Valentine's Day was hard for me when I was a kid. I was awkward and shy. I was no good at kickball and too good at reading. If it wasn't a year where the teacher made people bring Valentine's for everyone, I usually got, like, three. And if we had to bring Valentines for everyone, I got the ones that were unsigned. No special conversation hearts from secret admirers, no handmade cards exploding in paper lace and glitter.
And I wanted them. With all the yearning in my heart, I wanted, so badly, just one year, to have that Valentine that told me I was special. To not go home with yet another reminder that I was me.
High school was easier. I had friends. There were no great and public Valentine exchanges, so there wasn't the obvious stigma of the empty decorated mailbox that said you weren't worthy of love. We could send carnations to people, to be delivered in class. I never got one from that person, whoever that person was that year, but you know what? The only time I was ever brave enough to send one to that person, I wasn't brave enough to actually sign my name.
When we put that much weight on it, saying "I love you" can be so very hard.
Saint Valentine is the patron saint of, among other things, beekeepers. This seems so very right to me, especially on this day that ought to be beautiful, and often hurts. Love is honey, and love is sting.
Valentine's Day is, of course, a day that, in its worst forms, has very little to do with love. It is full of trappings and things, of requirements that take the place of feelings. But in its best form, it is a day where love is celebrated, and there is beauty in that. Of course love shouldn't be celebrated only once a year. Of course a fancy meal or expensive flowers shouldn't take the place of kindness, of support, of things that actually speak love. Giving those things, in the expectation that they will be rewarded with an act of complicated lingerie is not, in fact, love.
But perhaps we need a day where we have permission to send that secret carnation, even if we aren't brave enough to sign our names on it. Perhaps we need a day that allows us to revel in the excess of love in all of its forms.
Because life can be hard, and life can be lonely, and love is fucking amazing. I don't just mean the kind of love that leads to hot sex, though that kind is great, too. I mean all the kinds of love - the kind words and outstretched hands. The moments where we say to other people, "you are not alone here because I stand with you." The love of a friend who always picks up the phone. The love inherent in seeing someone and knowing them. The love of just because, of shared laughter, of dancing to the same favorite song.
And so: I love you, I love you, I love you.