Liz's ma opines Valentine's is "for the birds," and she doesn't mean the love-birds, though the couple-centrism of the holiday is my major gripe. There are I guess many reasons to disdain this most-hated of days. There's the tried-and-true stance of lampooning its sinister greeting-card-company origins and their commodification of luv, where we're supposed to go all gooey over Hallmark hooey and hideous heart-holding bears and cheesy red-lace teddies. (Don't even get me started on the grating proliferation of rancid diamond company radio commercials.)
Then there are the fights the day incites. Working in a restaurant V-day you encounter in guests a level of tense nastiness rivaled only by Mother's Day--we were discussing it during the unpleasantly-patronized dinner service Saturday 2/13, and I had a real Ah Hah! moment. (Disclaimer: this is an exclusively hetero-normative, sweepingly generalizing notion). My theory is that mothers and girlfriends/wives both often give more than they get, and because of the way these "holidays" are structured they expect to be repaid or at least acknowledged for this imbalance within the span of a single day. Children and men are much less socialized toward consideration and forethought-fulness, and so are usually scrambling day-of to slap together some half-assed jab at "making it special," the ramshackle-ness of which is often only too evident to the mothers/women, who have in turn been bracing themselves for a completely in-character fuck-up from their respective ingrates/dick boyfriends/slob husbands. In the grand tradition of kicking down, adult children and dog-housed partners often redirect the resentment they're receiving from their lady-of-honor on down to the service staff at whatever dining establishment they've selected to celebrate. Ain't momma happy ain't nobody happy. And really I can't blame these women--what they're actually is pissed off about is #patriarchy, and why the fuck wouldn't they be.
Maybe I'm old-school that I think I think it's the dudes who are expected to carry the brunt of Valentine's Day duties, but it's one of the few instances where women have it easier. (It's not the same thing, but it makes me smirk inwardly in the same way that talk of penis size does, only because it's the one major way men experience a fraction of the body scrutiny women have trained on their every pore, feature, ripple, and dimple ALL THE TIME). (Heh heh re-reading this I sound like some lipsticked fifties feminist getting sloshed on martinis and sloppy on her typewriter.)
I do feel compelled to have one little aside here. I (for the first time in at least a few years) didn't work Valentine's dinner, but I did work brunch, which was comparatively very chill. Lots of couples, but not too much pressure. We were busy and pretty much booked up, and so when one pair walked in without a reservation I could only offer our "walk-in table" directly in front of the door. They were these two really lovely women, both very stylish and radiant, and Laura and I at the host stand had front row seats to their attractiveness and general good energy. They ordered and over their glasses of bubbly one of the women read the other's card, and they both got teary, and Laura and I, who were trying not to be weird but couldn't stop watching them, kind of did too. I don't know exactly how to explain it, or why I'm writing about it, but the sight lodged itself in me. It was really pure. And so, though I'm generally railing against the day here, i wholeheartedly support it when it's a vessel for people making other people feel loved.
The other side of that is my biggest hunk of beef with V-day--the fact that it makes so many people feel unloved. Lots of holidays intensify feelings of loneliness (Christmas, New Year's, and birthdays epsesh), but Valentine's makes no bones about it. Romance has, in our time and place, I think in many ways taken the place of religion in the way it functions as the ultimate meaning-source. We're socialized to believe that to find love is to find a happy ending, and to be in a couple is to be complete. And what's kind of bothersome is having a really good partner does make life feel easier and nicer, and having someone you love in bed beside you mostly extinguishes those three a.m. wide-awake panicked mental grapplings with existential loneliness. (Does everyone have those? Larkin's "Aubade" suggests they might.)
