Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On Valentine Daze...

I can barely remember those carefree days of marriage past when I distinctly recall playfully making it clear to my husband that flowers for Valentine’s Day would never be considered extra credit. But somewhere along the way, those same overpriced petals started to look less like symbols of love and more like tiny little $10 bills that wouldn’t survive the week. Thirteen and a half years, two young kids and too many dashed date nights later, there’s just too much child rearing and marital reality under the bridge to cling to the romantic notions of my adolescence. Today I look at Valentine’s Day with new eyes – the bleary, sleep deprived, aging and macular degenerative kind– and they’ve definitely witnessed a change in perspective.

Early in our relationship my husband sent me on a treasure hunt. At the time, it was my dearest hope that the last clue would lead to my still favorite watch. If, by some miracle, he orchestrated a repeat performance of that romantic gesture, I’d probably just pray the path eventually lead to an escape hatch for those days when I feel like sticking my head in the oven. Instead of chocolates, I’d love one measly hour to work out and not worry that my kids would be sick and out of school the next week because they’d picked up something nasty at the gym day care. In lieu of a surprise trip to somewhere fabulous, I’d really just like a surprise trip to the esthetician for a wax and then maybe the dentist for a teeth cleaning to make it feel really decadent.

I don’t remember the last time we spent a romantic Valentine’s Day having dinner for two, but I do know that if we spent the required effort and money necessary to make it happen, the punishment wouldn’t fit the crime. Mostly because it would mean that I would spend a month tracking down a sitter, a minimum of three weeks looking for those “in- between” hours necessary to clean every room in the house, even more days preparing kid-friendly dinners, stocking the house with snacks and ultimately being the one to decide on—and make—the reservations at a restaurant that doesn’t have a coloring crayon and coordinating activity sheet in sight. And that’s all before I’d somehow figure out how to sneak in a shower, whip my hair into some version of what it looked like the last time I left a salon, apply some war paint, pick out an outfit that required heels (add in extra time to relearn how to walk in heels) and go to the ATM to withdraw the $400 ransom it would take to pay for dinner and secure the release of our children. Once we’d arrived at said fantasy restaurant, I’d be so spent from the groundwork that I could promise my husband little more than a staring contest from across the table. (Right now he’s probably thinking, “Honey, why did we stop celebrating Valentine’s Day again?”)

I know, all you young lovers out there will find my Valentine’s Day revelations depressing. And in a way they are. Especially since I spent so many years convincing my husband that using the free greeting cards we get from the charities we support in place of making a trip to an actual store was not winning him any points. Never fear, I’m still a typical girl—all mushy inside and victim to even trivial romance—I’ve just stopped being a slave to Cupid’s annual cash cow.

I wish I could say that I miss it, but in actuality, it’s been pretty liberating. I remember a day when I thought my husband had the most gorgeous, lush head of hair. Now it’s hard for me to run my fingers through it without remembering those same locks covered in vomit the last time Cameron ate a hotdog that didn’t agree with him. And I’m not na├»ve enough to think there’s much out there can resuscitate the unspoiled fantasy of your young bride after you’ve witnessed that same girl and all her parts giving birth. These days, a burnt piece of meat on his plate and a few runs of the vacuum cleaner through the carpet when he gets home is about all the “sexy” he needs. And this year, honey, even though I no longer own lingerie, I will make absolutely sure my sweats are clean, the DVR is queued and the mouth guard spends the night in its own dish. Happy Valentines Day to us!