My birthday has ruined my love life

    My parents set me up for a life of full of love. My first name is Amanda, from Latin, meaning “worthy of love.” My middle name is Rose which, as any florist trying to sell you a dozen or two will tell you, is the flower of love. I was born on February 14, the Hallmark-endorsed day of love, and as I uncomfortably figured out sometime in middle school, I was born the right amount of time after my parents’ wedding to make me a product of their love, if you catch my drift.

    So here I stand, a few days shy of 20, in the midst of a “quarter-life-crisis,” trying to figure out how I’ve disappointed my parents (again) by making it two decades without fulfilling my “love destiny.” After much contemplation, I think I’ve figured it out: I’m afraid to make the day dedicated the relationships you form with others about anyone other than myself. Claiming February 14th as my day has turned into refusing to let anyone else in on the 364 other days — even if I end up alone.

    I know that Valentine’s Day is a creation of the marketing professionals at Hallmark; I’m not naive enough to think that a day should mean something just because they make a card for it. But it’s kind of like Mother’s Day — the point is to focus on someone who means something to you and show him or her how much you care. But I don’t want to shower love on other people on Feb. 14, I want other people to focus on me. I’m too scared of losing the spotlight to let anyone else in. And if I fall in love, I’ll have to do just that: I’ll have to share my special day — I’ll have to share every day — with someone else.

    But to understand how I can be this closed off, you have to understand this: my collection of heart-shaped boxes numbers in the double digits. Every birthday party I had in my younger years had heart-shaped cakes and pink and red streamers. My birthday comes with a Target-sponsored color scheme; who were my parents to resist? In elementary school, when who got the most Power Rangers valentines was a big deal, I always got the most cards — it didn’t matter that the giver had scratched out “Valentine’s Day” and sharpied in “birthday” underneath.

    It doesn’t help that I’ve never had a true Valentine. Like a lot of my almost-20-something friends, I’ve just never been in love. Sure, I’ve loved puppies, books, fictional characters and songs. I’ve loved the way it feels to be with people who know you inside and out; I’ve loved best friends and brother-type-figures; I’ve loved the feeling you get when you drive fast with the windows down, the heat on and the music blaring. And of course I’ve had crushes.

    But true love? Letting those hearts and pink ribbons mean anything more than “Birthday!”? I can’t do it.

    I love my birthday. It was the one day of the year where ice-cream cake for breakfast was not just permitted, it was enforced, even in high school when breakfast happened at 6 a.m. Birthdays are supposedly magical; think Sixteen Candles when Samantha and Jake kiss over her birthday cake, or “Harry Potter,” when he gets the letter that changes his life on his 11th birthday. Plus, there are presents.

    Valentine’s Day is also supposed to be special — at least, that’s what I’ve learned from movies and books. It’s supposed to the day you get engaged, or meet your true love on the top of the Empire State Building, or have that special meal that changes your life. You’re supposed to share Valentine’s Day with someone special, or at least with your friends burning up your ex-boyfriends’ clothes.

    Having these two holidays combined into one makes every February 14th an uber-super-special day that always ends up being anticlimactic, thanks to the expectations that get heaped onto it. The way I’ve chosen to avoid this disappointment, this heartbreak, is to avoid love completely. Despite my name, my birthday, my very existence — I keep myself at a distance and never let people in. I make friends, I make nice, but at the end of the day, I’m alone.

    I suppose it’s sad, to live life in this closed-off manner. I’m sure in the future I’ll figure out how to fix it — how to transform “my special day” into “our special day.” Or maybe I’ll learn to reject the cultural idea that Valentine’s Day means something more then a nice card from CVS. Until I grow up, become a little less crazy, I’ll keep doing it my way, so that the only disappointment on my V-Day is that the birthday cake might melt in the car.


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