Sunday, February 13, 2011

special guest post: A History of Valentines

Today kicks off a week-long blog tour to promote Why I Love Singlehood. We'll be appearing on one blog a day, and I'll announce each appearance and link per day, so check in on a regular basis. It's worth your while if for no other reason than to win an ebook edition of WILS -- that's right, we're doing giveaways all week.

Most of you know that WILS begins on Valentine's Day; thus, my co-author and I thought this would be a good week to shine the spotlight on the book and share some of our thoughts about what Valentine's Day has come to mean for us. Moreover, we maintain that WILS is neither a dating novel nor a romance novel, nor even solely a women's novel. It's a love story. It has always been a love story.

And so, the first guest blog post takes place right here. It was written by my co-author and dear friend, Sarah Girrell. Enjoy.

A History of Valentines

Although Why I Love Singlehood was neither Elisa nor my first attempt at coauthoring (nor our first attempt at coauthoring with each other), it still posed quite a learning curve. Part of what made writing WILS so challenging was that as we moved through the plot, we had to explore what we really thought about relationships and where we stood on Valentine’s Day. Not surprisingly, we weren’t always on the same page (to say nothing of what our characters wanted or needed).

But I think, in retrospect, that our discord was a good thing. It forced us to really hash out our ideas, explore motivation and explanation, and reconsider those things which we originally held true. And, in the end, I think we both learned a little bit from our cast of characters.

This Valentine’s Day, as I pass seas of red-bagged candies, I see Kenny’s dad jogging by. When I look at conversation hearts, I imagine them penned in Beulah’s handwriting. And as I consider the holiday, Eva’s voice is in my ear.

When I was little I ached for Valentine’s Day, for the one time of year when it seemed really possible that a secret admirer might emerge and confess his love and respect for me. I dreamed of the days when we would spend countless recesses tucked into some corner of the playground sharing our deepest secrets. I longed to be showered with flowers and made noticeable by someone’s affection, as if his approval alone would make me impervious to zits and name-calling.

Imagine my surprise when, at 17, showered with flowers at school by my boyfriend of the time, I spent the entire Valentine’s Day embarrassed. I worried that my having flowers rubbed it in to all the other flowerless and boyfriendless women out there who, I was sure, were suffering as much as I had when I was single. I spent the majority of the day apologizing for nothing and handing flowers out to my friends.

But it wasn’t always like that. There was a time when Valentine’s Day was my favorite holiday of the year. Not because of the candy and cherubs and chocolates (or the ever garish comingling of red and pink, a combination that still makes my skin crawl), but because our closest family friends would come to spend the long President’s Day weekend with us.

It would start with their arrival after bedtime on Friday night, and the inevitable sneaking of a few cookies before bed. Then, we would spend the better part of one day making home-made valentines for each other, and another subsequent evening sharing them – unwrapping them like presents while we passed around cupcakes and cookies and bags of M&Ms – all talking and laughing at once, eating ourselves into a delicious, sugary oblivion. The rest of the time was spent subjecting our parents to innumerable plays and puppet shows and hosting our own personal “Winter Olympics” – during which we attempted to cram as many winter activities as possible into one day…skating, snow angels, forts and fights, cross country skiing and sledding galore – after which all participants were awarded with hot chocolate and an evening movie marathon.

I’ve been thinking about those days a lot this year. Our little conglomerate of families has scattered across several continents and some of us have passed on from this plane of existence. And still, I find my fingers itching to trace out hearts, eyes searching for the flash of glitter, ears longing to hear the crackle of doilies being pulled apart. Maybe that’s why this year I’ve decided to make my staff and patients mini-cupcakes to mark the day. At first I nearly balked at the idea, afraid that bringing any semblance of romance into the office might be awkward or inappropriate, but I’ve tossed that fear aside.

Because what I rediscovered while writing WILS is what my family had shown me all those years ago: Valentine’s Day isn’t about flowers and chocolates and whether or not you’re attached to anyone. It’s about celebrating the presence of love in the world, and taking advantage of the opportunity to make others smile.

So this year I’m going to do just that – one mini-cupcake at a time.

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