We got married on Valentine’s Day. My husband thought that it was romantic. (Well, he also figured that it would help him remember our future anniversaries). I thought it was cute and also special, since there was no Valentine’s in my home country, Russia. Yet whatever our ideas about the joys and responsibilities of marriage were, our Valentine’s wedding turned out to be a true commitment.
I’m not talking about the everyday challenges of married life: suppressing your true feelings about endless football, basketball, and what-ever-ball games, picking up things lying around the house (like his size-large gloves on our dining table), suffering through Chinese meals he loves so much, and patiently repeating questions that he cannot hear because he’s watching some bloody thriller on TV. You expect these things after you say, “I do.” I’m talking about difficulties that are outside our control, like every year we want to celebrate our anniversary, we have to beat a whole slew of people who go out on Valentine’s Day just for fun.
It took us some time to realize what we got ourselves into, since our first anniversary we (meaning me) had to plan a long time in advance anyway. That year, Valentine’s happened to fall on Friday, so we drove to St. Louis (a two-hour drive) for an “Evening of Romantic Music,” performed by the St. Louis Symphony. Since we had to buy tickets a couple months earlier, it seemed only logical to reserve a hotel room and a dinner to go with it well in advance, too.
Everything worked like a charm that time. The orchestra was good, the music was beautiful and romantic (with the exception of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah, which I personally find erotic and not a good PR for women:)). And after the concert, every woman was given a piece of chocolate and a rose.
For our second anniversary we drove to Kansas City (also a two-hour drive) to see a Russian opera “Eugene Onegin.” That also had to be carefully arranged, since the opera seemed to have attracted every Russian living in a 100-mile-radius of Kansas City. (There were a few Americans there, too — probably spouses or companions of the Russians:)).
Later, things began getting harder. For our third anniversary, I planned another out-of-town outing, which included visiting an art museum and other stuff like that. Yet the weather turned bad, and although the temperature was 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the roads were covered with sleet (how can rain turn into ice when the temperature is above freezing is beyond me!). So, instead of enjoying the experience, all I could think about was whether we’d get home alive.
After that, I decided that February is not a good month for traveling, and we should celebrate our anniversary locally. There were other reasons for that, too. For one thing, Valentine’s Day rarely takes place on weekends, and unless you don’t have to work or you’re retired (which my husband now is, but I am not), next day you have to go to work. For another, sleeping in a strange bed has much less attraction for me now.
The thing is I am a creature of habit. I eat the same cereal every day. I sleep on the same side of the bed. And when we go to the movies, I like to have my husband to the left of me, so I can lean on his shoulder if I feel sleepy, and when we attend concerts, he has to be on my right, so I can squeeze his hand with my right hand when I get excited.
I like going to the same restaurants, too, and I usually order the same dishes in each one of them. Yet, as soon as I get used to a particular restaurant, it folds down. Is that because I always order the same meal or because we don’t eat out often enough, or both, I cannot tell. All I know is that it’s getting harder and harder to make reservations at those few I like.
Some of them don’t even take reservations for two people. (How do they expect couples to celebrate Valentine’s? To my knowledge, communal living, which was so popular in the 1960-1970s, is long gone!). Some restaurants don’t take reservation for holidays, and some seemed to be full even if you call them just after New Year’s! They first say that it is too early, but when you call them close to Valentine’s, it’s already to late:). Of course, it’s all relative. A friend of ours, who once found himself stuck in Tokyo, feeling lonely, decided to go to a nice restaurant. Yet they wouldn’t serve him at all! The reason being that he went there alone.
Another thing about celebrating an anniversary on Valentine’s Day is that there is too much chocolate around, which is a terrible temptation for chocoholics like me:). Once, during our Valentine’s dinner, I ate a whole flowerless chocolate cake (my husband doesn’t like chocolate)! It tasted great while I was eating it, but, for the rest of that day, I didn’t feel so good. Since then, I’ve ordered chocolate-covered strawberries, so I eat less chocolate and more vitamins.
And what about flowers? You’ve got to have roses for Valentine’s, right? Yet again, roses triple in price on that day, and I don’t even like them that well. One year, I told my husband that I like orchids much better (we had no orchids in Moscow, so they seem special to me, too). The problem with that is that I have a green thumb, and as soon as orchids appear in our house, they just stay there. And since my husband buys new orchids every year, recently, I looked around and realized that our house resembled a jungle, and I was spending all my free time watering orchids!
Well, once again, our anniversary is coming around, marking the eighteen years we have spent together. To tell the truth, despite all my complaints, I still like the fact that we got married on Valentine’s. I like talking about it and, more importantly, I still love my husband. And although the passion that brought us together all those years ago may not be as burning as it once was, there is no tragedy in that. For what really counts in people’s lives is mutual trust and respect, and also that hand you can squeeze in the moment of excitement and that shoulder on which you can lean in a moment of weariness or distress and feel valued and protected by the person by your side. And that is as good as it gets.
©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved