Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Valentine's Day" or "It is better to Give than to Receive"

As a elementary school student I remember the thrill and joy of Valentine's Day in the early grades. Back then it was a day to stuff your Valentines cards into all your friends/classmates Valentine's Day mail boxes set up on each child's desk. It was fun. Opening up your own mail box at the end of the day and sorting through all the different cute and funny cards. . . eating the chocolate frosted cupcakes that someones mother had brought in and giggling over the messages on the candy hearts perched on top of them--February the 14th was a candy coated, smooth chocolaty comforting day.

When it suddenly switched from a day of expressing "love" for all your friends and became tinged with the pre-pubescent romantic notions of fifth and sixth graders I began to grow decidedly more and more uneasy. If there was one day out of the entire school year that I would have joyfully fallen ill, victim to anything from a severe head cold to a bout of really nasty influenza--February the 14th would have been that day. When you are inside a changing body and spend most of your time fixating on which feature is your worst and which is your best and then on top of that are thrown into the kind of vicious social arena so many junior high and high schools can be. . . Valentine' s Day comes off as a pre-approved method for publicly stamping "reject" on your forehead.

Every year eating my mother-given chocolate and reading my mother-given, "We love you our beautiful daughter" card seemed to only underscore the pathetic state of my social life in reality. I can't remember ever receiving a bouquet of roses or even pink carnations while in the middle of any of my high school classes. No one ever had to interrupt class to present me with a bouquet of Valentine's Day balloons. I have very clear memories of other girls, the really pretty girls, the popular girls giggling and laughing, tossing their princess hair over their shoulders as they received their Valentine's day flowers and balloons. Very clear memories, crystal clear and sharp painful memories.

I slunk away from those high school Valentine's Days and went off to college where I was sure that I could, in my new found sophistication, scoff off the dreaded lover's holiday. And I was fairly successful. Annoyingly, I still had friends whose boyfriends provided them with romantic dinners and blood red roses perched atop heart shaped boxes of chocolate. However, in my new found maturity I forgave them their happiness and instead sought out my other boyfriend-less girl friends so we could complain about men together.

Then I met my future husband. Poor guy--I did everything but wrestle him to the ground and tag him like an endangered species upon first meeting him. From the first moment we met I knew that he was what I wanted. I didn't even know why, I just knew that this one I had to keep. Of course I was wise enough not to let him know about my long term plans for him--instead I gazed into his eyes and when he asked if I wasn't unsure about starting a relationship with someone from another country I simple replied seductively, "live for the moment!" He still wistfully remembers the gold pot he thought he'd found when I huskily whispered that against his neck.

I was mentally calculating at what age I would birth each of our future children.

We started dating in November and he left for his university and life back in Japan that December. Apparently my famous "live for the moment" quote had been passed off so successfully that he felt the need to try to secure my amorous affections so he was incredibly diligent with regular phone calls and love letters during our next semester apart. He sent me boxes of chocolates on February the 14th that year. I remember them all--one came in a champagne glass shaped like a woman's high heel shoe. The others were in heart shaped boxes, flower shaped boxes. . . there were so many! He had shipped two separate boxes full of Valentine's cards, letters, hand drawn pictures, chocolates. . . and he had fresh roses delivered to me.

When I got to Japan three months following my graduation from University I was not only in love, I myself was as good as hog tied and tagged. When my first Valentine's Day in Japan rolled around and wonders of wonders, they had gotten the holiday all wrong--in Japan women give men chocolate not vice versa--I realized exactly what he had done for me the previous year. I would have married him on the spot. He confessed that it had been one of the most embarrassing moments of his life, walking into the department stores and buying Valentine's Day chocolates and cards as in Japan only woman do that.

For the next few Valentine's days I joined the ranks of young Japanese women scouring the departos (department stores) for the rarest import chocolates with which to impress my love. After our fourth Valentine's day together though it began to dawn on me that this man of mine, who in the first year of our relationship had been quite the verbalizer of his unending love for me had succeeded in suddenly silencing any talk of engagement or marriage . . . and so I stopped buying big boxes of chocolates and instead waited at night for him to bring home all the chocolate he scored from woman co-workers, admires and friends. Then I would sit and consume most of them in front of him declaring that since he was mine, they were my spoils by default.

The only results were that I tended to put on a little weight every February for the next few years. By the eighth year of our relationship he had pretty much made me eat my famous "live for the moment" line. Turned out that the love letters he had posted to me with, "marry me!" "I can't live with out you" and various other lines in them had been penned on the advise of a Playboy magazine's article on how to keep a girl in a long distance relationship from cheating on you. As punishment I hung in there and nearly a decade after we first met we married.

