The XX Factor

Valentine’s Day Disasters

Valentine’s Day is a high-pressure holiday with great possibilities for joy … and disaster. In order to inject a bit of laughter into this potentially disappointing occasion, DoubleX contributors recollect the Valentine’s Day memories they’ve tried to repress.

Emily Bazelon : On my worst Valentine’s Day, my college boyfriend broke up with me. I deserved it but I didn’t see it that way. I staggered out of his apartment. It was cold-thank you, February-and my hands were shaking. I couldn’t unlock my bike, which was chained to a parking meter. I stood there, crying, and finally a man with a beard and a wool cap stopped and unlocked the bike for me. He was my Valentine’s Day hero. Except then, of course, I had to ride home.

Ellen Tarlin : When I was in grade school, we used to exchange store-bought valentines in class. I had only bought enough for the girls in my class because I wasn’t sure whether I should give any to the boys or not. I got the girls’ ones all enveloped and labeled, but then I thought I should give some to the boys. Not having any storebought ones left, I made some with crayons, coloring in giant red hearts, and it seemed to take forever. But then I thought the fact that they were personally made might be misinterpreted. I was in Maine with my family for the weekend and I tied a rock to the Valentines and hurled them into the sea!

Jessica Grose : I’m not a big V-Day person but was looking forward to going out to a nice dinner with my now-fiance the first February 14 th we were a couple. He was looking forward to it, too-until he got awful food poisoning the night before. He spent all of Valentine’s day yakking. That night I went over and took care of his pukey self-which actually turned out to be a perversely sweet way to spend the evening. Nothing says I love you more than fetching someone ginger ale and crackers when they’re laid low by bad chicken.

Lauren Bans : A few years ago, my boyfriend and I went to the candlelight dinner at White Castle. It was my first time consuming sliders, as I have an aversion to anything that one can gum instead of chew, and lo and behold I ended up getting really sick and ruining even the scant trace of tongue-in-cheek romance we had going. Come Valentine’s Day the next year, our picture (we dressed in formal wear as a joke) ended up front and center on the White Castle homepage, though by then we were broken up.

Amanda Marcotte : I went out to a somewhat swank club with my then-boyfriend for Valentine’s Day in my early 20s. Because I was wearing hose, I decided to skip the panties. Because I’d had a couple of drinks and didn’t have a lot of experience walking in heels, I should have realized the high probability of what in fact happened, which is that I took a dive while walking through the club and flashed a rather private part of my body to the crowd. Good thing my date found it more funny than mortifying.

Hanna Rosin : My mom recently sent me a package of stuff she’d saved from my elementary school days. In the package was a red envelope with a valentine inside from “Your Secret Admirer.” I opened it up, my heart beating. It said: “I really like your handwriting.”

Jessica Dweck : I’ve always been single on Valentine’s Day-perhaps that’s one big horror story in itself. But as a connoisseur of sweets, I can never bring myself to hate such a candy-centric holiday. Whatever animus I feel toward all those saccharine couples nuzzling in public disappears when I raid the shelves of discount chocolate at my local drugstore the next day.

Photograph of woman by Stockbyte/Getty Images.