It's not the whole story, obviously. I've spent a lot of my life trying to fight this pull to be a "we." As a funnily young kid I worshiped Tracy Chapman's album Crossroads (which for the record holds up). One of my absolute favorite songs was "This Time," and it makes me laugh looking back at how much its lyrics spoke to me despite the fact that I was what, six? A sampling:
I won't show I'm vulnerable
I won't give in first
I will hold out with my love
I will not be hurt
I'm gonna love myself
More than anyone else
I'm gonna treat me right
I'm gonna make you say
That you love me first
And you'll be the one with the most to lose tonight
I won't let my emotions rule my life
I'm gonna keep my heart locked safe inside
I'm gonna be my own best friend
I also loved "All That You Have is Your Soul," which remains one of my all-time favorite songs. For one thing it contains this killer refrain:
Don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of a bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a world of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul
True effing that. And then I'll make bold the line that has remained one of my main brain refrains:
I was a pretty young girl once
I had dreams I had high hopes
I married a man he stole my heart away
He gave his love but what a high price I paid
And all that you have is your soul
Why was I such a young fool
Thought I'd make history
Making babies was the best I could do
Thought I'd made something that could be mine forever
Found out the hard way one can't possess another
And all that you have is your soul
What kind of weird foreknowledge that was I do not know, maybe some innate sense of the other half of love by nature being loss (which "heart heard of, ghost guessed"). Since I was little it has felt necessary for me to foster in myself independence, to create internal spaces that are mine alone. You know how they say that houses in dreams are symbolic of the mind itself? My dad's throughout his life had dreams where he's wandering through "his house" and marveled at the discovery of rooms he never knew were there. I've had many of these myself. A lot of the time it's an attic that just keeps going; at the conclusion of a drastic roof slant I'll find a new Alice-sized portal opening to a new extending branch of attic. Sometimes I feel my head really does contain in it expanses of white, well-lit rooms. (To quote different Larkin, one of my fave lines of his actually: "Such attics cleared of me! Such absences!")
I think I've touched on it before, but I've been in relationships for most of my "adult life." My first boyfriend was a four-year deal, comprised of two years of high school and two (long-distance) years of college. My last relationship followed immediately on the heels of the first (and with a few breaks) spanned six years. Long-term stuff, and probably deep, but not what I would call "serious." Emma's good friend Sunil told her once "you get the relationship you're ready for," and I think that's possibly very true (he also had the chilling: "if you keep living against your intuition you will eventually lose it"). I am very close with my family, and the love I feel for them is...not light. That's not to say we don't have fun together and aren't rollickingly silly, because we do and we are. But my love for them has always felt earth-ending in its power, has possessed a gravity that made the idea of taking on another person to love like that seem impossible, and certainly not desirable. And so I think I strategically attached myself to people I sensed also had the need to keep one foot out the door. The idea of another person needing me was completely unmanageable. I thought it was going to need to be my lifelong thing to be with unavailable "assholes," because they were the only ones who weren't going to try to suck me dry (I've since learned that simple mutually well-adjusted, reasonable autonomy and subject-hood will suffice).
One of the catalysts that ended my last relationship was I think my ex-bf turning thirty. His clock got to ticking and he developed a hankering to settle down and become A Family Man. We'd kept a pretty clear line of communication about this stuff throughout the years--in the later ones he'd sometimes ask, mostly joking and in his endlessly spit-balling way, "So are you going to marry me and have my babies?" and I'd reply with a ribbing but emphatic, "Never, we're not compatible enough, and I'm not going to bear your demon seed." I don't think he was ever too serious about it between him and me, but I think he was starting to feel serious about wanting to start his capital "L" Life, which I guess I respect though biological clock stuff in general makes me feel creepy-crawly. Our last anniversary he brought the issue up in a way that didn't feel like a joke, that was in effect stamping down on "us" an amorphous expiration date. It was definitely devoid of levity, and felt like the heavy beginning of an end I'd been braced for through all our time.
I was scared to be single. I hadn't been since I was sixteen, not for any extended period. Then I was, and the world didn't stop. In fact it lightened and expanded a little (waiting for the the other foot to drop isn't fun). Which isn't too say I wasn't at times nervy and raw and heartbroken and messy about it all. That Valentine's felt pretty whatevs, as did my birthday, though if I'm honest it's probably partly because my ex reached out on both, which though I didn't respond took the edge off. For my birthday that year Maddy and I went camping just the two of us--we swam in the river all day and camp-fired with Jolie Holland and veggie dogs at night. It was exactly what I wanted and felt amazing. Reflecting, thanks to Madz and other besties, being single never felt like being alone (beyond passing shadows or the aforementioned witching-hour existential night terrors).
But I've been so fucking spoiled for "relationships," and being single for a long time sounds like it could quickly lose its freshness and become a stale form of sad (though there are phases and punctuations in all things, and I want to trust we're each on our own right path). I love that Galentine's Day is a thing now, and I think Valentine's in general should be a love potluck. I'd rather we took it as an opportunity to spread the love, and I'd rather frame the eros aspect in a low-impact and maybe more private way. And that's just my vibe; I'm sure a lot of people derive a lot of joy from the red-roses side, and I'm not trying to demean their takeaway. There are just so many movies and so much talk about people being *heartbroken moji* on V-day, and I hate that. Not to mention "all the lonely people" who don't have a lot in the way of galentines, or anyone at all.
