It was our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple and I was obligated to force upon my husband an enchanted evening of romantic extortion.
I know, I know. Valentine’s Day belongs to pagans and 3rd graders who use grammatically incorrect phrases like “crazy 4 u” or “ur 2 cute” as a means of seduction. But I’m not a pagan and as a former English instructor and sugar connoisseur, I frown upon poor syntax etched into chalky candy.
As for my husband, he vehemently renounces Valentine’s Day as a scam and the only candy heart conversations he’d even be interested in are, “Where’s my New Yorker?” and “I’m going to Home Depot.” Sentiments that hardly solicit romantic intrigue.
This wasn’t going to be my first attempt at forcing Valentine’s Day on someone. In junior high my brother and I made an urgent plea for our dad to buy some sort of chocolate, flower concoction for our mom. We weren’t particularly romantic kids but we were patriotic. And Valentine’s Day seemed like the most American affair after the Fourth of July and Oscars night. It was our Iranian immigrant parents’ obligation to act like any normal American-unarranged-marriaged couple for the sake of their children’s healthy outlook on relationships.
But bartering flowers and candy for sex seemed more foreign to them than democracy and staying quiet in a movie theater. Needless to say, the lack of enthusiasm on their part was very disconcerting.
But I wasn’t discouraged. I needed a successful Valentine’s Day with my new husband, one that would forever seal our love, a night to tell our children about, a night that would inspire poets to write epic ballads about us which would surely be required reading for graduate students majoring in the classics. At the most, it had to be a nice night. And I was going to accomplish this with the cunning use of lingerie and lamb chops.
A friend of mine thought it would be “so cute” if we had a photo shoot with her baby in a pink, heart-polka dotted tutu as a Valentine gift for her husband. She somehow convinced me it would be an equally brilliant idea to take some titillating pictures of myself for my husband, in the same tutu (should density permit, which it did not). The plan was to frame and present the photo to my husband as a timeless gift to cherish forever and with which he would demand to be buried (or cremated. We haven’t worked out the logistics of his death yet).
As embarrassing and unflattering as this promised to be, I was optimistic. I put on my pink lacey lingerie and took my turn after the baby who was still stuffed in a basket, Anne Geddes’ masochistic baby style.
The result was a series of awkward shots of me posing sensually in front of a changing table on which there were pink onesies, diaper rash cream, and a case of sensitive wipes. If the baby accouterments weren’t enough to unsexify the situation, I was looking less like Adriana Lima posing in my hot pink lacey garter slip and more like Michael Moore in a hot pink lacey garter slip. And, with all due respect to Mr. Moore, that’s a Kodak moment no one should enshrine in his or her memory or nightstand.
So he wasn’t going to get a gift. I could still redeem myself with dinner, which brings me to my second oversight.
I barely cook, but figured the instinct would kick in now that I’m married, much like how newly hatched sea turtles move towards the ocean without having been given any direction. I was a sea turtle and the kitchen was the Pacific Ocean. I went to Trader Joe’s and picked out some lamb chops, vegetables and “everything seasoning” with the aplomb and grace of a veteran chef.
I rushed back to the guesthouse we were renting from my faux Victoria’s Secret photographer friend’s place. I cleaned up, lit a couple of candles, and placed a clean white table cover over the patio furniture we’d been using as a makeshift dinner table.
Ignoring the important lesson I learned earlier that day, I put on the same pink lingerie to cook because “experts” say that’s sexy. (These “Experts” have obviously not come in direct contact with boiling oil while practically naked. It hurts).
Not to mention that frying potatoes (which apparently take an eternity to cook) while sweeping away what was now a mop of unruly curls from my sweaty face with hands covered in “everything seasoning” debris and animal carcass is as sexy as listening to Kenny G while drinking a glass of Manischewitz in a lamb juice scented bubble bath.
What I really needed was a sexy shower.
By the time he got home I was a mess, both physically and emotionally. I wanted to have a memorable night and it was, but for all the wrong reasons. For one, I couldn’t wait to get in my PJs; the lamb chops were beyond inedible although he tried his best to pretend they were; and there were no greeting cards with puppies saying adorable things like “I wuv you” and other deep and meaningful salutations. And although we saved the night with an impromptu dinner and some good wine, I still went to bed feeling like a failure.
I was angry with him for not putting his pride aside, and with myself for having done so. I couldn’t explain to him why I wanted this one Valentine’s Day because I really didn’t have a good reason. After all I’m not very sentimental. I hate long walks on the beach (or long walks anywhere for that matter). I don’t make scrapbooks from leaves we’ve collected on our trips. And while I did cry during The Notebook, it was only because the theater wouldn’t refund my ticket. So I’m not sure what could account for my being so invested in this one night.
I guess given the base and absurd roots of some of our most cherished holidays, I just couldn’t see what all the cynicism was about. We feast on Thanksgiving Day despite having its origins in the pillage and murder of Native Americans and eat chocolate bunnies to commemorate Jesus. So what’s the harm in celebrating the only holiday that encourages love without requiring anyone to bow their heads in prayer before gorging on Russell Stover chocolates from CVS?
The next day I did some soul searching (and lamb chop recipe searching) to see where I went wrong. I didn’t consider the main ingredient for passion and amorous courtship: spontaneity. After all, our most romantic nights have been unpredictable and unarranged. Like a Monday night when my husband and I haven’t planned anything spectacular and I want nothing else than to hide under a hoodie and piles of blankets. Those are the nights that turn out to be memorable. Because he’ll come home with a movie, a bottle of wine and my favorite dessert and I’ll make a spontaneous meal that’s 75% edible. I’ll recount to him hilarious scenes from Spongebob episodes I watched earlier and he’ll tell me about his close encounter with curing cancer at his lab. (We’re all about balance).
Needless to say I learned a lot about myself. Mainly that I’m not a sea turtle or an aspiring supermodel. Also when February rolls around, I’m celebrating Black History Month instead.