From grade school shoe boxes full of Valentines to red roses from my longtime boyfriend, Valentine’s Day has certainly evolved for me.
Valentine’s Day was always a day I enjoyed telling my closest friends and family how much I loved them. Over the years I’ve had plenty of stories to tell, but they’ve all gone back to one central theme—love.
Whether it was choosing the perfect themed Valentine’s to write out to my class, going to the yearly “date dance” in high school or celebrating a deeper kind of love with my longtime boyfriend, I made sure everything on Valentine’s Day revolved around love.
Here are how Valentine’s Day has changed in my life from my childhood through my teenage years.
Valentine’s Day during childhood is the most adorable time ever.
Remember those boxes of Valentines you could get at your local K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target or CVS? They often revolved around what was popular among the youth zeitgeist of the time. I lived for those! I’m aging myself here, but Beauty and the Beast Valentines were an absolute must in second grade.
Later in junior high, Spice Girls Valentines were definitely something I begged my parents for. I remember sorting through the 30 or so Valentines in each pack and making sure my crush always got the one that was extra flirty (this never ended up working in my favor).
The worst classmate of mine always got the ugliest one and my best friend always got my favorite, of course.
In my family life, my parents always did something so simple that made me feel like I had so much worth. On Valentine’s Day morning, my brother and sisters and myself would each receive a heart-shaped box of candy. Just a little something to say I love you, I later have adopted this practice in my adult life. I am so grateful we grew up with parents like ours.
Valentine’s Day as a teen was like Galentine’s Day before it was a “thing.”
I didn’t date anyone until I was in college and went to an all-girls high school. Needless to say, Valentine’s Days during my teenage years were spent with friends.
Some of my favorite memories were spent on a riverboat where I grew up in Pittsburgh. My school had a yearly Valentine’s Day dance called “Date Dance.” The rules were ridiculous, that you absolutely had to bring a date so many of us awkward teens attending our all-female school had trouble finding dates (like yours truly!).
We all ended up just asking friends of friends to accompany us as our “dates” and we often abandoned the guys and danced the night away together. I still have a keychain of myself and seven of my closest girlfriends from a Valentine’s Day in the early 2000s. Chances are we had just finished dancing to some old school Britney, Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC.
The best Valentine’s Day come from the days I spent as a young adult.
My best Valentine’s Days from my young adulthood were all about self love. Every year I would head to this local restaurant just a few blocks from my apartment and get a slice of their mud pie.
This wasn’t just any mud pie, it was literally heaven on a plate. I’d always do something else too, like take a yoga class or take myself to see the Garry Marshall movie Valentine’s Day or He’s Just Not That Into You. Seeing He’s Just Not That Into You on Valentine’s Day by myself was so completely liberating.
I learned a lot about myself during those years. I learned to enjoy my own company and that spending a day about love solo really isn’t so lonely after all.
While I spent a lot of time on my own, I also started a very important tradition to me in my young adult years. When Nora Ephron’s “Julie and Julia” was released in 2009, I instantly fell in love with the film and the spirit of Julia Child.
From that year forward, I’ve made Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon for a fancy dinner party with my closest friends. I love getting everyone together in honor of Valentine’s Day. This year will be our ninth in a row.
Today, things are different. Very different.
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for six years now. We have had plenty of Valentine’s Day memories that we laugh about and love to reminisce about too. There was a year where we were planning on going out to a fancy dinner, but a huge snow squall hit on Valentine’s evening.
We stayed in and watched Netflix with our dog and had the best time. Then there were three separate years I won the same restaurant’s Valentine’s Day contest. It got embarrassing by the third year and my boyfriend and I laughed how each consecutive year we would get just a little less prizes—eliminating roses, wine and free dessert.
They are still three of the best meals we’ve ever had with the best restaurant staff! My boyfriend always likes to buy me flowers or a sweet card or just a little something to make the day extra special too. Of course we always spoil our English bulldog Moe too. The memories we’ve made have created a deeper sort of love.
Throughout my life, I’ve always loved and appreciated Valentine’s Day. While its meaning has changed over the years, or I’ve focused more on a particular kind of love (friend love, familial love, self love, the love I have for my partner) the central theme has always been love.
I believe the world can always be a kinder place, so this Valentine’s Day, no matter what you choose to do, be kind and show some love. Chances are, someone may need it!
Valentine’s Day is great, but what about showing love all year ‘round? Check out this piece.