This Valentine's Madz and I worked brunch, and then Rama and I hit Pretty Penny (I bought myself a truly killer classic cocktail dress for about $50), then ordered food at Ben and Nick's, and I bopped next door to Nathan & Co. to grab cards and regalitos for Madz and Ramz. Back at home we did cards and stuff. Peter'd sent Liz one of those very cool Farmgirl bouquets (<--lookee what I did), which Liz very cutely put on the "brown thing" sideboard in the dining area, so I followed suit and put the byoo-ih-full flowers from Rama on the red bookcase in the living room. (And both bunches are, with a bit of editing, still kicking!) Around sunset Rama and I rolled over to his Mom's and Dave's (Maddy took her own coche) for a pizza night. It was a lovely visit, and at the end Rama and Maddy and I hit the hot tub.
Rama had been fighting a cold (his first for like a year, and it was hitting him kind of hard), and the 'cuzzi helped clear him up a bit. We did the whole jacuzzi --> pool --> jacuzzi bit, though to my surprise Maddy absolutely loathed the the tingliness it causes. We were all fucking wiped out at the end of the sesh, and Madz headed to back Oak and R and I on to Poo-town to crash in his unoccupied rental unit.
Madz had to work Monday dinner, but Rama and I had cooked up the idea to camp for a night Monday, by which time the President's Day crowds would have hopefully dissipated. We framed it as a V-day thang, mostly to justify the break from R's deadlined work. And so Monday we headed up North, and now to have as well as eat my pink-frosting-ed cupcake I will follow my tirade against Valentine's with an account of my own celebration of it. What can I say? I am annoying; I contain multitudes.
Our plan worked out crazy-well. The campsite was totally empty, though it had been (according to the hosts) completely full the night before. We got our fave site ten, and wandered around the other sites so R could collect un-burnt firewood. One group had left some gorgeous flowering branches behind (might've been crab-apple?), so we yoinked those also for our own table.
We got the tent set up, and Romz got a knapsack and packed it up nice with picnic shiz. We leashed P and walked over to our sunset spot on the cliffs.
We got that there at the perfect time to watch the setting glow intensify and then dissolve into gloaming.
Part of R's cute little Valentine's presentation had been a bottle of bub, which we popped per tradish.
We'd bought a really yummy merlot cow's milk (though it ate like a sheep's) cheese at the beebs which we munched a little bit.
But mostly we convo-ed. There's something about this spot where we get to talking, and more than once it's been about mortality and junk (Rama'd on one of our visits said maybe he'd want his ashes winding up there--it's like that). Maybe it's just the nature of an ocean view washed in a fading sunset that instigates thoughts of Life and Death. There's definitely something going on with the ocean, its obsessive giving and taking, its sucking rhythms, pushes and pulls, waves that come in like "enterprises of great pith and moment," hit their shored ending and dissipate in frothing retreat and are no more. And there's all that unimaginable unseen waiting on the other side of the twilit sheen . It's like the night sky in a way, or at least it makes me feel some similar things about each life's size and place, the ineffability that frames our smallness and the possible infinities that might surround us. In certain dusk-light we might perceive the suggestion of a veil--the dead don't by needs seem so far and finished. Rama and I talked about our grandfathers (our moms' dads--the ones we knew), and about Dan. Rama'd gone to his memorial a couple days before, and he talked a little about Dan's wife's speech, how she said each night the two of them would hold hands and think about how lucky they were. I don't what it all is, but please let me stay grateful and be present, and not ever so caught up in the tedious minutiae and the ego crap and the other bullshit that I'm not at some point daily holding my own life's hand and feeling thankful.
