But for Kottke, I would have never realized that my abiding dislike for Valentine's Day comes from having been a victim of love bombing. My ex was big on pomp and circumstance when it came to demonstrating his feelings even if the sincerity was suspect. There was embarrassing amounts of PDA, surprise flowers on the way back from work, liqueur filled chocolate, perfume - the works. I have even had love poetry read to me on the phone from work. And all this for no special reason or occasion. He was infatuated with the idea of being in love while being entirely incapable of loving anyone but himself.
Come Valentine's Day, I would be carpet bombed by the many tokens of affection with mood music playing for ambience. Another woman might have found in him the Prince Charming of her dreams come to life and I found it suffocating. It felt a lot like drowning in a tub of Jaipur mixed with high fructose corn syrup.
Back in the day, I used to wonder if there was something inherently flawed about me - maybe I missed the essential romantic gene that most normal people have. R for his part would be astounded that I chose to discuss the growing pile of trash in the kitchen that made the whole house smell, the lack of fiscal discipline in our lives and his efforts at stalling parenthood even as Louis Armstrong played against a background of candles and a dozen red roses. I was supposed to let go and enjoy the moment.
Years later, I have thought about the comparative merits of our priorities in marriage. Whereas, R loved playing house and being in romantic love , what I sought was a real home and love that was earthly and tangible. For me the yellow tulips were a reminder of the long argument that started as soon as he walked in the door with them and asked me "Did you call home today ?" meaning "Did you do your duty by me and my family by spending at least half an hour talking to my mother in India ?" Needless to say, the expectation was I would share every last detail of our life with her and have her provide commentary all at only 30 cents a minute.
It made me wonder if the flowers were a bribe for me to do his bidding. It also stood for the comfort objects he wanted me to have in lieu of opening his heart and soul to me. When something is fundamentally flawed in a relationship, the trappings of love and affection cannot compensate for that which is missing. Instead it serves as a cruel, hurting reminder of the emptiness that nothing material can fill. Thanks to R, I still feel nauseous around Valentine's Day.