Published... but not completely

Published... but not completely
A few weeks ago I submitted an article to the Lancaster Sunday Newspaper in response to their request for thoughts on Valentine's Day dread. Well, the article that I submitted was a LOT longer than the one that went to print. So I thought I would publish the entire article for my small blog-reading audience.

Here is the article the newspaper published:

Here is my original article:

“Michelle, read this!” my mom says as she hands the newspaper my way. The first article that catches my eye is “Cremation: Some say it’s hazardous to the living.” “Oh, great” I say “my parents’ chosen method of disposal is going to end up sending me to join them.” Apparently that was not the article I was to read, oops! Instead, my mom thought that I should read the article about Valentine’s Day “dreaders,” because she has heard me espouse similar musings. Perhaps I have on occasion said something about Valentine’s Day being a highly overrated holiday and a marketing ploy by some card company to increase sales. Thinking about this topic further, I realized that I just might be one of the individuals you were requesting to hear from.

I began to take a journey through the Valentine’s Days of the past to see if there was some root to this feeling of dread. Entering the classrooms of elementary school, I remember the struggle each February of picking out the box of Valentine Cards. Which box of cartoon character cards would yield the most cards without gushy sentiments for the boys in the class? I was not ready to express “love” or “be mine” to any of the boys that just the week prior had probably chased me with a spider or excluded me from the baseball field. Besides I’m pretty sure I had declared “no backs” from the boy cooties, meaning there was no possible way I was going to deliver a card that would somehow be interpreted as negating the previous contract (yes, “no backs” are legally binding).

Then I traveled through the hallways of high school, where each Valentine’s Day was a cause to purchase carnations for a fellow classmate. I’m sure it was created as a way to encourage students to celebrate love and friendship, and was in no way meant to be a direct frontal attack on the dateless high school student. However, each year I dreaded being the student carrying only one or two carnations from a sympathetic girlfriend. Or worse yet, receiving zero, thus validating some small notion that indeed I was a dork (as if no carnations is the lone determinant). The internal dialog to build myself up (you are worth more than a carnation) did not seem to make much difference when my arms were being scratched down the hallway from the stems of the carnations in the hands of those with too many to hold properly. I would have to say my dread was growing.

College life only increased my dread, as I would walk through the lobby of my dorm and see the front desk piled with flowers to be delivered to girls in my building, and know that none of the flowers were for me. As my reflection of the dread of Valentine’s Day continued, I realized that the root of the dread has always been the spotlight that this holiday has shed on my datelessness… the lack of a meaningful boy relationship in my life, a reason to join the celebration. It’s not that I can’t get into a holiday that encourages eating candy hearts and chocolate, smelling flowers, and going out to dinner at a nice restaurant, because I do these things all the time without a holiday to initiate them.

Here is the heart of the matter though, I could go on with reasons for growing dread and continue to allow this dread to dictate my response to Valentine’s Day, but where does that lead me… to wearing black on February 14th and becoming a bitter thirty-something? Any attempt to “turn off the spotlight” on my datelessness by loudly expressing my dread of Valentine’s Day, really would have the opposite effect – shining the light even brighter back in my direction. Besides if the first article that I read when handed the newspaper is true, and cremation really is bad for the living; couldn’t the same be said for those touting their dread, hoping for the “cremation” of Valentine’s Day? While I face yet another dateless, flowerless, and restaurantless (chocolateless, no way!) Valentine’s Day, I’m going to attempt to not allow my dread to affect the love celebrations of others. Who knows, maybe I’ll offer to baby-sit the nephews, allowing my brother and sister-in-law to enjoy the night out, and just possibly the joy I get from spending time with the nephews will overshadow the dread of the contrived holiday for celebrating love. Happy Valentine’s Day!