Back at the campfire (I'd also brought a couple candles, because #romance, which were so pretty with our inherited flowers) we kept up our talk, and discussed Future-y shit a little. I don't know what Dan's wife thinks, but it seems like it might feel sad for her that they didn't have kids. R and I talk fyootch from time to time, but I think we both prefer to "go with the flow," or at least I do and Rama doesn't want to rock my boat too hard. Then again he's a Peter Pan of sorts, so maybe we're in the same one. Thinking about The Future in truth makes me anxious to the point I'd prefer not to, maybe because I always like "now" so much and it makes me sad to think about the passings and the inevitables that come hand-in-hand with those Changed Days. But there's a balance. Anyway, we've talked about kids in the broad sense pretty much since we met; Rama's crazy good with kids, and would be I have no doubt a really good dad. Plus his kids would know every trick (grass whistles, lizard taming, etc.--he's always busting a new one out to the delight of my perennial inner six year-old). When we discussed it back in the diz he said he wasn't against having kids, but that they didn't feel like a requirement for fulfillment. Another time I was talking about how I hate it when empowered women fear-monger that there's a big fucking rush to pop some out--I'm not yet thirty and I feel like it's total bullshit that people are already acting like my ovaries are ticking time-bombs. I know it all just keeps speeding up, but come on. What right choice ever comes out of being scared? Also I hardly have my life together enough to seriously imagine being responsible for a new one. So I was ranting, and Rama said something like, "Well, I'm almost forty, and I don't want to be an old dad." Wriggle. So it's been a topic of conversation, though mostly I'm just making a case for getting to choose first names for our fake babies, my justification being that they'd have Rama's last name, but really I've landed on some Gaelic doozies I think are so very nice. Our talk this night I asked Rama point-blank if he wanted kids, and he basically said he was open to it, but he thought I definitely wanted them.
I'm not sure. It's really hard for me to imagine changing my life and my energy orientation that profoundly. I asked my mom recently-ish if she thought I'd ever be ready to have kids, and she thought for a moment, and then replied honestly, "I don't know." It makes me laugh, that Mom-ish bluntness, but I don't either. Who the fuck does know what's to come, but if all keep gang like it's gang maybe there'll come a time where that stuff enters the realm of the imaginable. Until then I don't want to tweak, though I reckon I need to extract my head from its nice comfy sand-hole at some point and start getting a bit more pragmatic about my own agency and duty to be the effector of capital "C" Change in my own life.
We were a little camp-rusty. I forgot my new head lamp, and Rama forgot olive oil and the double burner, but still managed to cook-up an EXCELLENT stir-fry with water alone. I haven't had a huge hankering for stir-fry since my co-op stint, but this Bragg-y and crisp dinner changed my thinking.
The next morning we took a little stroll then cleaned up camp. I also started again on Borges's Labyrinths (IN ENGLISH) and actually finished the first story. I think I brought that book up to school with me in 2004 at my dad's rec and have never managed to get past the first couple pages--those who've braved it can probably understand why. It reminded me of one time when my dad picked me up from kindergarten and I asked him, "Hey dad, have you ever wondered if we're not real and we're all in someone's dream?" and my dad exclaimed with disgust, "Why--you're a solipsist!" (One other thing about the book is "my" copy has I believe my Aunt Joanne's notes in it; she passed away a few years ago, and then her husband my dad's brother Uncle Ron did a couple years after that, and it's moving seeing her diligent and meticulous marginalia.)
Rama'd also forgotten the coffee-making stuff, which I was actually okay with after my initial ARE YOU SERIOUS, but he ended up charming a couple wee cups for us from the Ocean Cove lobby.
Then we commenced hiking. It was downright hot out, and Rama, who'd been champing through his flu, was moving at a snail's pace. There were little flowers poking up here and there, and I did pick a few that were in plentiful spots and hidden behind bigger plants (they still seemed rare and I didn't want to be a dick about it).
We paused after a half-hour for a bite, and Rama was practically passing out on our hillside blanket, so I made the call that we'd cut the hike short and head back down the coast.
We stopped at Portuguese Beach so Rama could cut some narcissus for us, and then figured we'd there crack a couple beers and grant Poundy a bah-sesh.
I also collected some little pebbles, Moonstone Beach style, but even smaller.
What I was really taken with though were some perfectly indigo sun-bleached and sea-busted chunks of mussel shells.
Back to poo-town.
Back at the homestead I gloated over all my little beach pilferings and hike pillage-ings.
I have a particular affinity for white flowers, and made a drawring [sic] of the labrador, manzanita, and trillium (the manzanita, hearty little bastards that they are, are still looking quiche as shit in the heath vase Liz x-mas gifted me). I kind of botched the trillium drawing--it's such a fascinating orderly (and aptly named) plant.
I think we had Zazzle for dinner--it wasn't too yummy, and then on a whim we popped into Speakeasy for an also not-so-good bread pudding (that's where I first met Sita and Coleburn, and it always reminds me of that evening). It's nice nighttime wandering. Rama's house is insanely close to 'Luma's downtown, and we enjoy our quiet dinner walks. Especially in blossoming times.
Ephemera of cut flowers and the logging of their decline, seashell pieces like bone fragments, pebbles that were stones that were boulders that were continents, land turning over into sand. Might as well be "worlds of wanwood leafmeal," all "the blight that man was born for" metaphor that crept into this thing.