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Getting to the heart of Valentine's Day blues

My father recently pointed out to me that my columns often come too late. "You write about Christmas four days after Christmas," he said. This is true -- the blow-up reindeer have deflated by then. The batteries on the "Ho-ho-ho, merry Christmas!" Santa have gone dead, making Santa say "Ho-ho-hooooooo. Sputter sputter. And while my neighbors like to keep their lights up year round in case the aliens are having a hard time locating Earth, the general consensus is that by the 26th, Christmas is over. How do I know? Because my local supermarket tells me so! And I, like any good American, obey the laws of consumerism without question.

So this week, I'll be talking about Valentine's Day, because it's been Valentine's Day for months now, ever since SweetHearts and giant pink marshmallow hearts invaded the shelves. Because what says "I love you" better than a giant pink marshmallow? It does, after all, say "I'll be there still, even if you get a gut from overconsumption of candy and maybe go into sugar-induced shock."

My half-birthday is on Valentine's Day. (Yes, I celebrate my half-birthday. It's one of the upsides of being a child of divorce). I had my first Valentine's Day party when I was in second grade, considering it the perfect opportunity to have a party where everyone would think it was about a nationally acknowledged holiday, when it was really about what should be a nationally acknowledged holiday (the birth of me!). Covert, sneaky and my first step toward world domination (you have to start young these days, you know). Plus, it was an excuse to buy a lot of chocolate and invite Phillip Cologne to my house.

Phillip Cologne was the coolest 7-year-old I knew. He had the best light-up sneakers and his tetherball skills were feared all over the playground. I invited him and my 12 best girlfriends to the party.

"Hi, Phillip," I said when he showed up, hoping he noticed how much my perfectly pink dress made my eyes sparkle. (This was before I realized that the only thing boys notice about a dress is that you're wearing it. Meaning you're not naked.)

"Where is everyone?" he asked, grabbing a handful of red M&M's from the table. I admired the masculine way he chewed the tiny chocolate candies.

"Umm, in the kitchen. Doing manicures, I think."

"No, I mean the guys."

We looked at each other and my breath caught for a moment. I could feel my M&M's melting in my hand, and not in my mouth.

"Um, well, you're the only guy."

"I'm the only guy? Why'd you invite me? Do you liiiiike me?" And in the way that only pre-adolescent boys can, in that tone that crushes dreams with a single syllable, he looked at me and raised his eyebrow.

"Eeww," he said.

This was when I decided to stop celebrating Valentine's Day. I would not fall prey to what Hallmark was telling me to do, I would not buy overpriced chocolates shaped like cartoon hearts. (Real hearts are ugly and bloody, people! Think about it.) And most importantly, I would not be rejected.

This has worked for me for 14 years now. By rejecting rejection before it can reject me, I have successfully avoided getting hurt, unless you count the deeper, more sustained hurt of the perpetual twinge of loneliness. By choice, though, I was careful to constantly tell myself. Like that somehow made it better.

This year, though, I'm making the choice to abstain. To abstain from celebrating, but also to abstain from rejecting this holiday of lovers' and florists' fantasies. Maybe I'll have a valentine, maybe I won't. But at least I'm not eliminating the option. And, if worse comes to worst, I have a sputtering Santa to comfort me. There are worse valentines.

Liz Moody, a Johansen High School graduate, is a student at the University of California at Berkeley. She can be reached at lizmoody@berkeley.edu.

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