To tell you the stories of my best Valentine’s Day and the worst Valentine’s Day, I only have to tell a single story. Something worth noting here is yes, it’s pathetic but no, I harbor no ill feelings. I told this story in person today and watched her physically cringe over facetime, so I know it’s worth telling.
A little background: I was seeing a married man at the time. He was emotionally separated from his wife and was physically separating by the end of the month. While he dealt with all that at home, he chose to leave me in the dark, allowing my anxieties to run wild in all their chaotic evil glories.
Feel free to comment and tell me how trashy I am; I can take it.
Anyways, I’d fallen too hard and too quickly, and I was very excited to celebrate my first Valentine’s Day with a real significant other (I’m a late bloomer, what can I say?). Remember, I was young, dumb, emotionally volatile, and can prove it with any random diary entry. I can literally play “bible dipping” and find a cringe-worthy episode of me being neurotic. I was on a few different meds, my family was falling apart, I was trying to find space in the world while kicking back suicide demons, my nephew hated me, I’d just left a job where sexist and racist remarks were part of the weekly experience, and I was seriously struggling financially while learning to be on my own. Needless to say, I had a lot going on when this poor guy walked onto the scene and thought I was cute(?).
On Valentine’s Day, we didn’t do anything super formal or elaborate. Actually, the date we had planned fell through on his end because his wife discovered he was dating someone. She found receipts in his pockets while doing their laundry one day; receipts from our date. I give this woman kudos because even after all his bullshit, she was still doing his laundry and yes, packing his lunches for work. Fucking wild.
So while they were fighting on their end, my ridiculous self flooded over and began an argument on our end as well. It was spectacularly unhealthy, and I have the quote-for-quote texts via diary to prove it.
It took a day or so for things to calm down, but we still swapped small gifts on the 15th. I was terrifically excited leaving work. I must’ve mentioned it was a shame we didn’t do anything for the 14th, but that I’d settle for the day after and it was “better late than never.”
“Y’know what February 15th is, don’t ya?” He smiled wryly. I looked around. Was this an inside joke or was I supposed to know the answer? “National Mistress’s Day,” he laughed, and I burned red.
Gods, I remember this scene so intensely because I was immediately pissed beyond belief. I became lightheaded and couldn’t walk properly. I literally had to sit down as my blood pressure rocketed into orbit. My emotions made a daily – if not hourly – whiplash and it’s a wonder either of us made it out, to be honest. I don’t remember how he got me to calm down after that, though. It’s like I blacked out all the way to the car.
I blame youthful willingness: I’d never swapped actual gifts with an actual significant other on Valentine’s Day before, so that was probably part of it. I chose to set aside the shitty details in order to focus on the overall happy thing. I could compartmentalize like that, it was natural.
We swapped gifts in the car, I gave him candies (I think?) and a child’s story book about an ugly monster fumbling around a world of cute, fluffy stuffed animals. He couldn’t fit in anywhere, so he became lonely and doubtful of his future. But then, as if by magic, he found another monster just as ugly as him, and they lived happily every after. Blah blah blah cutesy blah blah
He gave me a darling silver charm locket necklace. It’s one of those see-though lockets you can customize by putting charms or beads inside and a magnet clasps it together. Inside the necklace, there was a copper plate that read “always,” a silver “LOVE” charm, and two gem hearts – pink and blue. It was absolutely adorable, and I couldn’t believe I had gotten something with genuine thought behind it. Later, I added my own little golden teddy bear charm that I had inside a different piece of jewelry. It was perfect, and I loved it.
Fast forward a few months. He had completely cut ties with the wife and had moved into his own place, our relationship continued its hot/cold course, and I found myself alone in his apartment.
I don’t consider what I did to be meddling or snooping, and I’ll tell you why: it was a genuine accident on my part.
I asked if I could use his computer and he gave me the greenlight. I went to facebook. I was about to log him out and login as myself, but I’d never seen his facebook before. Dating about 6-ish months at this time, we’d never been fb friends for fear of one thing or another – the wife’s feelings, coworkers finding out, a whole list of thinly veiled lies we told ourselves. So I wanted to see photos of him from… before me. It made me happy to see him smiling in so many photos, doing interesting things, going to cool places. Granted, it was mostly with the soon-to-be-ex-wife, but still; it was a side of him I’d never seen before, and it was really sweet.
It was really sweet… until I saw my Valentine’s Day gift around her neck. Or, rather, until I realized I’d been heartlessly re-gifted something from his ex-wife’s trash stash.
Oh, this is real life.
I zoomed in on the photo. Juuuust to be sure. Just to be sure before I freaked the fuck out and unleashed the hell demons clawing from the inside of my deflating soul. And it was. I could read the “always” I could see the pink pixels, the blue pixels, and the grey pixels and assumed they spelled “LOVE.”
Begin the spiral.
I was told on Valentine’s Day that through an unfortunate fulfillment error, the blue heart wasn’t supposed to come in my necklace. I was told on Valentine’s Day that the hearts were supposed to be pink and purple, as in amethyst, as in my birthstone. I was told on Valentine’s Day that they symbolized him and me and “us.”
Yet I discovered on a random summer afternoon, while wearing his pajama bottoms and sitting in his apartment, that it was all horseshit. A quick link over to the wife’s fb page told me her birth month and google confirmed a blue stone.
Warp-speed the spiral.
I lay face up on the floor until he returned to the apartment. He found me face up, staring at the ceiling, in the dark, post-panic attack, and absolutely gutted.
There were no tear, no yelling, no accusations. I was numb inside. I deadpan told him what I had accidentally found. He claimed them to be identical necklaces, but still two separate items while reiterated that the “unfortunate fulfillment error” occurred when he clicked “reorder” without updating my item to reflect my birthstone.
I asked why he didn’t just forego the gifts part altogether if his main plan was to rely on a deception. I didn’t have the strength to probe any further or to ask once more if it wasn’t simply the very same necklace – not identical, the same.
We continued dating for six months after this… indiscretion.
Please, for the love of the gods, read this story and be shocked, laugh at my folly, or ridicule me for being so stupid. Get angry for not leaving the moment all this unfurled or for me “breaching” his privacy. Hell, go after my character for dating a married man.
But above all, read this story and learn something.
Never blindly put up with deceitful shit from someone you’re supposed to trust. Do not accept it as a type of love you deserve. No one deserves a false sense of security or manipulation, even the broken ones among us (re: how I was an emotional basket case, above).