So I’m taking a nonfiction workshop this semester with a new professor. He’s not just new to me: despite being an extremely accomplished writer, this is the first time he’s taught a workshop. (Instead, he’s busied himself with what some might consider more the important work of being an ER physician.)
His inexperience means that, among other peculiar rule-bending practices, he sends his feedback in an email days before the class meets.
So, yesterday, he wrote me a very insightful, very thoughtful response to the essay I’d submitted: a meandering (he used the more generous term, “stream of consciousness”) take on the uncomfortable fact of my mother reading this blog.
The essay being about the blog, it takes on a rather similar voice and deals with the rather similar subject matter of relationships and dating and parents and sex. You know, what I write about.
At the end of his comments, he wrote that, while, he thinks, I do handle this material in an “engaging,” “highly readable” way, he wonders if such territory has become too comfortable for me–if I’m not challenging myself enough.
I responded that he’s absolutely right: that this terrain is entirely too comfortable, and that I would like to move out of my comfort zone (that, as a matter of fact, I do start to bore myself) and that I have an idea for a totally different essay I’d love his help working on.
Wish me luck with that. In the meantime, it’s the day after Valentine’s Day and I haven’t said a word on the subject and, at the risk of boring myself, and you, allow me to weigh in.
Really, all I have to say is this: I was greatly relieved when D showed up at my house last night with a bouquet of tulips.
And this: I’m kind of horrified by myself to admit that.
Honestly, I’m not sure why I so desired this, kind of cliched, gesture. Because I’m a hopeless romantic? Because society/greeting card companies have brainwashed me? Because I’ve spent so many Valentine’s Days single and, on the rare occasion that February 14th comes around and I’m not, I’d like a little frivolous attention?
Either way, until I saw D outside my door yesterday afternoon, there was some cause for concern.
If you knew D, you would suspect that he is a romantic sort of guy–the sort of guy who would, in fact, buy his girlfriend flowers on Valentine’s Day, at the very least. (He also brought champagne.)
But you would also know that he, at times, can be a little bit aloof. It was this latter trait that caused me, about a week ago, to ask him whether he knew “what Monday is.”
“What?” he asked, clearly oblivious.
“It’s Valentine’s Day.”
“Oh. Well, I did know it was coming. It was on my list of things to do to look up when it is. And it was on my list of things to do to ask you what you want to do for it.”
At that point D fessed up to sharing in the general, widespread skepticism of the holiday. “I have a hard time being romantic on command,” he said. He then dutifully offered to take me out for a nice meal: “We can play along,” he said.
In the end I decided that it sounded like more fun to cook for him and another couple at home than to go out and face the overpriced chaos that is all restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Few things make me happier than cooking an elaborate meal for a few friends, and I was more than eager to do it.
But still. I wanted flowers.
And it’s hard to tell someone that you want them to do something nice for you–especially when what you really want is not so much the nice thing itself, but for them to want to do it. (Or at least, feel vaguely obligated to.)
I initially attributed this oddly conventional impulse to my father, himself a flagrant romantic. And then, yesterday, I called him with a baking question. (I basically only call my father when I have baking questions–but fortunately, I have them a lot.)
“So, what are you and mom doing tonight?” I asked.
“You know, we’ve never really done Valentine’s Day,” he replied.
“Really? You don’t even send flowers?”
“Nope. I send her flowers the rest of the year–why does she need them today too?”
This was a totally reasonable response. My father does send my mother flowers frequently. As he went on to argue, Valentine’s Day is a stupid, commercial, okay-fine-Hallmark holiday that serves primarily to make single people feel badly and coupled people feel oddly obligated.
And if D wanted to buy me flowers regularly the rest of the year and skip February 14th, I might be okay with that.
Then again, I might not.