Valentine's Day Sob Stories

Nothing Says Love Like a Cactus -- And Other Valentine's Day Sob Stories

Sunday, February 11, 2007; M01
Washington Post

Dear Reader,

Remember that time you took us for a ride on the Metro and read us cover to cover, smiling and learning all the way? That was really fun. You brought us home, and just when we thought we'd wind up on your coffee table, you lined your hamster cage with us -- hardly how we envisioned a romantic evening.

It hurt -- but we knew we weren't the only ones smarting from love gone wrong. So we asked other readers to share their Valentine's Day tales of woe. The resulting stories range from humorous to humiliating, loathsome to lovely. Read on, and try not to weep.

A Thorny Subject

My worst Valentine's Day: I was 30 and in bed with the flu. My boyfriend came over to see how I was doing and brought me my present. It was a cactus. You don't need to hit me in the head with a shovel twice; I understood completely. He was sent packing right then and there, and I made him take his cactus with him.

-- Roberta A. Walker, Springfield

Model Roommate? Sadly, Yes

My first year of law school, I shared an apartment with a woman who had been a model in New York City. Leggy, tall, shapely, thin, blond, blue eyes. Valentine's Day came. She received cards, candy, telegrams, flowers, jewelry and a line of suitors at the door.

All I received was a bill from MasterCard.

-- Melissa Marshall, Arlington

Tonight's Top Story: You're All Alone

In my first year as a college professor in a small town, a young TV news reporter wanted to interview me for a story on how single people cope with Valentine's Day, ostensibly because I was teaching a course on sociology of family. Quickly, however, her questions veered from the academic to the personal, and through the magic of editing, I was transformed into the local poster child for pathetic single people.

Not just in the lead story on the 6 and 10 o'clock news, but also in prime-time trailers: "What do single people do on Valentine's Day?"-- over footage of me.

Incidentally, that is also when I learned that my students watch TV.

-- Sue Monahan , Bozeman, Mont.

But Where's the Ring?

It was Valentine's Day 1986. We had reservations for our favorite table at Chez Andrée in Alexandria. I had popped the question a few weeks earlier in front of the fireplace while sharing a bottle of Dom Perignon. She said yes but let me off the hook by stating that my proposal didn't count until I got her an engagement ring the size of a Volkswagen.

Due to some unforeseen circumstances (work priorities and snow), I didn't get to pick up the ring before Valentine's dinner. I could see the disappointment in her eyes; I felt terrible.

The next morning on the way to get the ring, the car's distributor went kaput. My future brother-in-law answered my distress call. We got the ring and stopped for a beer afterward. He persuaded me to call his sister and get her to join us so I could give her the ring right away.

Not romantic enough? She got her ring while we were sitting on the same stools we sat on when we met four years earlier.

-- Steven Reynolds , Alexandria

Everything's Coming Up . . .

My most memorable and most embarrassing Valentine's Day had to be in 1997. My new girlfriend and I had a nice, quiet evening, although I had been feeling a little ill during the day. I spent the night at her place. My hopes and wishes for staying up all night came true -- but not the way I had imagined. I spent most of the night in her bathroom. I had to call out to her for help as I was stuck on the toilet while heaving violently into her trash can, which I held in a death grip between my knees.

Embarrassed and humiliated, I expected to get dumped. Instead we got married 10 months later and now have three children. Unfortunately, whenever the kids have the stomach flu, I have cleanup duty. Paybacks are hell. -- Scott Fennell , Fredericksburg

Sparks Fly, but Not the Good Kind

I was hopelessly in love with a guy in Los Angeles, so I offered to cook Valentine's dinner for his best friend, who lived in D.C. The only problem was that the ancient gas oven needed to have its pilot light ignited before every use. I put the homemade pie in the oven. Nothing happened. A few minutes later, I remembered the pilot light and struck a match. The blast ignited my eyelashes, my eyebrows and the front two inches of my hair. Luckily, I only suffered first-degree burns on my face. And I had the hippest haircut in town for months.

P.S.: I married a nicer guy and am living happily ever after with an electric oven.

-- Kitty Felde, Los Angeles

Not All Chocolate Is Created Equal

I spent several weeks planning our dessert -- a decadent heart-shaped raspberry-chocolate torte. I purchased the freshest ingredients, meticulously followed the recipe, baked the torte to perfection and masterfully decorated it.

