I’m no expert on love

I remember the phone ringing pretty early in the morning on Valentine’s day 1995. It was the only phone line in the house. I wasn’t expecting a call, seven year olds rarely do… particularly when they’re the youngest person in a household of five. The phone hung on the wall in the kitchen and had one of those long loopy cords that meant it could stretch a long way. I didn’t care to stretch it out into the hallway. First graders don’t need privacy for their personal calls.

I heard his voice on the other end of the line. A sheepish little boy telling me he had a special Valentine’s gift for me and asking if it’d be okay to bring it to school. Obviously I said yes, which is how I ended up, a few hours later, standing with my jaw dropped in the middle of Mrs. Russ’s classroom as Paul stood on a table with his arms outstretched yelling “I LOVE ELIZABETH!”. He’d made me cookies and bought me stickers, which would’ve sufficed, but the real “gift” appeared to be a public declaration of his love.

That particular Valentine’s Day was followed by two decades of what we’ll generously call less eventful Valentine’s Days.

I make no effort to hide the fact that I haven’t had many boyfriends. I’m not embarrassed by it. I don’t feel like less of a woman for it. I can easily pinpoint stages of goofiness, awkwardness, total naivety as the reasons behind several of my single Valentine’s days. If I was 19 I could think there was something terribly wrong with me. Thank god for wisdom that comes with age, right? I’m not 19, and I AM entirely comfortable with my history.

It’s easy to say all of that now. I’ve found the person I plan to love forever, so it’s easy to look back and laugh at any time I ever spent worrying that I’d never find that real love I always heard about.

Believe me, if I were reading this post on this same day last year, I’d be on the verge of vomiting. That’s incredibly dramatic, and not true.. but I’d be rolling my eyes pretty hard.

So if that’s where you are as you read this, if you’re single and don’t want to be, if you’re in some way hurt by the idea of celebrating all of the happy relationships around you, then I want you to know what I’ve learned.

Forget the cards. Forget the flowers. Forget the candy — I mean, don’t entirely forget it, because those delicious chocolates and conversation hearts go on mega-sale Sunday and you don’t want to miss that.– Forget the pink and red hearts all over everything. Forget all the facebook posts you’ll see from one lover tagging another. None of that is love in it’s entirety. Love is a man who makes it known that he supports your dreams. It’s a man who really doesn’t get why you’re crying but wants to fix it anyway. It’s a man who doesn’t want anyone to hurt you. Love is a man who makes you feel strong and powerful. Love is a man who opens doors or carries heavy things for you sometimes… OR it’s a man who does neither of those things because he respects that you feel they counteract how far we’ve come as women and you can open the damned door yourself. Love is a man who cares about the issues that matter to you, because they matter to you. Love is a man who makes a Tuesday morning feel like a Saturday afternoon. Love doesn’t manifest itself one day a year for the whole world to see. That can be a piece of it, but it can’t be the whole thing.

And YOU… You can’t sit at home clicking through the highlight reels of other people’s attached holidays and think that you deserve anything less than all those gritty, real bits of love.

And if you’re really rolling your eyes at me now, if you’re single and you don’t want to be and you’re entirely convinced that I’m blinded to reality now that I’ve found love — just know this — unattached means nothing outside of right now. You could be staring at forever as early as next month. Trust me.