

But what really bothers me about this day, I suppose, is the expectation: the expectation that for one day a year a guy who is wholly unromantic will suddenly become a debonair mind reader and create a flawless night of romance, perfection made to order for the love of his life. Seriously? What kind of crack are we women on? If your darling husband can’t seem to find the hamper so he can properly dispose of his boxer shorts at the end of the day, what makes you think he’s going to know how to pull off a perfect Valentine’s Day? Why do we expect this?  And, the guys are no better. Let’s face it. They have expectations too and by the time they disappoint us with their Valentine’s Day gestures, we’re not in the right frame of mind to make their Valentine’s Day wishes come true. It’s a lose-lose set up from the get go.

My mother taught me that “expectation is the mother of disappointment,” and I repeat that phrase constantly to myself because it is so incredibly true…at least in terms of what happens when I place my expectations on others. I have learned that no one is clairvoyant and that if I want something I need to ask for it. So hubby, if you’re reading this, my perfect Valentine’s Day this year includes a not-so peaceful dinner at home followed by movie night with you and the kids because you three mean the world to me. And let’s face it, the most romantic thing I ever did was take a chance on marriage and parenthood. So far, so good, though.