He spent several minutes buying a couple of chocolate bars (and not the specially decorated Valentine's Day kind) at the drugstore.

'Nuff said.

-- Tina Won Sherman, Silver Spring

A Calculated Insult

My worst Valentine's Day ever occurred in the fifth grade. I had a crush on a classmate, but she abandoned me for a boy in her neighborhood named Charlie. Overcome by jealousy, I plotted revenge. In our class's valentine exchange, I gave her a card with a note: "Go to 7734 upside down!" She was shocked and hurt, as her girlfriends let me know in no uncertain terms. It took me weeks to live down the incident.

-- Steve Clapp, Reston

Remembering Mom

Eight years ago, my mother unexpectedly died. After the funeral, Dad and I purged her closets, but as he tossed, I rescued items I wanted to keep. One treasure was a Florida alligator purse popular in the '40s. Stuffed in a pocket was a handkerchief; embroidered on one corner was a red heart with "MBW," my mother's initials. Then I remembered that the day was Feb. 14, so I used that little piece of linen to wipe away my tears. But Dad never noticed. He had moved on to tossing out the rest of the contents -- dresses, shoes, belts and hats. For him, there would never be another Valentine's Day.

-- Kathy A. Megyeri, Washington

Coming Full Circle

We met online, and as soon as we started dating he took his ad down. "You're the only one I want to see," he said. At Christmas, there were lovely gifts and a romantic card. By Valentine's Day, he seemed less enchanted, a little distant. I got him a card, a book and a nice bottle of wine. When I realized all he had for me was a card, I gave him the card and book but left the wine in the fridge.

"Would you like to go out to dinner tonight?" he asked. I agreed, and then as we wandered around Old Town Alexandria looking for a place to eat, I realized he hadn't even made a reservation. We finally managed to get seated in the restaurant where we'd had our first date months before, when we'd closed the place down talking and laughing. That evening there was little talk and not much laughter, although I did end up with a red rose -- because the restaurant was giving them away. After dinner I told him not to call me anymore.

The next day, his ad was back up.

-- Kathy Stoner, Alexandria

Thanks, but No Thanks

Sadly enough, until this year I've never been the girl with a boyfriend on Valentine's Day. As a senior in high school years ago, three girlfriends and I decided to go out for dinner to relax and ignore couples gorging on chocolate bonbons.

Halfway through our meal, a middle-aged woman with Coke-bottle glasses approached the table and said to me: "I know you from somewhere. . . . " As a naive teenager, I suggested the ways we might have met: at church, through my parents. Maybe she was the mother of one of my sister's friends?

Finally, the woman cried: "I know! You're a bartender at that women's bar in Georgetown."

It was then I realized: I might not have a boyfriend, but at least someone thought I was pretty.

-- Lauren Phillips-Thoryn , Wheaton

A Snub That Still Stings

When I was about 20 years old, my boyfriend and I were students at the University of Maryland. He'd cheated on me over the summer and winter breaks with a woman at Brandeis but swore their fling was over.

Well, on Valentine's Day, the U-Md. newspaper, the Diamondback, published a "love notes" section and I was hoping, wishing -- maybe even praying -- that he had written a sweet nothing to me. I pored over it: No note to me, but an unmistakable one to her.

He admitted it when confronted. Apparently he got a newspaper that morning and FedExed it to her. She also got flowers and candy -- nothing for me, though. Only later did I ask myself why he didn't publish it in her school newspaper. Extra knife in my back?

Almost 20 years later, I'm in a great marriage with someone who would love to shower me with gifts. But I draw the line on Valentine's Day. I've told myself that my aversion is out of "solidarity with the lovelorn," that I'm just too cool for some Hallmark holiday. But maybe now it's time to have that Valentine's Day I wanted back when I was 20.

-- Eileen Zagone, Silver Spring

Jerks Say the Darndest Things

I used to argue with my boyfriend about never giving gifts for any occasion, and he promised me he would change. So, it was Valentine's Day, and he came by. We talked for a while, and I did not see any gifts coming, but I kept it cool, telling myself that maybe he had a small gift in his pocket. Then, when I could not take it anymore, I gave him his gift and waited for mine. As usual: nothing!

The argument started again, and after some crying and talking about breaking up -- surprise! -- he told me he was dying of cancer and that he needed my help to cope with it. I felt so bad and guilty. He talked about his illness all night long, and we both cried over and over, and I was telling him, "Sweetheart, don't worry about the gifts -- that's nothing. I love you and will be there for you anytime."

