I was in first grade, and a boy in my class, named Dustin, gave me a small, white teddy bear with a red bow tied around his neck. At 6 years old, this was a lavish gift among the ritual of passing out store-bought cards with flat suckers.
I was embarrassed. I didn’t know what it meant. I certainly didn’t want Dustin to be my boyfriend (whatever that means in first grade).
I can remember Valentine’s Days at school in the years after, carefully choosing cards for each classmate, making sure none of them were too flirty. Didn’t want to risk someone thinking the pre-made cards were from my heart.
As I got older, Valentine’s Day had some weight to it.
In college, I told my fellow students to take Valentine’s Day like a man, in the inches of my weekly relationship column:
“It is the lonesome man who looks above this dreaded day and treats it just like any other. He doesn’t wear black, cry, eat chocolate or hate himself.”
I tried to take my own advice, and joined some girlfriends at a martini bar. I remember wearing a silky shirt that was printed with green and blue hearts.
That night, I watched as the bartender poured a long row of Patron shots. Little did I know that the very bartender would be in my life years later, and we too, would share a few Valentine’s Days.
But before that could happen, I was on the tail of a bad relationship. It was a constant back and forth that wasn’t healthy. When Valentine’s Day rolled around, I got stood up, and finally I was free.
And then, I fell in love with that bartender. While there were good times, the bad weighed heavier. For Valentine’s Day, all I wanted was to see him. I fantasized about it—I wanted to order one of those “Heart Baker” pizzas from Papa Murphy’s, sip on beer, and sit with my guy.
But he didn’t want that.
Instead of pizza and beer, I sat alone that night, eating the red velvet cupcakes I baked for him.
It wasn’t one of my prouder moments.
Truthfully, I’ve never tried to put too much pressure on February 14. I know it’s a bit of a silly holiday; I want a relationship where we constantly show our love for each other, not just one day.
But terrible Heart’s Days aside, this year I really wanted to give myself a break. My stock on bad dates is currently up, and I needed a little cheering up. So I looked back on the 2-14s of my past.
I never did get that pizza.
So, I drove across the street to Papa Murphy’s, marched in a told the gentleman I wanted “the heart pizza.” A mere $6.30 later, I drove home with a fresh pepperoni pizza, shaped like a heart.
Because I deserve it…along with a bottle of wine.
My journey to the heart (pizza) hasn’t been an easy one, and it’s certainly not over, but every now and then I need a reminder that the journey (and the pizza) is all mine.