Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentines Schmalentines

Last year for Valentine’s Day, we vowed not to spend a bunch of money, instead deciding to get creative with each other’s gifts. Taking the creative part of it a little bit too literally, I had the great idea to paint Mike a picture. I asked my artist/graphic designer friends at work for their advice on what medium I should choose and then went to the craft store to purchase my booty. Working in acrylics on canvas, my goal was to create an inspired abstract of Mike’s beautiful red hair. Like my height, Mike's red hair is his defining physical feature, and because it is such a part of who he is, I wanted to capture it through the magic of art.

In my mind, the painting was going to turn out beautifully. I pictured swirls of copper and bronze emulating his curls and blending perfectly on the page. It would be a work of art that we would treasure for years to come and hang on the wall in our house, proudly displaying my talents for everyone to see. I neglected to think ahead though, and if I had I would have realized that I have absolutely no idea in hell how to paint. It is way, way harder than it looks. I guess I thought that I could Bob-Ross it and come up with a very presentable, although not necessarily completely amazing piece of artwork in approximately thirty minutes. Not even close. What I created was a mess.

In my defense, after mixing several different times, I got the color almost exactly right. And to defend myself again, it did sort of look like his hair. It just didn’t accomplish the effect that I thought it would, which was to actually resemble art. I guess you have to be an actual artist to make that happen.

Mike, on the other hand, did not give me a messy attempt at art as a Valentine’s gift. Instead, he had cleverly asked my friend from work to sneak him into the office the night before Valentines Day. He left a little scavenger hunt in the various crevices of my desk; hiding a bunch of tiny little gifts, each with a sweet note, all tucked in and around my workspace. All day long I was surprised by a new lip gloss, or candy, or scented lotion each time I opened a drawer or moved a file. I had such an amazing day constantly finding these little surprises, and then I had to go home and give him my crappy canvas.

I was almost too embarrassed to even give the painting to Mike, but it was Valentine’s Day, and since I had put my artwork off until the last minute, I had nothing else to give. So I stared at my feet while handing it over. I presented him with my ugly orange painting and a card as a sign of my unending love. I felt like an idiot.

Of course, Mike is too nice of a guy to let me know that I had bombed on the gift. He was so sweet about the picture, staring at it and mentioning how I had captured the undertones just right, and that the size was perfect. Then, he looked up from the picture and our eyes met. We both cracked up. We laughed for several minutes, then I showed him the orange paint that I had gotten on the wall as a result of using my dresser as an easel. It wouldn’t come off. We laughed our asses off over that, too. As per usual, my gift came in the form of unintentional comedy, something I excel at.

As of right now, my famous Valentine’s Day Massacre painting is sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall in the basement. We can’t throw it away; I mean, it could be worth some serious cash some day if I get famous, or if that type of “art” ever comes into style. However, as it stands right now, we sure as hell aren’t hanging it up anywhere.

While we both had a good time with those gifts last year, I think we’ve realized that neither of us are really the Valentine’s Day type. I am a total romantic, and so it always seems like cheating to me to take every ounce of spontaneity out of a gift by giving it on a designated day. Mike does pretty well for himself, too, remembering spontaneous flowers on occasion and presenting me with surprise gifts fairly frequently, so I definitely don’t need to force him into it once a year

I got him a wallet this year. A really cool one from my favorite store ever, The New York Public Library Gift Shop (if you haven’t been, go to right now!). I gave it to him last week so that he wouldn't have to keep carrying his driver's license and credit cards around wrapped in a rubber band. When I handed it to him, I said "Oh yeah, this is kinda for Valentine's Day, too" I’m pretty sure he was totally swept off of his feet by that one.

Yesterday, my old personal trainer from my gym called me. He had helped me rehab my knee last year, and had worked out with Mike a couple of times as well. He wanted us to come in for a free measurement and to let him give us his sales pitch on the new couples training they are doing at 24Hour Fitness. He gave me his open appointments, and I said we could make it Thursday at 8.

