Note: In about 6 weeks I'll be moving from my home of 24 years to live side-by-side with my Valentine, Bill. We'll be LATs in the near future, two people living together separately. In the process of moving, I've discovered things long hidden away -- like many essays -- including this one on Valentine Resolutions -- and illustrations I haven't thought about in years. When I made this photo collage I was a mere youngster in my 50s. Today, I'm closer in age to my chosen subjects, as is Bill. So, in honor of this special Valentine's Day, I'm publishing another Valentine essay, even though I just posted one on the blog yesterday. Enjoy.
My friend Steve came up with the idea of Valentine resolutions. He showed up for brunch at my house, the traditional Valentine’s engagement for our motley group of friends when we were in our thirties. He rearranged the flowers in the center of the table. He pulled a spidery white Fuji mum out of the floral foam and repositioned it. “More dramatic,” he pronounced. He refolded the pink starched napkins, forming a stylized crown, and plopped them in the center of each gilt-edged plate. “Much more festive.” I had to agree. He straightened the silverware, and swirled a soft dishtowel over the ruby glass goblets until they sparkled.
Flinging the dishtowel over his shoulder, he turned his practiced eye to me, ”We need to blend that blusher, babycakes. I told you about the lip liner. You must use it, darling. Definition. We need definition for those lips of yours. You have a classic mouth.” He says this while making little moues with his lips. “You should play it up. You go take care of yourself. I can handle this”
Steve likes to arrange things. A photographer by trade, he herds recalcitrant children into some semblance of order for family portraits. He can organize an entire table of Rotarians, telling each person where heads should turn, hands alight, and eyes focus to get the perfect shot. He hates weddings, and he dislikes the formal bridal portrait with a mania bordering on psychosis. Luckily, this attitude doesn’t come through to the client. He claims brides are made crazy not by love, but by the insecurities of love.
Today he wants to arrange my love life, as well as his own, and the romantic lives of the unsuspecting brunch guests. It’s the early eighties, and, at that point in our lives, most of us weren’t even the least bit lucky in love. Inspired by the characters in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, Steve wants to help change that. He wants us to make Valentine resolutions.
Unlike the New Years variety, the Valentine resolution has a certain cachet. Pursuing a love involvement could be fun. We talked about about good resolutions. We resolve to make love more often, to kiss passionately, to dance with abandon, and to give in to hedonistic impulses when appropriate.
Steve thinks talk is cheap. We should up the ante. He suggests we each write three resolutions. I’m thinking ‘we’ll put them in a sealed envelope, to be opened the next year, and see how well we did.’
We passed our papers to Steve, who promptly cut each of the three into separate resolutions. He put them in a basket and laid down the rules. Everybody draws one slip until all the papers are drawn. If someone picks his or her own resolution, they put it back. No cheating! I had to admit the idea had a certain logic, even if I was a little worried about what kind of resolutions I might draw.
Some resolutions were risqué, others penned with a great deal of tongue in cheek, but we felt good about visualizing love. My friends and I were in different circumstances romantically -- single, attached or unattached, divorced. Steve and I were both looking for a good man. In spite of our disparate situations, we were united in the belief that love was worth pursuing, and relationships deserved our serious attention.
The poet Adrienne Rich writes, “We who were loved/will never unlive that crippling fever.” One of my dear friends described her love years as a time when she was never more beautiful, because she saw herself through her lover’s eyes. She became a kinder soul because she was shown loving kindness. She found creative energy, physical well being, and she was a better person in every aspect of her life, because she was happy and loved. The loss of love devastated her, and she remains unwilling to risk again.
My brother Terry swears that the loving relationship he shares with his wife has been the touchstone of his life. He says she keeps him from being an asshole on a regular basis. He credits his success as a husband, father, grandfather and friend to the constancy of their love. Terry’s work takes him away from home for weeks at a time. He once came out to San Diego to help me install an Eby-Paidrick Designs project at Sea World.
We had installed a decorative recessed cove in the ceiling of one of the five restaurants. When I went on the scaffold for the final cleaning of the cove, I found a heart, drawn in black magic marker, with an arrow, just like a Valentine, in a place no one would ever see, except the person who changed the light bulbs. Inside the heart it said,” Terry loves Patrice.” When I asked him about this sign of his devotion, Terry smiled and said, “People all over the United States know Terry loves Patrice.”
When we are lucky enough to meet that special love, we are willing to risk it all for to love, even though all unions dissolve in time, whether by choice, destiny or death. That’s not to say I believe the only way to happiness is via romantic love. On the contrary, I want to act in loving ways in all parts of my life, but having a loving partner today, in this late stage of life’s adventures, really is something special.
If love hasn’t found you or rediscovered you yet, take heart. The humorist Linda Barry believes love finds a way. If it’s your time, love will track you down like a heat seeking missile. Even then, love is fickle and unpredictable. She says, “Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke.” I think she’s got a point, but when the time for love comes I’d urge people to give in. I did. “Hey sailor, got a light?”