That was years ago. That fool is still alive, with no illness.

-- Cynthia Bleu-Laine, Silver Spring

The Best and Worst Gift

February 1977 found my younger sister, Lori, a sophomore at Virginia Tech, nursing a broken heart. Several boohoo phone calls from her later, I wondered how I could lift her spirits. My solution was to mail her a "diamond" ring. I purchased a 1-carat solitaire cubic zirconium ring for 99 cents.

So Lori would not recognize my handwriting, I had a male co-worker write this note:

Dear Lori: I have admired you from afar, but I'm too shy to approach you. This ring is my happy Valentine's Day gift to you; perhaps we will be together in the future.

Lori telephoned me at work to excitedly announce the receipt of this gift. Who could this mystery man be? Then she admitted that she had already taken the ring to a jeweler to have it appraised. The assessment: The ring was not real but worth $100! I wanted to scream, " Sell!"

How could I tell Lori the truth?

Thirty years later, I realize I gave Lori the ultimate valentine gift: hope, anticipation, the lure of a secret admirer and the pain of (the mystery man's) unrequited love. In 1997, I told her the ring was from me -- she remains in shock . . . the fantasy ruined.

-- Linda Laubach Mandis , Alexandria

Hot and Bothered

It had the makings of a truly great Valentine's Day. Married for only about six weeks, I made reservations at the swankiest restaurant I could afford, a nice Cajun-themed bistro. We ordered wine and appetizers, all the while gazing into each other's eyes.

Ignoring the "three pepper" warning next to the barbecued shrimp, I boastfully announced that I could handle any level of spiciness. It arrived -- 12 jumbo shrimp atop a bed of rice. I casually took a bite, and within seconds an inferno was ablaze in my mouth. Lunging for the water, I downed two glasses, making quite a spectacle of myself. My new bride was mortified and requested that I choose another entree. My male ego bruised, I continued on.

After about three pitchers of water and six or seven shrimp, I admitted defeat. My wife, however, was fed up with my antics and demanded we leave. Needless to say, her amorous feelings had gone up in flames along with my upper (and lower!) GI tract.

-- John H. Wilson, Silver Spring

Pulling Out None of the Stops

I was born on Valentine's Day, and most men simply crack under the pressure. But at least those men try.

I started my 21st Vday-Bday by putting together a basket of thoughtful goodies for my boyfriend, excited to see what he had planned for me. I got my answer that evening. Having failed to make any dinner reservations despite my warnings, he finally found a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall on the outskirts of town, where he splurged on a single entree for us to split. (Unlike me, he wasn't a poor student. He was just cheap. Read on.)

For dessert, he took me to the local Ben & Jerry's, where he bartered for a pint of ice cream in exchange for a pizza from his night job. Finally, back at my place and eating my romantic dessert out of the carton, he presented me with my gifts: a bag of Jordan almonds and a pineapple. Later that night, my friend consoled me by telling me about her special gift: a used Tweety Bird doll from the thrift store.

-- Nancy Golden, Takoma Park

Gutless and Heartless

We had been dating for nearly a year when he started seeing another woman. His timing for breaking up was impeccable: Valentine's Day (1971) and five days before my birthday. Not only was I hurt, I was angry -- angry that he didn't have the guts to be honest with me.

To soothe my feelings, I created a personalized valentine: I drew a likeness of him lying on the ground. An elfin man stood next to him, aiming a shovel at his chest and commenting, "I know there's supposed to be a heart in here somewhere . . ."

My only regret was not seeing his expression when he opened this special valentine!

-- Marilyn Greenwood, Rockville

Worst Pickup Line Ever

Several years ago I told my wife that I would provide a Valentine's dinner at home. I had noticed an ad from a gourmet grocer for take-home Valentine's meals, precooked and ready to warm up and eat. I ordered the meals and was told that they had to be picked up no later than 7 p.m. on Valentine's night.

I left work in Tysons Corner at 6 p.m. to give myself plenty of time to get the dinners. To my horror (I should have known better), I immediately got stuck in traffic, and it soon became apparent that I would not make the deadline.

I called my wife and asked her to pick up our meals. When I finally arrived at home, she described her pleasure at waiting in line with a dozen or so other customers, all men, picking up dinners for their sweethearts. My intentions for the evening were good, but sometimes things just don't work out.

-- Mike Bradshaw, Alexandria