I was not looking forward to Valentine’s Day this year. I haven’t spent the holiday alone since 2013, and that was the ultimate treat-myself day. For the last five years, I was part of a couple on the Most Important Day for Lovers. We didn’t always celebrate it in the most romantic way, but we were together and that meant something. So, alone for the first time in a long time, I tried to make plans.
The first plan was to be nice to myself during the day, go to class, and then grab dinner, open a bottle of wine, and watch the newest episode of Into the Dark. Of course, my anxiety kicked in and I was like, “What kind of dinner should I get? Should I get fast food, or cook, or eat out? Will it be weird if I eat out by myself on Valentine’s Day?” But, after hanging out with the beautiful M, I was invited out to a Galentine’s dinner on Wednesday night and we made plans to spend Valentine’s together since her boyfriend was working. Suddenly, I went from lonely cat lady to fancy socialite.
On Wednesday, I dressed up, did my make-up, and straightened my hair. Then, listening to The Millionaires, I went and picked up M for Galentine’s shenanigans. We pulled up to The Western Village and hurried into the warm building. After putting in our name, we met another member of our party and made introductions, and that’s where the awkwardness began.
You see, I may have forgotten to mention that The Captain had told me about his frequent Wednesday night visits to The Western Village. I was optimistic that our chances of running into him were less than our chances of not running into him. I was wrong. There we were, chatting up our new friend, when he cruised around the corner, wrapped me in a quick hug, said hello, and went back off with a promise to return. M was surprised. Our new friend was confused.
“That was my ex,” I said. “We broke up two months ago.”
Her lips made a small-O. She asked how long we were together.
“Like five and a half years.”
Her eyes grew wide.
“We were actually engaged.”
Genuine shock crossed her face.
“But we’re just friends now. Really.”
When our other friends arrived the news was quickly dispersed that The Captain and his family were also in the restaurant. They apologized, as if they had known what was going to happen, and seemed more weirded out by the whole thing than I was. I just thought it was hilarious. Especially when we were seated right next to them in the restaurant.
Like, of all the things, my life decided to revert back to rom-com mode during the worst week of the year for me to be reminded of my ex, what we had, and how alone I am now. But, luckily, we’re not like that and I’m not missing him that much. So while I’m sure it was plenty awkward for my friends, I did a pretty decent job of shutting him out and enjoying the night with my friends.
We ordered margaritas—which were delicious—and food. We shared an appetizer plate, and I loved the fried avocado. My shrimp fettucine was absolutely delicious, and extremely saucy. (Bonus: I didn’t finish it so I had lunch for the next day). There was plenty of gossip, conversation, and the traditional Galentine’s relationship check-ins. After dinner, M and I walked through Target where I bought a new lipstick. I dropped her off with promises of a fabulous Valentine’s the next day.
And, almost surprisingly, the day of was even better. Sure, I had to do some homework before class but I got all gussied up, enjoyed some chocolates during the discussion courtesy of the snack-bringer-of-the-week, and then picked up my date for the evening. We arrived at Brasserie St. James and received two roses thanks to our reservation. The place had subtle decorations out. Most of the couples were hetero, but M and I are the strongest of lady friends, fake-married in the hell depths of Savers, and we don’t really care what people think anyway.
We both ordered Pimm’s Cups, which we weren’t fans of at first but they became more delicious with every sip. For the appetizer, we ordered the pretzels, and the mustard was the perfect mix of spicy and sweet. M ordered the Mushroom and Asparagus Pappardelle, which she said was delicious. I had the Nashville Spicy Chicken, which came with grits and kale; it was the perfect amount of spicy. For dessert, we each had slices of cheesecake with some kind of bourbon sauce and it was so good.
Of course, the only reason I was able to afford this delicious night out with my best friend is because I cashed out the gift cards I’d been holding onto since college graduation. For some reason, I’d never used them before. But I really should eat out at places outside my usual more often.
After I dropped M off, I came back home, poured myself a glass of wine, and watched Bull Durham to close out the holiday. In many ways, my Galentine’s and Valentine’s weren’t what I expected, but they were nice all the same. I felt beautiful. I felt loved by my friends. And I didn’t feel so alone.
Plus now I have a great awkward story to tell people.