(Reprinted from February 11, 2019)
I used to dread Valentine’s Day, the holiday of the loved and desired. My friend Hannah would dress confidently in her fuzzy red sweater, brown curls bobbing around her oval face and perky figure. She smiled with anticipation. There would be a pink card and teddy bear from her boyfriend. She would get a cookie from her co-worker who eyed her longingly, and a late-night breathy phone call from her ex. Hannah’s only concern was what to wear for the day.
As a burn survivor, men were not falling over themselves to declare their devotion to me. I might have worn the cutest red sweater, and the tightest of jeans, but Valentine’s Day crushed me. Whatever men I admired usually were oblivious to my affections. I never had a boyfriend. My best hope would be that my parents might remember to send me some candy. That happened, once.
Valentine’s Day was the loneliest, most depressing day of the year. Now, decades later, I am happily married, and the day is just a sweet holiday. But I remember all those years of feeling unloved and unwanted. And it wasn’t just me, feeling so alienated on a day that’s supposed to be about love. I don’t think February 14th is a picnic for the recently divorced, the widowed, the unhappily coupled, for closeted gay people; I could go on and on.
Suppose this is you. Are you single? Are you always single, painfully so? Are you the one without a date to your best friend’s wedding, and no valentine in sight? I hear you, darling. I see you. I have been there. I have cried my eyes out on Valentines Day, many times. But please hear me now.
You don’t have to be perfect to find love. You don’t have to be a certain size or shape. You don’t have to be physically beautiful. You don’t have to be able-bodied or unscarred. You don’t have to be a college graduate or have a great job. Love can come for all of us, at any time. Try to be patient and hopeful. Believe me, if a 65% severely burned woman can find love, you can too. It only takes one person to come along. It only takes one person to see you. Love may not be here yet, but that doesn’t mean love won’t come.
In the meantime, work on caring for yourself. You are the only person that will be with you, by your side, for every day of your life, so be a kind companion. Fill your mind with caring thoughts. Spend time with loving friends and family. Smile in the mirror and hold your head high. You are the only you, and you are a marvel of the universe.
And Happy Valentine’s Day.
Lise Deguire's multiple award-winning memoir, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Newtown Book Shop and The Commonplace Reader.