Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Valentine's Gift

At this moment, I am sitting at Caribou instead of Starbucks, which may have been a bad choice. I am in the only seat open on a Sunday, which means I am by the door, and staring directly at the lazy-susan of merchandise and am now coveting the offered items. Badly. But when you pay your electric bill late so that you can buy stamps for bills that are EVEN LATER, you probably are not in the market for a reusable coffee clutch. Even if it is 30 percent off AND made out of sweater.

Generally I prefer Starbucks to Caribou, which is a fairly politically unpopular thing to do. BUT, I like Starbucks for two reasons. One, my best friend K gave me a (RED) gift card for Christmas, which means a portion of every purchase goes to help people living with HIV in Africa. And if I am going to keep spending money on coffee, I would prefer to do it this way. (If I were a celebrity and got to align myself with one charitable cause, it would be the prevention of and research for HIV/AIDS. Just so you know.) Anyway, reason two for my pick of Sbucks over the 'Bou is that a ridiculous number of weird things have happened to me at Caribou and I now associate going there with oddities. A sample of these weird things include:

1. A homeless woman sitting next to me and incessantly adjusting her socks while drinking upwards of 10 cups of half and half from the containers set out on the counter. She smells like pee and insanity.

2. The regular from the bar (who is somehow always both at the bar AND at Caribou, which leads me to wonder if he is a wizard. Or a figment of my imagination) slightly recognizing me (even though I have been fired and have therefore not been at the bar for two months) and then spending two hours doing the half-squint, awkward glance. He is also creepy. One time after a sever poll we decided he either has 38 cats or is a serial killer.

3. A guy yelling at me for not returning his calls after being tricked into giving him my real phone number. (Instead of asking for my number, he insisted that I just "call him real quick" so he would have my number automatically. This is after he chased me down the street yelling "Jennifer," so that I would turn around and tell him that wasn't my name. Note to self: "Oh, I'm sorry, what is your name?" should be followed by "F**k Off.")

4. A different guy ruining the ending of the book The Watchmen because I wouldn't talk to him.

**SPOILER ALERT** (Also this spoiler happens in ALL CAPS, so really be careful. See how much nicer I am to you even though you might not return my affections?)

Ladies, if you want to be hit on, read a graphic novel in public. Seriously, it is like wearing a suit of BBQ ribs or swaddling yourself in Sports Center. This was NOT my intention, however when I bought The Watchmen. You can make fun of me as much as you want, but I like comic books, think about training to be Batgirl when I work out and hope that superheroes are a breed that just hasn't happened yet but will in my lifetime. Like the invention of the hovercraft. Anyway, my yearning to read this book started with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, which is a truly lovely book. And in it, the main character quotes The Watchmen all the time. THEN, The Watchmen movie came out, and the pressure was on to know enough about the book to be disappointed by the movie.

So I read it. And it is great. But it is difficult to read it when you are constantly being interrupted by boys asking you WHY you are reading it. On the train, at the gym, walking down the street...seriously, ladies, it is bright yellow, they can't miss it. At Caribou, the following happened:

Guy: "You're reading The Watchmen?"

Me: "Yes." (smiling)

Guy: "Wow, what do you think of it?"

Me: "I really like it. It's interesting that it was published so long ago but it's still relevant. The Nixon thing kind of threw me at first, but I get it. It's cool. I want to see the movie, so I want to read this first." (smiling still)

Guy: "Yeah, I really enjoyed it."

Long pause. I go back to reading. Guy is annoyed with me. He is making huffing sounds and staring at me. I am not smiling anymore.

Guy: "Well, at the end a giant squid comes and kills everyone."

Me: "Hahaha! OK."

This was so ridiculous that I thought he was giving one last-ditch effort to make conversation. Until I finished the book and A GIANT SQUID KILLED EVERYONE. Are you serious? Who tells a stranger the ending of a book they are clearly engrossed in? That is just mean.

If you are confused here, let me explain that the movie producers had this same reaction to the book and changed the ending. Thereby alienating die-hard Watchmen-ites and making this the first time since Forrest Gump that I have liked a movie better than its book predecessor. I also really liked the movie because, as I embarrassingly stated aloud mid-viewing, "It's like the characters have come to life." To which M replied that this is a lot easier when the book is made of pictures. Treated.


ANYWAY, the point is that if you like someone and want them to continue talking to you, maybe you should try keeping your damn mouth shut. Or at least letting things be a surprise. I mention this because I am about to be a walking spoiler and am betting against this tenet for a good reason. Let me explain.

