By: Elizabeth Sochko
Seven years ago, a friend gave me a bunch of bananas for Valentines Day. It was a perfect gift, because well, I love bananas. In return, I handed over an inscribed book on JFK’s assassination. Romance. Since this friend and I have remained close past our high school years and into our real adult relationships in different cities across the U.S., our other friends have heard this story so many times its boring. It was maybe boring to begin with, but to us it stays in the realm of two people knowing something true, hilarious, and that something being all theirs.
And that is a kind of loving. Knowing someone well enough to offer something, anything, which might make their day a little brighter: More potassium, more historical fact for the taking. Authenticity is key in whatever we call love, and gifts always mean something, but others just mean more. Meaning this is all I have to give you.
First things first, I’m not the realest. I don’t claim to know anything about love except what I’ve experienced or given or been returned. Or dumped. Or dumped again. I know little about relationships other than what mine have been. And mine have been catastrophic to a certain degree. Dating has changed since I first saw it on TV, and I would not want anyone to emulate the ways I’ve clinged to wrong people. But I’m definitely not alone, and the wrong ones weren’t always the wrong ones. It’s okay to hurt so plainly, to miss what we don’t even want anymore, or to spend an entire day in the month of February brooding over this.
Abby and Allie asked me what my idea of a love story is. There aren’t enough answers. It could very well be that one instance when I was led across a venue in Charleston and introduced to a skinny musician behind a velvet curtain. No Oz, just him. As much as my love story, my understanding of compassion and caring and fumbling through life with someone else, is that particular person, it is also a hundred other people and a hundred different things. Some examples of them, not even close to universal, but what I hold to be truest, follow.
What a love story is: My brother and his wife dancing their first dance to an Animal Collective song. Support. Sitting in a studio apartment with face-masks and tea, consoling a sorority sister through her break up with my ex-boyfriend. Finding the truths that lift us up and take us somewhere better. Coffee. On Sunday. In the morning. Watching friends raise daughters. Any faith. Saying, “No.” Standing up. Birthday parties. Non-euthanizing animal shelters. My mother bowling. Authentic apologies. The ones who bring chocolate, medicine or wine over when I need it; or when I don’t even want it.
What a love story is not: Anyone married. Passive aggression. Any aggression. Running away. Convincing yourself its better than worse. Settling. Anyone who doesn’t let you wear baggy denim or socks with heels out because you want to. Chris Brown. Resentment. Reluctance to trying new things. Making other feel inadequate. Subtweeting. Embarrassment. The humble brag. Exes who don’t confront you when they start dating your sorority sister. False apologies. Jealousy. Someone wanting you for the wrong reasons without even recognizing it. Ignoring your instinct. Fifty Shades of Grey. Taking a date to see the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.
I love this holiday because it feels so personal. So possible. Even for the haters. There are anti-valentines parties. There’s waiting for the storm of heart-shaped balloons to clear. Or there’s dinner dates, movie nights, mountain trips. Teachers are thanked with candy taped to paper. There are “girls and girls and boys and boys.” There are break ups. An estimated 2.1 billion dollars will be spent on flowers in the U.S. this day, this year, so there will be flowers.* Regretful texts. Proposals. Big ugly cries. And kissing. Lots of kissing. For what? For a Christian Martyr? For the Spring season? For Papa John’s Heart Shaped Pizza?
And maybe none of it matter, but for me it gets real. If anything, it reminds me of the people rooting, moving forward despite fuck-up, after U-turn, after detour, after sheep blocking the road, after fuck-up, after construction, and after more fuck-up. There is no need to feel unease on February 14th because romantic love is far from being the best kind of love. With or without bananas or boys or heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, it starts with a girl in the mirror putting on lipstick and trying to love herself better. Or with someone choosing to love better, even for one second. Understanding what you have to give and deciding who deserves it is another kind of love; One worth being a part of. I’m rooting for that story.