I was living in a city I pretty much hated and was hung up on this dude I'd been on and off with for years. We were in a serious off phase, and so for Valentine's Day I agreed to go out with a couple of girls I knew socially but not especially well.
We sit down to dinner at a divey Salvadorean place, and one of the girls proceeds to tell the rest of us about a mutual friend who won't stop trying to booty call her. I quickly realize she's talking about the guy I myself am so heartsick over. Deciding I'm not going to go full Seventeen magazine and start crying, I suggest we all make drinks at my apartment before heading to the dance party (in the basement of an Ethiopian restaurant) we were supposed to attend. The real reason for this sudden desire to be hospitable was so I could change into a white leather pencil skirt (!?) I'd purchased earlier that week at a church-run thrift shop.
Sufficiently drunk and tarted up, I make it to the party and realize pretty quickly that the combination of pupusas, the flask of gin I'd brought in my purse, and my leather skirt was not a good one, and when the object of my affection and some of his bros appeared (presumably to woo someone other than me), I announce, in what I assumed was a dignified tone, that I was leaving to go to another, cooler party with my "secret cool friends that you guys don't know."
I promptly throw up in a trash can outside the party space, and even more promptly notice that everyone inside saw. Walking home, uphill, a woman's voice coming from behind alerts me to the fact that my skirt has ripped significantly along the back seam. Turning around to thank her/make an "aww, shucks, Valentine's Day" joke, I notice that she is a famous Congresswoman standing in a double-date group with an equally famous Senator and they're all looking at me like, "oof, HOPE OUR DAUGHTERS DON'T END UP LIKE HER."
I still have the skirt, BTW. —Angela Serratore
I’ve always cared more about Valentine’s Day than I've wanted to admit, and so a few years ago when my new boyfriend asked if we should ask for the night off (we were waiters at the same restaurant) I said, no, of course not. Better to make money off all the romantic suckers.
The problem was I did care, I just didn’t want to admit it, and this led to a cognitive dissonance that my brain apparently handled by concluding that, all evidence to the contrary, my boyfriend was actually organizing an elaborate Valentine’s Day surprise. Nothing could dissuade me of this, either — not seeing that we were both listed to work that night on the schedule (“What an elaborate ruse!” I thought, “He has even involved our coworkers”), or how my boyfriend took me bowling and out to lunch when the day arrived, because, as he said, “we’re working tonight.”
It wasn’t until we reached not only the restaurant (“Maybe our romantic dinner is here?”) but the staff entrance that I realized we really were working, and so I burst into tears. I had even brought along a dress and heels to change into, I was this deluded. The worst part is I then stonewalled my boyfriend for most of the night, furious at him for not creating a surprise I had never even hinted I wanted.
As our shift wore on, though, I noticed that of the many, many couples I was serving dinner, many of them were fighting too, and I found this comforting, probably because I am a bad person. From this it also (finally) occurred to me that maybe Valentine’s Day actually is sort of a stupid holiday. All it does is stress everyone out. My boyfriend and I ended up getting dinner when our shift was over, which was nice, but I’ve never cared all that much about Valentine’s Day since. —Molly Langmuir
My friend Carrie used to visit me every Valentine's Day weekend, and we'd go to the same place and split a bucket of wings. The first time we did it, I'd never had wings before, and the second time we did it, I said something like, "But it's also cool that we're doing something healthy on Valentine's Day," and she was like, "What?" and it came out that I thought wings were good for you. Anyway, that part doesn't really matter, but those were my favorite Valentine's Days. —Edith Zimmerman
Sophomore year of college. Totally in love for the first time. (He played lacrosse, you guys! LACROSSE.) I was so super pumped about spending this day of coupledom wrapped up in the arms of my man that I bought boxers with hearts on them, heart-shaped cookies, a teddy bear with a heart on its shirt, and a heart-covered card with a message of love on the inside. I also drew a heart next to my name. I was so prepped and ready for this holiday to begin.
I carefully arranged this pile of gifts on my desk and waited for my boyfriend to come over after practice. (LACROSSE practice.) I’m pretty sure I wiled away a few hours simply imagining what he had purchased for me. (I didn’t get too fancy, but I was definitely ready for some flowers.)
Boyfriend walked into the room without a rose in sight. But as I plied him with my romantic onslaught, I held out hope that the BEST PRESENT EVER was hiding somewhere under his windbreaker.
He seemed uncomfortable with his gifts, obviously, but I didn’t care because it was finally my turn, and — yes! — he handed over a pink envelope and a crumpled paper bag.
First, I opened the card. One of those candy conversation hearts was on the front, but instead of “Love Bug” or “You + Me," it said “Do Me.” Inside, another conversation heart said “Now.” Under which he'd signed his name.
Then I opened the bag, which contained a Beanie Baby pig. I held it together for a good five minutes. I think I hugged, and even thanked, my boyfriend. He went about chatting per usual, describing class and practice and whatever else college students talk about (drugs?) until he noticed that I wasn’t responding.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
I took this as my cue to burst into tears.