I do not have internet at my mouse-infested crap apartment, but I do have a laptop. M does not have a laptop, but does have internet. So he doesn't read this blog AS I am posting it. If I can play keep away with my computer until after Valentine's Gift Exchange 2010, I will win my own bet against myself-as-spoiler. See? (You can't see this, but I may have just patted myself on the back. Or picked my nose. You'll never know.)

As mentioned in a previous post, M and I aren't big on Giving-Gifts-Because-We-Have-To Day, however, we do end up celebrating because if you can get over the whole evil Hallmark thing, Valentine's Day (I am really tempted to call it VD, but I won't because it's gross) simply reminds us of making cute cards and hoping someone will have a crush on us. It reminds me of stickers and wearing pink and red sweaters and crafting a makeshift mailbox in third grade and having a class party with candy. As a kid, I always got a flower from my dad and some candy. One time my mom sewed me a red velvet cover for my violin. (I played violin for a short three years until I realized it would take a helluva lot of work to progress past Hot Cross Buns.) Valentine's Day never included big presents. I think the only piece of jewelry I ever got for Valentine's was a porcelain heart shaped ring with a painted pink rose on it. (Which I still have and which now fits only my pinky finger and makes me look like the mobster of love.)

Anyway, we all know that Valentine's post-sixth grade turns into a who got the most roses competition. We had singing telegrams in middle and high school, and while a wildly embarrassing idea for anyone involved, they still somehow inspired jealousy and despair when you did not receive one. (You can't see me but I am raising my hand right now and pointing to myself.) College, especially in the Greek system, follows the same ideas and then you realize you have spent six grades loving a candy-filled holiday that you then spent the following TEN YEARS hating. When I started teaching, I started liking Valentine's again a little bit because I had 28 students who for one day told me sweet things like, "You is the second-bestest teachers I ever had" while giving me candy and hitting each other 70 percent less often than usual. This was a great day to be celebrated indeed.

By the time I met M, I had this complicated relationship with St. Valentine. About which M has been spectacularly understanding. He knows that I do not want to make a big deal out of it, but that I like to make Valentine cards and I like decorating. And sweet things. And this morning, he brought me beautiful ROSES! It was way better than the sad little things other people got in high school. For him, this year I got him three little things...

1. For your EYES = A DVD of The Hangover, which we have watched a zillion times and has yet to get old. I bought this mostly because I meant to buy it at Christmas and ran out of money.

2. For your TRIS = A Live Strong bracelet, which is for him to wear during his two planned triathlons this year. I won't go into details about what this means to us, but suffice it to say that there has been cancer, there has been this awful year, and there has been good news. Go 2010!

3. For your BI(cuspid)S = Maple Oatmeal muffins, which I made in the applesauce-trumps-butter way and decorated with bright red lip candies. (Thanks Mom!)

With the exception of the DVD, I spent of total of $1, and even made a card with 3D red hearts. And that's really what Valentine's is all about -- making things that show you care because society has told us to given us a day to do nothing but sweet things and wear colors that do not match. (You can't see me right now but I am wearing pink polka-dot rain boots and a red dress. OK fine, no dress. A grey hoodie sweatshirt. Happy?) Not getting mad at someone because they do not return your affections (and then spoiling the end of a great book,) but sending out love and hoping your crush sends you a singing telegram. Or something less embarrassing.


  1. a) I was HOPING you would make a Matt-Wisley's-Birthday Day post! :)
    b) I literally cannot BELIEVE that #3 happened to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    c) I also can't believe that I didn't KNOW that #3 happened to you...?! Perhaps the phone has a purpose after all?!?!?!

  2. I agree on the ending of WATCHMEN the book vs WATCHMEN the movie. That squid thing was strange, but other parts of the book were better than the movie!

  3. Kathryn~ #3 happened like 4 years ago, and I probably repeated it so much in the following two days that I was sick of hearing myself talk about it!

    Jon~ Yes, other parts of the book were much better...including how in the movie Ozymandias looked like an anorexic preteen playing dress up in the show choir costume pile. And several other more important plot points, of course.

  4. Kathryn has made me a follower as well- and I would just like to say that I whole-heartedly agree with your Valentine's Day dilemma. It is hard for me to explain to everyone that I do not believe in the holiday but love the once a year free pass to wear pink and red together, adorn myself with big showchoir heart rings, and appreciate all things made of doilies :)

    Happy Chinese New Year to you, and keep up with the great blogs!!!!


  5. Jessica~ Thanks and Happy Chinese New Year to you too! And I think maybe a monthly pink + red holiday should maybe be instituted.