I can't recall the last Valentine's Day I spent with a man I swooned for. I can, however, awaken vague memories of the one I spent with my last boyfriend six years ago. He attempted to put my severe displeasure with the state of our relationship at ease with an evening of champagne and white tablecloths. That used to make me feel so special. He was very good at swooping in to romance me for an evening or weekend, but the following day he would always revert back to his unavailable, workaholic self. I was attracted to his big heart and good intentions, but those moments of closeness we shared always faded too quickly.
We broke up several months later, and the following Valentine's Day I was on the rebound and accepted a date with a man my friends and I now refer to as "The Doctor." I was attracted to his confidence and power. The Doctor rushed out of dinner halfway through our gourmet meatballs because he got a business call. He spent 30 minutes pacing the parking lot with the sense of urgency about him that may lead one to think he was about to make an organ delivery. But the Doctor wasn't actually a doctor at all, but a sports agent. The phone call was from one of his football players, who had woken up from hand surgery to find his earrings missing. He was not allowed to wear them during his surgery, so The Doctor had held onto them for safe keeping. The player couldn't be seen by anyone without his diamond ear candy and he demanded them back immediately. The Doctor needed to leave dinner and make the earring delivery right away. I kindly declined his offer to accompany him to the hospital and decided my fluffy bed at home was much more enticing. He then proceeded to reach into his pocket and write me a $2,000 check while begging me to please reconsider and not leave him all alone on Valentine's Day. He said he really wanted a beautiful girl to escort him to the hospital so his player would think he was cool.
It gets worse.
This Valentine wasn't for sale, so I drove away with half of a meatball in my belly, zero checks in hand and annoyed that I had even taken the time to apply mascara. The next day, The Doctor's mother tracked down my number and called to ask me what happened. I had sunken to the depths of dating hell. Did I mention The Doctor was 42 years old?
Needless to say, I was severely doubting my ability to judge male character by the time the next Valentine's Day rolled around. That year I sequestered myself in my home and enjoyed the company of my other single friends. I was sad that I didn't have anyone enchanting to share this day of romance with -- even though I find the whole holiday ridiculous. But I was even more sad that since the previous Valentine's Day, the quality of the dates I'd been on had further deteriorated. What did this say about me as a person? Did I just have plain bad taste in men? Did this mean I had father issues or commitment issues or low self-esteem? Maybe it meant I had too many issues to count? Maybe there were just no good men in New York City? If it's true that you attract someone that shares your relationship patterns or energy, then I was a real mess!
I decided to put some distance between myself and the male species for a while. I hung up my dating heels and took a step back to do some inner work. With the help of various psychology courses, self-help books and spiritual teachers I came to the realization that I held some pretty irrational beliefs about men. On one hand, I believed that men always disappoint, but on the other I believed I needed a Prince Charming like my ex to come in and save me. What an ironic dillemma I was in. I believed I needed someone stronger than myself because I wasn't strong enough on my own. It didn't take much effort to figure out how those completely crazy, yet real thoughts planted themselves into my subconscious. But how could I find a man who didn't disappoint? I didn't know, so I moped around and complained about men for a good year or two. I became a jaded man punisher. I put on emotional armor that let men know I didn't need or want anything from them.
Turns out, that didn't work so well, either. At some point I came to a realization: By angrily projecting my belief that all men disappoint onto every man I met, I was actually pushing them so far away that they did disappoint me. As far as my other irrational belief that I needed someone to swoop in and save me from the big scary world out there, I debunked that one, too. I took a good look at my life and acknowledged all of my accomplishments. I had been getting along just fine on my own for as long as I could remember, so what did I think I needed to be saved from? Nothing. What would this prince provide me with that I wasn't able to provide for myself?
After realizing that there was absolutely no merit to my negative thoughts and assumptions about men, I started to notice how many men I had in my life in various capacities that were wonderful and didn't disappoint. There turned out to be a lot of them. And as for the duds in my past, I started feeling grateful for them, too -- yes, even The Doctor. They prompted me to take a good hard look at what was going on with me and do some long-overdue healing.
So what will I be doing this Valentine's Day? I'm not quite sure yet, but I know I
l'll spend it with someone who doesn't disappoint -- even if I'm by myself.