“You gave me a DO ME NOW PIG for VALENTINE’S DAY!” I cried. “You didn’t even wrap it!”
Eventually, after much cajoling, I forgave my boyfriend and we even laughed about it.
Until the next day, when I ran into his teammate.
“DO ME NOW PIG!” he shouted.
I did happen to spend the next Valentine’s Day with the same boyfriend, and he got me flowers that time around. But every so often, for the remainder of my college years, after a lot of drinking and in the middle of parties, I'd hear “DO ME NOW PIG!” and look up to find a lacrosse player winking at me. —Lindsay Hood
Sophomore year of high school, I broke up with my first boyfriend shortly after Valentine’s Day, right after he took two Nerds Ropes™ and Scotch-taped them into a heart shape and hid them in my locker, because I was kind of awful.
Two years later, this same guy and I got into a car accident on Valentine’s Day and totaled his parents’ car. Hooray! —Emma Barrie
The first year my husband and I were married, it was almost February and we were kind of, so, do we... I mean... if anyone should, it's us, right, but oh my god how do you even do that? Who buys who what? Where do we go? Do we have to hold hands there? Ahhhhh! And then after considerable anxiety, one of us pointed out that, hey, we're grown-ass married adults, no holiday is the boss of us! Somehow, this snowballed into the idea that there should be a late-winter holiday devoted to seriously doing whatever you want and not feeling bad about it, and we decided to make it February 24th (also my half-birthday!) and call it Stabbytines Day, because, I don't even know, we could! We teamed up with our friends Flora and Thayer and I think we ate pancakes and then went to Teddy Roosevelt's house and then watched the first season of Miami Vice?
It's since become a sort of floating holiday — you just declare it, though late winter is a great time for it (especially since this year the traditional Stabbytines date will be right after the Bar exam, so I am going to need it so hard). We continue to celebrate with Flora and Thayer, and more recent excursions have included a trip to Philadelphia where we had about 30 pages of stuff I'd printed out about different cheesesteaks, and we stayed across from the King of Prussia Mall and went to whatever Caribbean-themed bar was there; a slider tour of North Jersey; and a bunch of stuff on Staten Island. It doesn't matter where you go or what you do there. The only requirements are that you can't think "oh, I should be working," or "oh, I shouldn't be eating all these sliders."
Basically, a lot of things about being a grownup suck — and having to stress on or around Valentine's Day might be one of them. But when you were little, weren't you ever like, ahhhh so jelz, big people can eat cake whenever & have no bedtimes? It's true. You can. You can eat cake whenever. You have no bedtime. That's fucking fantastic and deserves to be celebrated, don't even kid yourself! Happy Stabbytines Day, Grownups! —Carrie Hill Wilner
I was living in Europe with my worst boyfriend ever. He had confessed to cheating on me (extensively) but somehow convinced me to take him back because oh now he realized just how deeply he loved me, etc. And I didn't quite have the wherewithal at that point to orchestrate moving back to the states. So I spent months kidding myself that actually, we were really happy, no really, happy! But I sort of hated him, and our life, and myself.
For Valentine's Day, I baked him a chocolate cake and decorated it with cinnamon hearts and those terrible edible silver balls. I spelled out, You Are Beautiful. I do not know why. Then I elaborately did my hair, and wore a new black slip thing and (I am mortified) wrote something on my leg. Thank you, my brain, for blacking out what exactly I wrote on my leg, but I wrote something, in pretty calligraphy-looking script, in waterproof eyeliner, up my leg from my ankle to my hip. I assume it was something provocative? God, I don't know. I also made his favorite dinner, and bought and wrapped gifts for him. During my all-day preparations, I was half aware that I was doing all of it because I knew he would forget Valentine's Day, or get me something awful, or screw it up somehow, and I wanted to be able to throw a big tantrum. It was a trap.
When he got home he looked dazed from all the holiday nonsense. He said something like, "Oh I was going to get you something, but I thought I should just, you know, take you out somewhere, um... soon." And I immediately started crying and told him how I do so much more for him, he is ruining my life, etc. Then I told him I was leaving him. But didn't for four more months. Let's never mention or think of this time in my life ever again. I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to one relationship that they don't have to explain later, because it cannot be explained. —Anonymous
The Best Time I Ditched My Boyfriend in Favor of Ron Jeremy. In my defense, my boyfriend at the time was too strung out on opiates to get off the couch anyway (it was a good year for me), so when a last-minute opportunity to interview Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy presented itself to me on Valentine's Day, I took it. Like any decent Valentine's Day celebration, he took off his pants, kind of bounced it around in front of me for a while, told me I had great tits, and asked if I wanted to fuck (I didn't; he said "your loss"). Then he called my boyfriend and told him that he had shoes older than him. —Diana Vilibert
Previously: How I Learned What Sex Was.
Collage of Valentine's notes from junior high by Taylor Orci