Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

8th grade hazing, or Valentine’s Day Massacre

In the hallway the boys gather about in smelly heaps like old laundry, laughing and pointing and dancing in their ridiculously large sneakers. Hair sticking out in every direction, body odor of newly minted puberty encircling them in a miasma, they crow like four-month roosters, stomping their feet on the small pieces of paper scattered on the ground.

Each square has a blotch of red on it, some writing, a signature.

One boy picks up a larger piece and theatrically tears it into small then smaller then tiny pieces, throws it into the air like confetti. The other boys bat at it, sending the shreds flying around through the hallway.

The boys’ voices crack as they hoot and cat-call, which makes them shout louder. The teachers are nowhere to be found.

To the side a small girl stands, dressed in a slightly off-fashion red bodysuit and plaid skort, uncertain shoes, long hair massing about her head in a ‘my mother won’t let me cut it’ study of split ends and tangles. Head down, she tries to slip by, unseen, escape down the hallway to the exit, but she can’t avoid the tangle of boys, the shouts, the destruction.

The boys spot her, and the pointing and yelling sharpens, knife-like. Like a murder of crows, they caw in her face, pull at her hair, scoop up the shreds of paper off the floor and throw them at her. Winter gravel is mixed with the paper which stings as it hits her. The papers don’t fly well, and this makes the boys finally give up in frustration and turn away. They slam the doors open, shoving each other, grinning back at her.

One boy is quieter than the rest. He knows the girl, they were friends of a sort, of whatever sort boys and girls could be friends in grade eight, clouded in hormones and poor judgement. He shouts through the noise to the boys, “Let’s go, she’s not worth it.”

She looks over at him, her face dead. She’s frozen, mortally wounded, unable to edge one cell forward out of there. Minutes after the boys finally tumble out of the door and outside, away, she thaws enough to move.

Bending forward, she gathers up the shreds of her valentines, silent. Alone.

Valentine’s Schmalentine’s

Yep. Here we go again. Another of those dreaded Feb 14ths tomorrow. Outside my window the rain is lashing about like some sky god is having a heartbreak. A sky god who also has an anger management problem and an unfortunate case of wind, that is.

I’m sure everywhere all over the internet tomorrow people will be posting smarmy love notes to their various significant others, so I thought I’d get a lead on it all so I can stay off the net tomorrow. I don’t like smarm. I’m not a romantic kind, and no one is sending me overpriced flowers tomorrow and expecting a romantic evening in return.

(Good thing too as I still haven’t put together my story for the New York midnight short story contest and it’s due in Saturday at midnight.
If only I could stop watching the Olympic luge and focus. I mean, what is so compelling about people sliding down a tube? And yet, full days have passed….)

In any case, I do have a few people I’m fond of – not Valentines exactly, but people I think of when this day comes along, people I feel an irrational urge to buy a heart-shaped box of chocolates for, if only to have an excuse to share.

-My kids, of course. I loves them. I love, too, my younger sons’ partners, wonderful women both. I’m so glad my boys have them in their lives.
-My ex, somewhat surprisingly – we had 25 years together and though I know he’s remarried and happy and I’m glad of both, I still have a fond corner of my heart for the old lug. I hope his wife lets him have some chocolate for the big day – she’s much more careful of his health than I ever was.
-My women best chums, and you know who you are – you build me up and support me and make me feel significant even when I’ve done nothing all day but feed the cat.
-My guy friends, too. All of you, from my far away and long agos to the nearer bys and more recent. Whether or not things worked out with us, you’ve all taught me a lot. I treasure your friendships more than you’ll ever know.
-Another guy. Just sayin’

Love you all, in a variety of ways, most of them appropriate.

And then there’s Hallmark and Walmart, sources of cheap sentiment and better still cheap chocolates this weekend, none of which I can have this year, unfortunately, as I am trying to regain a vaguely sylphlike figure or at least less weary knees. Still, the cheap choccies will make others feel good and a bit sticky, and I am grateful for that.

And a big Valentine’s call out for this place where I live, where, despite weather from upset gods, I get to breathe sea air and chat with famous authors (who are friendly and nice and not snooty at all) and where people are generally glad to share an elevator with you. It’s a grand place, this Nova Scotia.

Even with the rain. To be followed by snow, and more rain, and over it all a howling wind that’ll rip your lips right off of you.

Self-Love, or geez, some writers need to get a sense of perspective!

Okay, writers out there – here’s the thing. I KNOW we’ve all been told we have to develop our “platforms” and get known and be followed and all that such stuff, but we need to stop the self-adoration long enough to realize a few hard truths.

1. If you are self-published, make good and sure someone else has edited your writing for you at least a couple of times before you start flashing it about. It’s like smiling with spinach in your teeth to wave an unfinished book in people’s faces.

