Western holidays are HUGE in China. Christmas decorations often span an entire block in Xintiandi, with Santa Claus so big it’s like God looking down from heaven.
Valentine’s Day is no exception.
Everywhere you go, you’re bombarded with gargantuan hearts and an offensive amount of teddy bears. Restaurants are quick to jump the bandwagon with Valentine’s Day deals that says “Show her how much you love her with the ¥3000 dinner package! It ain’t love unless it’s got a view of the Bund.”
“Hey! My sister is going there this saturday!” Johan pointed at the poster as we passed by Mr. & Mrs. Bund.
“For the first date?” I knew about the new love interest. His sister had asked me to do her hair for the date. “On Valentine’s Day too?” I gasped.
“This guys is whipping out all the good moves all at once…” He said disapprovingly.
“Maybe he just really likes her.” I defended the poor schmuck.
“Yeah, but what’s he gonna do for their second date? Their anniversary? How is he gonna top that?” He said calculatingly.
“But if you don’t get the good stuff at the beginning, then you’ll never get it!” I commented knowledgably. “Everybody knows that a guy try the hardest when he’s trying to get the girl…”
“I don’t believe in that…” He squinted his eyes the way he does whenever he disagrees, “I think a relationship should go on a steady incline rather than reach a peak at the beginning.”
“Is that your way of telling me that you don’t do Valentine’s Day?” I said half-jokingly.
“I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day.” He answered flatly. “People should do nice things for each other because they want to, not because of some arbitrary date.”
“But in the hustle and bustle of daily life, people forget to do nice things for their loved ones.” I made a case for Valentine’s Day. Not that I really care or anything…
“It’s lose-lose situation for a guy.” He was not swayed. “You don’t do anything, you’re in the doghouse. You do something, you will always be one-upped by some guy that makes everybody else look bad.”
I immediately thought of my friend Sage. She always has these beautiful pictures on Facebook of all the sweet things that her husband does for her. Flowers on Mondays, cupcakes just because, wine made by crushing the grapes with his very own foot. They should really come with the hashtag #doesyourmanloveyouthismuch
“Fine…I guess we don’t have to celebrate it.” I said crestfallen.
“Is this a trick? Am I gonna be in trouble later?” He stopped in his tracks and looked me in the eye.
“No.” I decided. “I can’t think of anything I wanna do anyways.”
“Exactly. We don’t need Hallmark telling us what to do.” He kissed me on the cheek.
“Hold up girl!” Is what you must be thinking, or yelling at the screen as you read this. “We’ve been through this! This is exactly like what happened on your birthday! Remember?”
Well, yes and no.
I care about personal events, such as birthdays, graduations, holding off on buying that purse until it became 75% off.
You know… accomplishments.
My family was never big on the likes of Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day. They were white man’s holidays. Not that we ever did anything for Asian holidays either.
Basically, we were just lazy.
And so the logic goes, if I don’t care to celebrate society mandated holidays for my own mother, then I shouldn’t expect anything in return for something as silly such as the day some corporate fat cats decided to put a fat baby in a diaper and equip him with a weapon, all in the name of love.
So I made peace with fact that on Feb 14, I would go to Johan’s, we’d get Sherpas and watch a bootlegged DVD. Probably 300 or 300: Rise of the Empire. Sigh…whatever happened to great American film heroes like Freddie Prince Jr. and classics such as She’s All That?
“Knock. Knock.” I spoke out loud seeing that the door was slightly ajar.
“Wait!” Johan yelled and slammed the door in my face.
“What the…” I jumped back in shock. What the hell was going on??? I tried to peek in through the peep hole.
After a few minutes, Johan opened the door slowly.
“What are you up to?” I eyed him suspiciously.
I walked in and immediately stopped in my tracks.
In place of his normally messy hallway/dinning room was a beautifully laid out table with candles and crystal glasses. That’s when I noticed that he was wearing his formal sweater vest. I felt underdressed.
“Welcome madam.” He said as he pulled out a chair for me. “May I start you off with some champagne?”
“Sure?” I was still a little shocked. “I thought…you didn’t do Valentine’s Day?”
“I had to say something to throw you off.” He winked as he poured the my favorite brand of sparkling wine.
“But I thought guys don’t care for this holiday!”
“I don’t care…But you do.” He handed me a champagne flute. “And I care about making you happy.”
“Aw…” I kissed him and we clinked glasses.
“Without further ado! Let’s get to tonight’s menu items!” He brought out an artfully arranged plate of rainbow colored veggies surrounding an island of seafood with brown rice.
“This here, is an Asian pear and cashew salad.” He drizzled a spoonful of dressing onto the greens. “Which we shall pair with an Asian sesame vinaigrette.”
“You made everything yourself?” I was in awe.
“Almost burned myself candy coating the cashews.” He said playfully.
He introduced rest of the meal like a professional waiter, and I played along gleefully.
“The hint of mustard compliments the crisp sweetness of the bell pepper and the shrimp is exceptionally succulent! I can almost taste the Mediterranean sea salt and feel the ocean breeze on my face! Pray tell good sir, where did you get your inspiration for such delectable dishes?” I smacked my lips and put on my worst British accent.
He whipped his head around dramatically to make sure no one is listening, and proceeded to whisper in a low voice, “The Food Network.”
The rest of the evening was perfect. The conversation was intoxicating, the laughter was as sparkling and the camera was flashing as I snapped pictures of each dish. Johan was hungry but waited patiently for me to finished Instagraming, #mybaeisbetterthanyours.
We were both slightly tipsy when Johan suddenly remembered “Wait! There’s still dessert!” He ran to the kitchen and brought out a plate of chocolate dipped strawberries.
I immediately reached for my cellphone cam.
“No! Don’t take pictures! These didn’t turn out as well as I wanted…” He poked at them discouragingly. “They look like poo…”
“Maybe a little bit…” I failed to stifle my laughter and almost fell out of the chair.
I plucked a strawberry from the plate and ate it.
“Looks like poo, but taste like heaven.” I put my arms around him and pecked him on the cheek. “Thank you babe.”