Marriage & Life Partners · Relationships & Dating

My Not-So-Funny Valentine

3209352375_3f84008881_oImage by Gustav Klim via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I was over 40.  Old enough to know that a woman who takes the temperature of a relationship on Valentine’s Day is bound to be disappointed.  After you reach age 10, it’s a holiday that rarely lives up to the hype, unless you count the thrill of heart-shaped boxes of Godiva chocolate going on sale the next day.

Xavier and I had been entangled in each other’s sheets for almost one year. On our good days, we were Nureyev and Fontaine, Sartre and Beauvoir, Napoleon and Josephine. On our bad days, of which there were plenty, we were Hillary and Trump.  Xavier had been living in the U.S. long enough to lose his French accent completely, but he maintained just enough to melt the knees of his students (both male and female) at the university where we both taught.  He was handsome in an unconventional way. What the French call jolie laide. Beautifully ugly. On the streets of New York, he was often mistaken for Mick Jagger and had no problem signing the rock star’s name for autograph seekers. 

The sex was off the charts. So were our arguments. We broke up and got back together on a weekly basis. No sooner would I storm out of his SoHo apartment then he’d leave 18 breathy phone messages begging me to return. Xavier asked me to live with him and I resisted. (No one in Manhattan gives up a rent controlled one-bedroom to live with a time bomb.)

On Valentine’s Day, my expectations were low. Xavier was a self-styled Bohemian intellectual who regarded American consumerism with disdain, as only a Frenchman can. Giving a lover a dozen roses, a Hallmark card, and taking her to an intimate restaurant was gauche. We never went out. Xavier’s idea of a dinner party was eating Chinese takeout, naked, on his futon.

And so, I was astonished to receive a large envelope in the mail from Xavier containing an eight by eleven-inch Valentine he had made himself. (This was before email, when the Postal Service was the conveyor of good tidings and bad.) It was a photo of himself, eyes brimming with tenderness, holding up a red felt heart, edged with white lace. There were words as well, professing his love. I could hardly believe it. Xavier loved me! He really, really loved me!

This romantic gesture caught me totally off guard. I hadn’t gotten him a card or gift. How could I reciprocate? It was difficult to buy Xavier presents, because in his “aesthetic,” money was banal. Still, I had to do something! I put on my raciest black lace lingerie, including a garter belt and stockings, threw on my trench coat, and raced over to Xavier’s apartment, stopping in Gristedes just long enough to grab a bottle of cold Champagne. Xavier greeted me with “Quel surprise!” and his usual toe-curling kiss. I was about to slowly unbutton my coat and reveal my inner slut when a young woman walked out of the bedroom. Read More »

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  • Mickey February 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Oh, yeah. Excellent. Thank you, Stacia. Thank you so much.

  • Alana February 14, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Probably the most epic Valentine’s Day story I’ve ever read. I wonder what happened to Xavier as he grew older. That would be a great story, too.