2. Be perhaps a bit certain that your story has merit. Have you read lots of books in your genre? Are you writing good stuff or are you trying to catch the latest curve – zombies, erotica, whatever? Unless you are insanely lucky, this will not make you rich or respected. I say “perhaps a bit” because a lot of tripe gets sold in huge numbers and while that makes me gnaw my fingers to my elbows, I can’t be responsible for the taste of the audience. So the best of luck to you if you can write sloppy derivative garbage and sell it.

3. Cross postings are boring. And annoying. I have one dear friend or two who posts their announcements in a variety of places, OFTEN MORE THAN ONCE. A lot of these places have the same members, so we poor facebookers get an onslaught of postings all about the same thing and see nothing else for days. This makes me want to go to your home, pick up your computer, and smash it on the ground with extreme prejudice. Spread announcements out if groups overlap. Keep track of them so you aren’t posting the same thing everyday. And don’t be so damn unrelenting about yourself. You may be interesting but no one is that interesting. Don’t post every damn blog posting in every Facebook group. If people like your writing, they’ll follow your blog.

4. Develop a sense of humour about yourself. Giles Blunt, a man who writes grimly dark and wonderful mysteries, and who is a success at it, has a hilarious self-description on his blog. I’ve always loved his writing, but now that I’ve read his blog, I want to meet him. Which means, since imprisonment for stalking isn’t my favourite thing, I will have to buy more of his books. (Many thanks to Judy Penz Sheluk for steering me to this blog, and hers.)

See, here’s the thing. We readers WANT to like new writers. I WANT to get to know new people, ideas, approaches. I read probably seven to ten books a month, easy, and I’m one of those good customers out there. So you don’t need to beat me over the head with stuff.

Write well. Post rarely. Have something to say. Whisper funny stuff in my ear and I’ll follow you anywhere.

Sending all of you wonderful writers out there much love for Valentine’s Day.


Kissing, kissing, kissing!

ImageOh how I love the kiss.

For me, it’s a non-negotiable. The man I spend my time with has got to know how to kiss, or it’s over before it starts. I love kissing, I love the way it makes my body screee up into a level of high pitch, the way the thrill starts from the bottom of my spine and drags its fingers right up into the base of my head.

I love the gentle kiss, the touching of lips. One of my boyfriends in university won me by sweeping a kiss past me so quickly I felt nothing but a whisper of longing.

I love the deeper kiss, the one that speaks of lust and longing and the promise of delights to come.

I love the sneaky kiss, the one on my neck while I’m cooking, the one when I least expect it, the one outside on a cold day when lips are cold and mouths are warm.Image

Once, when I was lonely, I used to fantasize about stopping at a red light and seizing some hapless fellow waiting to cross the street and kissing him, just to feel that touch. Fortunately, I didn’t do this, and thus remain un-incarcerated…

It’s caused me no end of trouble, this kissing thing. Usually, when I date someone, if they seem interesting, I kiss them. It’s part of my assessment. If they are able to respond well, I might stick around. If they, like my poor ex, react in a totally startled way (he backed up into the wall and knocked a bunch of pots into a noisy clangle, god love him, but then he was young then and inexperienced and I probably frightened him), I might reassess. If they grab me and immediately go for the breast, I know they are more focused on getting than giving.

It’s a wonderful thing, kissing, when practised well. It’s worth learning to do properly, without sliming your co-kisser or trying to eat her face (men seem to like this. I don’t know why. Something to do with pheromones or something.)

A truly wonderful kiss adapts to the wants and desires of the participants, moving quicker or slower, shallower or deeper as the moments pass. 

It’s Valentine’s week. Pucker up, people. 


“When you fish for love,

Bait with your heart, not your brain” said Mark Twain.
How foolish. Your heart can be so easily misled! It is easily fooled by scent, twinkling eyes, the touch of a hand, the feel of a kiss. I’ve had a few disastrous relationships in my time, and I have to say most of my missteps (thankfully, minor), have been because of the replacement of love by lust. I’ve never denied I’m a sensualist – I like to experience life in all its richness, from the feel of a rose to the smell of fresh laundry to the taste of an earlobe.
But if I didn’t use my head in romantic relationships, I’d have ended up with all sorts of inappropriate folks, most recently someone whose inner child still had control of the driving.
My ex, God love him, was a brain fishing, though the heart caught up quickly. He came from the same background as I did, knew little things like how to set a table or cook a meal, knew the importance of duty and caring even when you didn’t necessarily want to. He was, and is, a good man. Well, mostly…
Anyway, as we head into that most Hallmarky romantic month, I feel the pull towards that fishing for love (as you probably know, there’s that dating site, “plenty of Fish” which I resent because it makes everyone seem unspecial).
But I figure the temptation will pass. This is a bad month for the brain to win out. So much pushed romance, so many hearts and flowers and mad couplings – and besides, it’s cold! Tempting to curl up with someone.
Be careful out there, fellow singletons. Wait til March, when the pressure is off. And let your head rule, no matter what Mark Twain said…

The perils of Valentine’s Day


And Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and all those Hallmark made up holidays that are created to cause you to go out and overspend on gifts and/or feel guilty that you haven’t…

I hate these days. New Year’s fits among them. I don’t know why my animosity is so strong. But it is. I start to get hostile when I see the massive displays appear.

