I can't tell you the last time that I received a Valentine's Day gift or a card for that matter. I think I still might have a crinkled old Valentine's Day greeting card from my elementary school years tucked in my scrapbook somewhere, folded and worn with time with a picture of a faded red heart imprinted on some cheap stationery. Those were the days when the teacher made everybody in the class distribute Valentine's Day cards to everybody else in the class, and we got to decorate white paper lunch bags to receive all the mail that day. We even got Valentine's Day cards from our teachers with big red hearts that exclaimed: "I'm so HAPPY that you are in my class!" with handwritten notes of encouragement and pieces of sweet chocolate.
The obligatory notes of professions of love wore off as soon as the cards were opened to peek at who sent the card. It was over in a matter of seconds before you tore open the next one to see if there might be candy hearts in the envelope with a secret message just for you. I particularly didn't like the taste of the candy hearts, but I sure did enjoy reading the sweetness of the messages. We all had school crushes, but with my crushes, I knew they never would come true. And, in elementary school, who really cared because everybody celebrates Valentine's Day. Everybody gets a card. Everybody gets treats. Everybody goes home with white bags decorated with hearts overfilling with the day's promises of love and friendship.
But, eventually you learn the hard truth (or what you come to believe is the hard core truth)...Valentine's Day isn't about giving everybody in class cheap generic greeeting cards with a piece of candy attached and having a party that means a free afternoon from studying and doing worksheets. Middle School was the brutal awakening for me when I first experienced the assualt of having a Valentine's Day without anybody giving me a card or tasteless candy hearts with love notes inscripted across the middle. We didn't have Valentine's Day parties like we did in elementary school. Only girls who had boyfriends got cards and candy and flowers and love. The rest of us rotted in the corner struggling with the nightmare of not getting anything from anybody on Valentine's Day.
I know that Valentine's Day is about love. I've always known that...even in middle school when I was hoping that my crush would give me hearts, and all I got was a shallow "what's up". But, time has a way of healing the past, making you more experienced, enhancing your perspective, and making you stronger for the journey. In high school, I had another brutal awakening about Valentine's Day, and it was almost as radical as the one I had in middle school. I have to thank my girlfriends (seriously, friends of mine who were female) for this burst of light they brought into my dark corner of the world. I realized those same people who got the kisses on February 14 were throwing those kisses away on February 15 or a week later. Those cards so treasured and framed on February 14 were ripped into tiny pieces with such hatred and bitterness that they burned a hole right through the big red hearts, bleeding with emotional intensity. I don't know how many times, how many stories, how much drama I had to go through with my friends over a Valentine's Day card. I realized quite quickly, that the loved ones quickly became the hated ones, and it became trivial to see how many people came and went out of each other's lives.
That's when I broke into the truth that nobody can love you the way you love yourself. Nobody can give you a Valentine's Day card with a big red heart like the one you can give yourself. Nobody can know how strong, confident, adorable, and loveable you are like you know yourself. You don't need a card from someone else to know how valuable you are. You don't need Valentine's Day chocolates to know how sweet you are. You don't need roses on Valentine's Day to know how beautiful you are. You don't need somebody else's love on Valentine's Day, you need your love!
And, part of loving yourself is taking care of yourself. Making sure your health is the priority in your life shows that you love yourself enough to take care of yourself. Getting tested for HIV, especially if you've been thinking about it for a long time, can show how much you love yourself on Valentine's Day. You deserve to be strong, healthy, insightful, and life strong. Make yourself a huge Valentine's Day card on February 14, and inside the card write: "I love myself enough to get tested for HIV and to know my HIV status". Nobody else can give you a more passionate and beautiful love note on Valentine's Day.
Until next time.