I was born a hopeless romantic.
Ok, well, I don’t know if THAT’S possible, but when you read fairy tales where the princess is always saved by the prince, who also happens to be wealthy, comes with a 401K, decent health insurance, and looks like Chris Pine, it becomes embedded into your tiny 7-year-old brain that love equals romance to the tenth power. (Flowers, fat babies masquerading as archers, and quotes from Shakespeare included.)
I remember having a conversation with my high school English teacher (and best adult friend) one afternoon, after my high school sweetheart had ended our 3 year love affair. I sat in her classroom, spring sunshine piercing through the window, watching the dust motes float in the air as I sobbed hysterically over my heart ache.
“This,” I wailed, “is NOT what love is supposed to feel like. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. He’s supposed to love me FOREVER. That’s what we promised.”
She sighed and said, “Abby, my friend, you are truly a hopeless romantic.”
It’s the first time I’d ever heard the phrase.
By the time I reached college, I was determined not to let my heart be bruised again. I thought of myself as the President and Founder of the She Who Hates Men Club, and vowed that I would graduate at the top of my class. No man would distract me from that goal. I would walk across that stage, gowned and capped, raise my fist to the air and bellow “I AM WOMAN!”
And all my friends knew how I felt. And secretly pitied me.
On Valentine’s Day my freshman year, a girlfriend of mine gave me a box of chocolates. It was shaped like a heart, and Elvis looked up at me adoringly from the lid. When I opened the box, “Love Me Tender,” played quietly. I laughed, thanked her, and she eventually went on her way.
I sat on the floor of my dorm room, powering through chocolates, allowing the song to play over and over again until Elvis began to sound like the teacher from The Peanuts. And I cried my eyes out.
See, the truth was, I desperately wanted to be loved. But I wasn’t willing to allow myself to take the chance, walk the plank, jump off the cliff.
Fast forward a year and a half later, and I was faced with that cliff.
I’d started dating, and this man was everything I wanted. Smart, witty, sarcastic, adorable, handsome, a just a little weird. And he treated me like something priceless and breakable. But he came with baggage. And he had already planned his future, which included moving to the west coast to live with his father.
The choice was before me: allow this man to walk out of my life, let him go fulfill his destiny in the great state of Nevada. Or, fling myself from the cliff, tell him I love him and ask him to stay.
We were married on September 25, 2004, in a starlit ceremony on the Isle of Palms. And we’ve never looked back since.
So here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day–sure, it’s a nice day to buy a card, and send some flowers, and maybe have a special dinner out. But for me, the romance in a day like today is lost a little, because we spend every day taking care to tell each other how we feel.
It’s a modern-day fairy tale, and I get to live it every single day of my life.