Valentine’s Day is typically marketed as a day of romance which, as we all know, is just the PG-rated way of saying sex. Sure, there’s flirting and gift giving during the daytime, but once the night hits? That’s where the real meat of Valentine’s Day lies (no pun intended), or so I’d always been conditioned to believe. And there is some historical context explaining the steaminess associated with Valentine’s night. For one, mid-February signified birds’ mating seasons in France and England during the Middle Ages. And two, it’s believed the modern holiday that we celebrate today is merely a repackaging of the Pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia, (rebranded in an effort to “Christianize” festivities that the Pagans celebrated, see: Easter). So, I guess it’s not a huge surprise that a certain sexpectation seems to linger in the air every February 14th, and in the past, I’ve not been immune to its allure.
I was very young when I first comprehended that Valentine’s Day was nothing more than a day to fornicate, all wrapped up and delivered under the guise of romance.
By merely living in the Western world and consuming media on a daily basis, I understood that V Day was for lovers, and lovers had sex. The older I got, the better I was able to put together the pieces that would create the perfect Valentine’s Day — rather, the Valentine’s Day I believed I wanted: My partner would send me flowers, and I’d get them chocolates. We’d exchange cards during the day and continue our exhibition of love into the evening, where we’d show off our relationship at a nice restaurant. Once seated, they’d pull out a surprise gift for me: jewelry. After the meal, we’d go back to my place where I’d say, “Let me slip into something more comfortable,” excusing myself to the bathroom, only to return with my tight bod barely covered in lacy lingerie and a silk bathrobe. I’d lead them to the bedroom where I’d have a tray of chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for us. We’d seductively feed them to each other, then get down to business — boning affectionately for hours, during which neither of us would get tired. Afterward, we’d fall asleep in post-coital bliss.
Throughout the entirety of my adult life, I lived the days up to February 14th with this belief in the back of my mind: On Valentine’s Day, I would be having sex. So each year, I’d prepare for it, regardless of whether I felt like having sex or not.
For 12 years, V Day preparation always began at least a week before the big night.
The first thing I did was make sure my lingerie still fit, which would inevitably lead to me becoming body-conscious or working on some “problem areas.” Once my hotness was sufficiently questioned and I performed a week of either exercise or stress-eating (or both!), I spent my Valentine’s Day eve removing the fur that had kept me warm all winter — and by that, I mean all of it. My depilatory practice started at my eyebrows and ended at my ankles. I also spent that night changing my sheets and cleaning up my place a bit, to conceal from my date that I lived like a troll who seemed to get strength from the number of dishes she kept in her room.
Then, on the actual holiday, I avoided drinking too much coffee or anything overly acidic, so as not to offset the delicate pH balance of my feminine flower (yes, I thought this through). I also ate a bigger lunch so I could have a small dinner, thus not be weighted down during the deed. At dinner, I scanned the menu for items that wouldn’t cause bloating, flatulence, or bad breath. Artichoke dip? Yikes. Garlic bread? No thanks. Fettuccine alfredo? Can’t do it. That’s right; all the best dishes were off-limits because there is nothing as unsexy as trying to hold in farts. I allowed myself one glass of wine — just enough to loosen up, but not enough that I’d be too numb to enjoy the night’s impending sexcapades. Then we rendezvoused back to my place, where, if there were chocolate-covered strawberries, I took a bite and pretended to like them (even though I hate them. Strawberries aren’t in season in February! It’s sour fruit with hard chocolate on top). Then we fooled around for a bit, eventually ending up in bed for some extremely copasetic sex. On V Day nights, I fell asleep satisfied, if not because of the sex, then because of the act itself. I got it in, just like all the movies, TV shows, and magazines had demanded of me.
And then there’s the question of my partners’ roles in all of this.
Did they unwittingly contribute to the pressure that was ingrained in me since reading J-14 and watching late-night reruns of The Nanny? Maybe. Perhaps they were trying to fulfill their own deep-rooted beliefs about the day, or maybe they were just happy to play along with my fantasy. Most likely the latter, because even when I had no one to share my bed with, I’d still prepare for the possibility of late-night relations. My current partner and I have spent the past six Valentine’s Days together, which amplified my need to have sex by masking it as a necessity to solidify the bond between us. And him? He doesn’t seem to care either way, though he’s always more than happy for an opportunity to connect.
Last year, he was out of town on Valentine’s Day. Leading up to the 14th, I was sad; I wouldn’t be able to play the role of V Day vixen for the first time in 12 years. But on the day of, I found myself filled with a sense of relief and elation. The night was not predetermined to end in the horizontal monster mash, and it was freeing. I realized I was so wrapped up in trying to execute this internalized vision that I never stopped to ask if it was even what I wanted.
When I mentioned this to my partner, he replied something along the lines of “duh,” but it was never that simple for me. My whole life I’ve had an internal desire to be seen as normal, and every Valentine’s Day, this desire manifested as a need to have sex because I concluded that that’s what “normal” people did on Valentine’s Day. But when this “need” was met with an insurmountable obstacle (my guy being out of town), it corroded into nothing more than an infantile sentiment that had remained in my head for far too long.
So this year, I’m not taking the bait.
For Valentine’s Day this year, my partner and I planned a camping trip, something we both love to do. We’ll spend time honoring our relationship the way most people who haven’t been heavily influenced by TV and movies do, which is any way we want to. We’ll bring wine, cheese, and chocolates, but also beer, hot dogs, and smores. We’ll sit outside and talk and revel in each other’s company. And my guy? A few weeks after we booked the campsite, I mentioned that we’ll be away on Valentine’s Day, and he replied that he was excited to spend time with me but “didn’t even realize it was on Valentine’s Day” — which is a level of apathy I aspire to.
So this Valentine’s Day will be enjoyed away from any sexpectations lingering in the city air. No lingerie, no portion control, and no sexual forecasting. Only time that we can choose to fill however we please. And if we feel like drinking too much, we will. And if we feel like eating too much, we will. And if we feel like having sex, we will. But I’m taking back my power to decide.
This is my liberation from the sexual tyranny of Valentine’s Day; my declaration of independence from the presumed fertility festival. This societal custom has lived a long life in my subconscious and, frankly, it’s outstayed its welcome. So here and now, I cast it out with this simple sentence: I have sex when I want to have sex, not when society implies I should, so be gone and good riddance.