If recent grads are lucky enough to have a job by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, whether or not they have a significant other to share it with doesn’t really matter.
Because they know that their employer loves them, and that their landlord does, too, always receiving their rent payments on time.
It’s when recent grads have no job that Valentine’s really hurts. It makes them feel empty. Lonely, perhaps, too.
As a day of evaluation of love and happiness, the approaching Valentine’s Day makes me shudder. Last night I had a dream: I was in a theatrical production—the beautiful, dark-haired girl with a secondary role, who really turns out to be the protagonist at the end. Throughout the play, she wears pink satin dresses for the few minutes she appears onstage, she walks barefoot in the sun, she gathers daisies and eats tangerines. The tangerine girl, they call her. She watches the main girl’s melodramatic heartbreak story from afar, until in the end the male protagonist recognizes her as the tangerine girl, the one love of his life, and rescues her.
Rescues her from what, I do not know, because as the tangerine girl, she knows her beauty and calmness the whole time through. So it’s not really rescuing. He thinks it is, because his brain is befuddled with chivalrous stories of a nostalgic past full of bittersweet idealism and inequity. But she is too independent, too complacent to give any thought to titles and stories. To her, it is just love—a beautiful touch added to her already colorful life.
When I woke up this morning, I didn’t remember the ending. There was no ending really—doesn’t every play, every Hollywood love story end right at the point where the lovers get together and idolize the whole life they have ahead of them to celebrate the beauty of their union?
Well, I didn’t need an ending. I saw it in real life yesterday, when I ended my own real-life love story as I pulled the curtains down, giving him no time to follow me into the production area behind.
The man in the dream was actually my Middle Eastern man with his kind and chivalrous heart. My Mr. Darcy as they call him in real life. The tangerine girl was me. Innocent, complacent, satisfied with daisies, and tangerines, and the man that came into my life three months ago to “rescue me”.
Though he wasn’t really rescuing me. It became clear that maybe he thought he was. He treated me way too nice. He was too intense. He lost his identity when he was with me and gave me his all. Which for me was too much. No, I did not want his coat at the mere mention that it’s cold outside. No, I did not want him to always put his arm around my shoulders, crushing my independence, every time we walked. No, I did not want him to try to fix every little problem in my life when I talked about it.
He didn’t understand that. In fact, he thought me spoiled when I complained about all his niceness. And yesterday, he told me to write down in that “little blog of mine” that he was too intense for me, and go back and revisit in ten years and see what I think then. I know what I will think then, I told him. That you were way too nice and that I wasn’t ready for something like that.
What is it with men and their pride anyway? Maybe the Leo and the Pisces just don’t work. The Leo is way too prideful, way too caring. The Pisces is way too independent and non-traditional. The stars warned me from the start, but I didn’t listen. How non-traditional of me.
But seriously, what is it with their pride? I felt like I was in a chivalrous fairy tale the whole time in this relationship. I loved it, he treated me great, but I also felt like I was weak, just like those women who were treated too nice for their own good in those tales.
I didn’t want a guy to smother me with love. I wanted a cough syrup kind of love—one that would be tucked away in a little, brown glass bottle, preciously guarded on the top shelf of the cabinet, only to be taken out now and then and fed to me a dollop at a time with a little silver spoon. Then I could taste its sweet and soothing bitterness, let it trickle down my throat, slowly healing my every nerve.
And for the rest of the time, to know that my love stayes guarded in that little brown cabinet, away from the mouths of the world, away, quietly, strongly enough, that only the image of the bottle radiates inside me with warmth and gives me strength to go on with my life.
He didn’t get that. I told him I wanted a man with whom I could be comfortable enough to sit there, and read the paper, and watch TV, and eat a croissant in peace. I wanted a man who would be comfortable enough to go about his business and not shower me with attention every minute of our existence together, as if I might fall off my own two feet was I not watched for a single minute.
He didn’t get it. He thought I was spoiled. He thought I subscribed under the westernized view of “disposable relationships.” That basically I wanted a relationship in which I could be with someone, but not really.
And that’s when I realized that these are the cultural differences that my parents warn me against. Why did he have to think in extremes? Why did it have to be either a fairy-tale kind of love or a disposable relationship? Why couldn’t it be slow and natural, budding like an unripe flower?
A few weeks ago, I told him I loved him. Though by the end, he doubted my love. He told me he loved me, too. In fact, he told me I was the love of his life. He had never loved anyone as strongly before. I know he means it. But the kind of love he could give was the brawny kind that put gold fetters around my ankles, binding me to him. The kind of love I expressed was the kind that made me think of him at the sight of the nuances of a lavender flower. The kind that made me thank God for his overbearing presence in my life at nights. The kind of liquid love that tastes sweet, that slides down the throat as smooth as the transparent juice of the tangerines.
But it’s over. The dream, the reality, the end. The actors have bowed, the audience has clapped, the music has stopped. Here, the theater doors close, the actors part, some returning to their small studios to sleep within the frigid space of their four walls, others getting together to celebrate the success of their production tonight.
No matter what, life goes on. And Valentine’s Day approaches. And this recent grad will surely be celebrating it sitting on her bed, finding comfort in her stack of meaningless job applications.