Valentine’s day at our house meant heart-shaped chocolate boxes for all the kids and maybe my mum got dinner out. At my “married” house, I don’t have a lot of memories associated with the big VD. I probably didn’t do much for my hubby, and so he didn’t do much for me. And when dating – well, it’s just horrid. I am always afraid someone will expect me to do something or will do something himself that I have to react appropriately to and I just know I’m going to screw it up.

So, I preemptively mess things up to avoid the need to ruin things among the tension.

I have a poor friend who knows this. Not only have I told him to not ask any questions of the serious variety, not give me anything, not bring flowers, last year I even fired him and then ate his Valentine’s chocolate

This year I haven’t even bought him any, poor lad.  I’d just eat them myself. I know it.

It’s all about the expectations. I went looking for a Valentine’s card and stood helplessly in front of them (with a few puzzled men, I might add). They all seemed to say either:

a. I love you more than life itself and I cannot exist without you and you are outstandingly special and I am overwhelmed with the glory that is knowing you. Ergh. This sounds sick.

b. I think you’re hot and I want to spend Valentine’s Day horizontally (well, and maybe vertically and other ways, depending on our mutual energy) These seem a bit trashy, especially the cards with the springs making body parts wiggle.

c. I am hateful and feel tied down by you but I’m sending a grudging card anyway.  Backward compliments cards, like “You still look almost as good as when we met”, or  “Of course I love you! Who else would put up with all my issues?” Ugh. Who wants it?

d. The religious ones. Now I’ve got no problem with God, but I doubt very much (s)he has taken time off from the situation in Syria to worry about my adult accompaniment, and if (s)he has, I’d like it to stop. Others have more need of direct intervention. I am quite capable of messing up my love life on my own.

I was left going to the kids’ section. There the love seemed pure and simple and of the affectionate variety without the extra expectations spread on top. Although “I love you cos you’re cuddly” isn’t quite what I wanted, either.

I’m probably destined to live my Valentine’s Day’s alone. But that’s not so bad. At least I don’t have to pretend to like being swamped in a crowded restaurant charging twice what the regular prices are, watching other couples do the uncomfortable dance of “Do I love him? Do I love her? Why do we have to ask this on this one day? What do we talk about that seems significant? Do we have to buy furniture from Leon’s?”

Why can’t love be year-round?

For me, I prefer the lower-tension every day love. The kind that makes you a cup of tea when you’re ill, who holds your hand unexpectedly, who puts his hand in the small of your back when you need extra courage. The kind that sneaks up behind you when you’re cooking and gives you a hug and a kiss, no immediate sex required. The kind who can be silent with you, or boisterous with you, who can argue with you or agree with you or just discuss with you.

I’ve been lucky enough to know that kind of love now and again. But I don’t need a special day to appreciate it. Chocolate is, of course, welcome anytime.

being forced into things with a spork

Flash Freeze warning

So the weather folks say for today in Ottawa – and I can’t help thinking how very apropos for the high stress, expectations created by greeting card companies, Valentine’s Day festivities.

I feel for the poor guys today.  It seems like today there is really nothing they can do that’s right.  Either they are too romantic and become silly, or they are not romantic enough and get the blame for not being in love enough. For me, I think the whole “love on a certain day” thing is ridiculous, and I think that love is best shown in little ways, rather than the big gesture. Talk and presents, even if expensive, are cheap. What matters is the day to day ongoing love that takes out the garbage, cleans out the tub, listens to work stories, smiles at secret moments, curls around you when you least deserve it.

Women don’t have it easy on Valentine’s Day, either. They have to be ready to respond to whatever their love interest produces, no matter how inappropriate or overwhelming or underwhelming. If they care for the fellah, they have to be prepared to smile at whatever and be grateful.  If they aren’t sure about the fellah, they have to figure out how to let them down gently and extricate oneself from expectations. Lots of women get angry. But it’s partially our own fault, for imagining things to be much bigger, more flowery, than they really are. And it’s partly both people’s fault, for not clarifying a relationship until a Hallmark moment requires it.