“Hey, Cara”, he said, “Thursday is Valentine’s Day, are you sure you guys want to come in that night?”

I thought about it. We didn't have any plans for Thursday, so I said " Oh sure. That's fine"

We are so unromantic.

I always swore that when I settled down with someone, it would be a man who swept me off my feet on a daily basis. Someone who made me swoon with lyrical poetry, a man who would shower me with gifts and compliments and put me on a pedestal. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. Then I met Mike. He had only a brother growing up, and then went to an engineering college where girls were extremely few and far between. While he has always been sweet, he took on a fairly large romantic learning curve when it came to me. I had to explain a lot about how to romance a girl to him, but I was surprised when my having to explain didn’t really take the thrill out of it for me. I still have to beg him to not throw his boxers on the bathroom floor every single morning, and to please at least pretend to acknowledge that I am speaking when there is a soccer game on. Oh, and there has definitely never been any lyrical poetry that I can recall unless you count when he makes up raps in the shower and shouts them out to me while I am curling my hair. He is not a born romantic, but it never felt like settling. In fact, just picturing him reading actual poetry to me kind of makes me cringe a little. It just wouldn’t work with us.

I think I misjudged the whole romantic thing just a little too much as a younger person. Now, in the thick of life, that stuff just seems so unrealistic and kind of stupid. I am more swept off of my feet when we stand at the top of a mountain, staring down at what we have just accomplished together than I could ever be standing alone on a figurative pedestal. I think we pretty much have it figured out.

So, tomorrow night, Mike and I are going to go on our very unromantic Valentine’s Day date to the gym. We will wear ugly clothes, and we won’t smell nice at the end, but I guarantee that we will have a blast. Then we will come home and probably snuggle up and watch a little soccer before bed. Maybe, if we get around to it, we will finally hang up my ugly painting.


Mel said...

I am cracking up here! Thanks for sharing this story... I will think about you while I'm enjoying my "solo" workout tomorrow:)

katieo said...

Ok, so realize, you being a real writer you don't want to show us all a photo of your painting. Because it would undoubtedly shatter the hilarious image we all have in our heads of your artwork. But I have to say, I read through that post HOPING there was a picture at the bottom of the painting...or at least of the orange on the wall.

I do love valentines day though. If for no other reason that it forces us to go on a date. Romantic? Our standards have somewhat declined over the years. But I think that's a good thing. Little things go a lot further than the big stuff. Have fun at the gym! :)

Sarah said...

Awesome post! The story of the painting made me crack up!!

Cara said...

There's your picture, KatieO!! It is just as ugly as I described :) Thanks Mel and Sarah!

katieo said...

Oh Thank you! I didn't actually think you'd do it but I started laughing as soon as I loaded the page!

ThickChick said...

I think your Valentine's Day sounds perfectly romantic... The Cub and I have a similar dynamic, I believe....

But maybe one day, like KatieO, Valentine's Day will provide the perfect excuse to get a sitter and go on a date...

Merry said...

That's sounds pretty romantic to me :)

Seriously! Nothing forced or commercial about it. Fun and funny.

Crabby McSlacker said...

I think that's an awesome way to spend Valentines day!

And, well, I actually think the picture is kinda cool.

You two have the valentine's thing down really well, I'd say.

That girl from Shallotte said...

You could stack up all the "happy little trees" in the world, but they could never, ever live up to a true-life, happy little story like this. Beautiful!

Lena said...

Just catching up on my emails and realized I had not checked out your blog yet...I love it! Now, how about that lighthouse class?

Cara said...

Thanks ThickChick and Merrry and Crabby! We definitely fit together although I do totally understand the need for a date after we have kids...right now we take that for granted. Crabby, I forgot to mention...that painting is now for sale. Make an offer :)

Leigh Ann- so sweet as always. Happy little trees for everyone!!

YAY Lena! I am so glad you started a blog...I know it will be hilarious because that is just the kind of girl you are. I call dibs on writing about Girls' Ski Trip :)