Now, after a decade of being married, looking at the big 4-0 looming on the horizon for my March birthday this year I realize that I have been with the same man now for exactly half of my life. I met my husband when I was 20. He got my twenties and most of my thirties (There was a year or so in there that I had to finally put my foot down and leave him until he came to his senses and agreed to marry me.) and now it looks like he'll get whatever is left.

Nowadays when Valentine's Day rolls around I am, I imagine closer aligned to my Japanese contemporaries than I am to my American ones in how I perceive the holiday. This year I see it as more of a holiday for my two young daughters than for me. I will probably give my husband some form of chocolate but it will be in conjunction with my daughters. We will, all three of us, set out this evening to bake a chocolate roll cake to present the family male with.

Ironically it doesn't even enter my mind to stress over not receiving anything myself this year. Well, I can't lie. I was sort of shocked to realize that this year, while my mother sent the kids Valentine's Day cards she didn't send me one!

Yet, it seems kind of fitting that for a woman who grew up dreading the 14th of February every year after I hit the age of 10 I now live in a country where the holiday is all about women giving chocolate. As I approach 40 I can now say that from my experience yes, it is easier to be dumped than to be the dumpee; it is also easier to be the giver than the receiver--at least on Valentine's day!


Gina said...

I just wanted to say I'm so sorry you went through that in school when you were younger. It really makes me angry that you had to go through that. Nobody deserves to grow up feeling like that. I'm just so so sorry really! Also, kids can be so cruel can't they, teenagers included. Some cruel people outgrow it and some people stay like that for their lifetime. Which is really quite sad. And the people hurt by the comments can be also hurt for a lifetime as well. Whoever said, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me"....was obviously never a kid or had to endure that as a child. Hugs to you!!!

On a more cheerful note. Your birthday is in March? March when? My birthday is also in March, mine is March 22nd. So, we are both March babies it seems! : )

Also good that you have a sweet hubby and happy Valentine's to you and your family!

coarse gold girl said...


My birthday is March 2nd! So I am a Pisces. Is the 22nd still Pisces? I think so, yes?

And, yeah, I HATED highschool but I LOVED undergrad, graduate school and basically all life post high school. Grade school was good. junior high was okay. Only highschool sucked, but hating it as much as I did gave me real incentive to "get out" and go off to college and that just opened up the world for me! So, while I would never ever want to repeat a single day of highschool I suppose I wouldn't want to go back and change anything about it either!

Gina said...

I'm an aries : )

Sarah said...

I was checking out your blog today for the first time (I found you from your comment on Lily's blog). I had a question for both you and Gina. Are you worried about your children being picked on at school because they are half-Japanese/half-American? I have four girls and I have to say that this is a concern for my husband and I. We are trying to teach our children things now so that they can defend themselves should this occur but I'm not sure if we're doing enough or if we're overthinking this.

Also, Valentine's Day is the one holiday that my husband and I have not worked out between us and our different cultural traditions. We have a ways to go yet to catch up Gina and Noboru! They're awesome!

Tigermama said...

I Just found your blog and I`m so glad I did. You write beautifully and with a great sense of humour. This sentence in particular had me laughing out loud:

"Then I met my future husband. Poor guy--I did everything but wrestle him to the ground and tag him like an endangered species upon first meeting him."


Jeepie said...

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coarse gold girl said...


Thanks for stopping by! I went and blathered a bit on your blog already--I'm so glad that you found my blog so I could find yours! What a beautiful family you have! Regarding raising half Japanese/half American kids here in Japan, you might want to check out the book: "Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? A Parent's Guide to Raising Multiracial Children" by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. The book is geared towards parents raising multiracial children in the States so sometimes you have to kind of bend or change the filter for raising kids in Japan. However, I found it very thought provoking and felt it did have some useful insights to offer.

coarse gold girl said...


I've been joyfully reading your blog now for a few months! I'm always really shy about commenting. . . takes a while for me to work up to it on someone else's blog! (but here? here, I just blabber on and on. . . )

After reading your comment I wondered, "what would DH think of that line?" then I relaxed, he never reads ANYTHING I write unless the first line contains the words "YOUR MOTHER"

Good to see you here.

coarse gold girl said...

First, I have to thank you for posting some e.e.cummings poetry on my blog. You know that he is my favorite poet. You picked one of my all time favorite poems not only of his but in the entire world to post too! Nigeria, Kenya--I can't wait to read your blog! When you get back, I wanted to consult with you over how one would go about getting LePoison and Mr. Trouble Star up and on a blog site. . . .

Tigermama said...

LOL! I don`t think my dh reads my blog but if he did "Your Mother" would probably be a huge red flag for him as well. That and "I went shopping" or "I was fantasizing about"......well, you get the picture!