I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. Call it commercialized, call it a fake holiday created by card companies, call it whatever you like really, but a day in which pink and red are encouraged and chocolate is central is ok by me.
My favourite Valentine’s Days, counterintuitively enough, have been the ones when I’ve been single. And no, that’s not me being bitter or being a lonely girl putting on a brave face. Don’t get me wrong, the ones with the ex were good, but even then I went for the unconventional. We did the whole B&B in Vermont thing one year. That was ok. But the year we were both too busy to make plans, and instead, in between meetings, he ran (almost literally) by my apartment to drop off flowers? That one was pretty good. And the one with the blizzard where he rescued my Ugg boot from 5 inches of slush in the middle of the street, where it had gotten stuck, while oncoming traffic approached, and I hopped around nearby? Awesome. Uggs and slush, just call it chivalry of the modern day. With the ex, I didn’t want the over extravagance of the day; it seemed to cheapen what was supposedly the essence of the holiday by playing it up too much.
But now that I’m single? Hell, bring it on!
The day, for me, has turned into an excuse to do whatever I want, to treat myself. A little narcissistic if you think about it, sure, but if I needed justification (which I rarely do, but always have on hand just in case), I’m not above letting people thing I’m some poor, long suffering, lonely single girl who needs to do a little something extra on this day to make up for the fact that she is all alone. Am I? Well no, hardly, but whatever works…
One of my best Valentine’s Days was in Cuba. I started the day by going to the Havana Book Fair aka every English Major’s dream. Across the water from Habana Vieja the Morro fort was filled with books, and every space not filled with books was filled with people looking at books.
Posters proclaiming “Leer es Creer” were everywhere. It was just short of overwhelming, but, as my roommate (another English Major) pointed out, really incredible how many people were excited for books!
So that’s where my day started: looking out over Havana from the fort, surrounded by books and booklovers…and with a Coppelia (famous Cuban ice cream) stand right there. Libros + Helado = Love.
But my day did not stop there.
When I told my parents I had decided to go Cuba for a semester (and once they had realized that this was not idle talk) my mom told me that I had to see the Cuban ballet. It was not said explicitly, but very much implied, that if I did not see the ballet before attempting to return home, I would not in fact have a home to return to. So in the semester leading up to my departure, my mom figured out Google and my inbox was inundated with youtube clips and articles for me about the Cuban ballet. My dancing career ended at the age of four, when after a stellar performance of the “Good Ship Lollipop” I hung up my tap shoes and my Shirley Temple hair curlers forever, but even with my limited experience, I could tell that the Cuban Ballet is very much deserving of its status of cultural phenomenon. Tellingly, in a country where machismo reigns, male dancers are not considered any less masculine for choosing to dance because the training is so rigorous, and their athleticism is renowned.
The ballet is under the direction of Alicia Alonso, a truly inspirational figure. Early in life she had vision problems and despite several operations and years of forced bed rest she became a world famous ballerina. She's in her 90s now, but is still in charge of the direction at the ballet as well as choreography.
So anyway, earlier in the week I had bought tickets for the showing of Giselle on Valentine’s Day.
It was especially exciting that they were performing Giselle, because Alicia Alonso danced the title role in New York in the 1940s. I later found out that she had learned the steps after one of her operations when she was on bed rest. Her husband taught her the steps using her hands in order to keep her busy since she couldn't stand not being allowed to practice. Anyway, she was declared The Ballerina to watch after her performance in Giselle so the fact that I was going to see a performance of the ballet that was actually choreographed by Alicia Alonso was pretty amazing.
I got all dressed up and found a cab to take me to the Gran Teatro near the Capitolio. My seat was in the SECOND ROW. Then before the performance started, all of a sudden there was a loud cheer and everyone turned and applauded as ALICIA ALONSO herself came into the theater and took her seat in the balcony. I'm pretty sure my mouth dropped open, and stayed that way the whole performance. It was spectacular. Since I was eye level with the stage, I was basically on stimulation overload; I could see the steps, I could see the actual facial expressions of the dancers, I could see the costumes up close. AMAZING. I didn't get home until almost 11:30 and the show felt like it could not have lasted more than an hour…at the most. It was that good.
So that was my best Valentine’s Day. Other tops include last year, when I was in London for Allie’s 21st birthday, and freshman year when my roommates and I went to see Northeastern play in the Beanpot hockey tournament.
Actually, this year I went to watch the Beanpot again, and followed it up with a David Garrett concert the next day combining both low key and classy in a two day celebration.
So, Valentine’s Day: commercialized and fake, maybe, but ooh the possibilities…