It is February 12th. After three days, seven grocery stores / convenience stores, and two Father of the Bride meltdowns, I had given up. I had very publicly given up. I hung up a very aggravated and very loud phone call with my mother in the middle of the baking aisle in Harris Teeter and proceeded to stamp around the store in exasperation. And in search of everything bagels. The reasoning for this adult tantrum? Red food coloring.
Let me explain.
I have always detested Valentine’s Day. I have always detested Valentine’s Day because I have always looked forward to Valentine’s Day and I have always looked forward to Valentine’s Day, because really I am a gooey chocolate chip cookie who loves Valentine’s Day.
The charades of Valentine’s Day start early. In elementary school there are construction paper heart snippets littering the floor of the art rooms for the weeks’ proceeding, on-the-day holiday parties catered by the PTA President, with mounds of sugary-sweet baked goods, and rumors of classmates kissing on the swing set. However, there never seems to be enough saturated paper Valentines to go around and that’s a shame because when you’re a kid, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be simple.
When you’re a kid, Valentine’s Day involves embarrassing love notes from your mom in your lunch box, trips to the Dollar Tree for mass-produced Valentines for your classmates and most importantly, Valentine’s Day is right next to Halloween for chocolate consumption. I suppose if I were a dental hygienist I would hate Valentine’s Day, but in this scenario I am not a dental hygienist. I am a child eating store-bought sugar cookies with red icing and sparkly pink sprinkles, which vaguely leave the taste of Play Dough in my mouth, not that I ever tasted Play Dough as a child. However, most importantly in this scenario, I am happy.
Valentine’s Day is more-or-less a happy day for children and it should be that simple for adults. Just cut out some geometric shapes from vein-y hued construction paper, buy some God-forsaken chocolate that is not Russell Stover, because no one really likes eating unknown subpar fruit – nut – chocolate clusters anyway, and call it a day. Nope. Valentine’s Day in modern romance is a whole song and dance, especially so if you involve those singing telegram people. And if you do involve those singing telegram people, Ferris Bueller called and he would like you to know you are thirty years late to your audition.
So there I was last week on February 9th, singing and dancing my way through my own Valentine’s Day grocery list at Trader Joes. This is the first Valentine’s Day in years where I felt ownership in Hallmark’s favorite holiday. This year I had a Valentine and yes, I was finally giving into some of the cliches my hardened exterior rebuffed and ridiculed for years. The biggest, non-negotiable cliche on my list, red velvet cupcakes with traditional cream cheese frosting. Of course, this was only the start.
Two weeks prior, I told Flynn I hated Valentine’s Day.
If I see a Russell Stover box, I will launch it at your head.
Like the intuitive and incredibly understanding human he is, Flynn chuckles awkwardly, then runs for the exit. Just kidding. That didn’t happen. Rather, he laughs and promises Of course we will go eat burgers and fries for Valentine’s Day, if that’s what you want. I did not deserve his patience then nor did I deserve the text he sent about a week later telling me that our plans had changed and that he had made new lunch plans for Valentine’s Day. We can dress up a little bit if you want, smart casual.
Not that I wasn’t planning on celebrating Valentine’s Day with Flynn, but it sort of hit me. My adamant and intentional denouncement of Valentine’s Day around Flynn was 1. a desire to radiate Cool Girl-aloofness about grand romantic gestures, in efforts to chill any dead giveaways of my feverish and wildly emotional disposition and 2. thinly veiled bitterness. In relation to the former, what? Flynn has been around you for more than two hours. He has seen The Feelings™. In relation to the latter, bitterness is so 2008 Rom-Com Heroine chic. 2016 ladies are better than lying about their crazy. We own our “crazy,” to which I would argue to myself that “crazy” is a frequently-used gendered put-down of women, but in this argument with me, myself and I, we digress.
New Obsession: Leon Bridges.
Back to moderate panic.
In the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, I scoured seven, yes seven, different grocery / convenience stores looking for red food coloring. When it got to 8pm on Friday, February 12th, the Harris Teeter baking aisle was an embarrassingly volatile place. Albeit it would have been more embarrassing for me had I been holding the shopping basket I collected ten minutes later with my consolatory purchases: red nail polish (at least one cliche down), one bunch of green onions, Burt’s Bees chapstick, tampons and everything bagels.
Heaven forbid, you could just buy a mix., Jeanice echoed from the other end of the line.
THERE AREN’T EVEN MIXES LEFT MOM. THERE ARE OTHER FOOD COLORING OPTIONS. WHY DOES RED HAVE TO BE A PRIMARY COLOR???!!!
Needless to say once I was done with my self-indulgent tirade on primary colors, I walked myself through the self-checkout, because that shit in my basket was also embarrassing, and walked home.
Through a strange turn of events, February 14th arrived.
Technically Valentine’s Day activities had been underway since Galentine’s Day celebrations on February 13th… Major shout-out to my Galentines, who ate fried pickles and avocado toast and drank bottomless mimosas with me till we all had bad breath, were a little tipsy and cried during How to Be Single. (Think sadder Trainwreck. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
Somehow by the time I got home from Galentine’s Day, I redid my makeup, lit the obligatory Romantic Dinner Candles™, and reassured the lady at the front desk that Flynn was indeed an expected visitor, everything was okay.
No, I never got red food coloring. However, after a sobering walk home from the Harris Teeter the night before, I put on my Big Girl Apron™ and burrowed into the kitchen. From 9pm till about midnight on the 12th I was up making fresh pesto for the basil – black pepper pasta I already purchased in one of the seven food stuff-eries I visited that week, and yes, a batch of cupcakes. Can’t lie, I was pretty excited to present Flynn with a heaping bowl of pasta for our first Valentine’s Weekend meal on Saturday night. (I know, Valentine’s Weekend. Barf.) When dessert rolled around, I was actually really looking forward to the non-red velvet cupcakes I ended up making (Dark chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting inspired by Ina’s chocolate cupcakes and Joy’s cream cheese frosting.) … and telling Flynn everything that I wanted to tell him that happened earlier in the week, but couldn’t as to not spoil any surprises/pass any additional aneurysms.
While I would not like to visit seven grocery stores in three days without avail anytime soon, the Red Food Coloring Incident of Valentine’s Day 2016™ showed me that my stubbornness could be used for Valentine’s Day good not evil. And that I should plan more in advance.
I hope that you and your Valentines/Galentines/Everything-a-tines had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. May romantic, friendly, familial, spiritual and self-love greet and inspire you every single day of the year.
P.S. Flynn took me out for cheeseburgers, french fries and onion strings for Valentine’s Day. The dress code was indeed smart casual, so I did not take a photo of my lunch, because that shit is embarrassing in a place like that. Don’t do that. Save that for coffee shops.
Valentine’s Day Flannel.
See you when I see you next.