Be prepared. For the next two weeks, you’ll be surrounded by heart-shaped items. Balloons. Cards. Chocolate. All of these items and more will bear hearts and/or be splashed in shades of red and pink. In your innocence (and given the fact that you aren’t expected to give gifts at your current age) the reason for all this hoopla, Valentine’s Day, will be fun and exciting. However, many people have mixed emotions about the holiday, because Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, and love is complicated.
Your daddy and I mark two important dates each February. Not only will we have to survive celebrate Valentine’s Day, but February also marks the anniversary of when we met. Eight years ago this month, we met on a dating website. (Only time and shifting trends will determine whether you will think us hip and progressive or pathetic and gross for this.) Your daddy was one of the first people with whom I corresponded on the site. After only three dates, we both concluded that we didn’t need to look any further. (It seems there’s some validity to the expression “third time’s the charm.”)
Date #1 was great. Your daddy and I shared stories and laughs over wine on a patio on an unseasonably warm afternoon. We then shared our first kiss on the corner of Cooper and Young Avenue. He left quite an impression.
For Date #2, Daddy and I had dinner at a cozy Midtown restaurant and then attended an art opening at a bookstore. It should have been perfect, but it was awkward. To be more precise, your daddy acted like a total weirdo. I couldn’t wait for the evening to be over.
I contemplated never seeing your daddy again, but I couldn’t shake the memory of Date #1. After realizing that I wouldn’t want anyone to judge me from one bad day, I decided that a third date was warranted. Lucky for me–and especially for you–Date #3 reinforced what I felt during Date #1: there was something special about your daddy.
Here’s what I loved about him:
- Your daddy cracked me up with his wacky sense of humor. Never forget: women love a man with a good sense of humor.
- He made unconventional romantic gestures. He once gave me an unexpected gift wrapped in a brown paper lunch sack and duct tape. The message accompanying the gift was written in marker on the bag as opposed to on a card. To this day, I can’t recall what was inside, what the intended gift was. I’ll never forget the packaging, though. It was all him. Utilitarian. Impromptu. Rough around the edges, yet tender and sweet. It melted my heart.
- He seemed to be crazy about me. When someone likes you a lot that person also becomes more attractive in your mind.
- I felt I could show him the real me. (This refers mostly to farting.)
- Other things that I’ll never divulge, even under penalty of torture and death. Sorry, Son. Some things are meant to be shared only between two people.
Beyond that, it’s a mystery. Like I said, love is complicated–so complicated that you’ll have to learn a lot of lessons on your own, many of them the hard way. I feel confident in giving you the following advice, though:
- Date around. It serves several important purposes. First, it’s a chance to learn what you want in a woman and a relationship. Second, it teaches you how to treat someone you care about. (One day, you’ll do something stupid and lose a girl you really care about. It will make an impression on you, hopefully one that is strong enough that you won’t make the same mistake twice.) I have to add one plea to my advice on dating: in playing the field, please don’t play with people’s hearts or use them. Be a good guy. Remember last month’s letter? Treat people the way you want to be treated.
- Don’t be so afraid to get hurt that you miss the good stuff. In order to grow into the man you can be and find the woman you’ll love forever, you’re going to have to be vulnerable.
- Love is about giving. If two people focus on giving as much as possible, then both people should, in theory, have most of their needs met most of the time. Of course, this presumes that you’ve communicated what you need and want in a relationship. You won’t get what you want if you don’t ask for it, so communicate openly and honestly. (You’re already a big talker. This shouldn’t be a problem for you.)
- Marry a girl who wholeheartedly supports you pursuing your passions in life. In turn, make sure you’re prepared to wholeheartedly support her in the same way. In a perfect world, your idea of what it means to be alive would be so similar that some passions would overlap, enabling you to create amazing memories together. Life is too long and too short to spend it otherwise.
In addition to these words of wisdom, I hope your daddy and I continue to teach you about love through the way we treat each other. And if you need additional inspiration, next week I will share with you the love story of your great-grandfather Finley and your great-grandmother Noelle. In fact, be prepared to hear from me through a series of Life Lesson Letters on love this month. There’s simply too much ground to cover in one letter, and I want to make sure you know that love is about more than balloons and cards and chocolate.