Waking Tuesday, upon seeing the trending topic, "Pancake Day," I froze in the face of unwanted responsibility, despite the unseasonable balminess of the air.
And then I remembered. I was not in England and therefore not required to make, find, buy, eat or otherwise focus on pancakes. But I lovingly recalled how, while I was in England, Pancake Day made my American heart dance with superiority, even as its whimsicality drew me in unreservedly.
Here was a day classic in its Englishness. While other cultures cut loose before Lent with nakedness, drunkenness and general painted debauchery, the English indulged, prior to lengthy deprivation, in pancakes (with lemon, to be sure). It's like when I first encountered the imagined glory that is Sunday Roast.
I saw, on a plate, some turkey, potatoes, carrots, peas.
"Is that the storied Sunday Roast Dinner?" I asked.
"Yes." came the answer "What would you call it?"
"Um ... dinner ... "
Honestly, I'm not mocking the elevation of the small to the wondrous. There's something, well, wondrous, about it; it's why there'll always be an England. But my terror on seeing that, though I wasn't even in the UK, the theoretical zeitgeist of the day was making a demand for which I was unprepared, shows the flaw in the whole holiday thing. It requires you to partake or be left out. And no holiday can leave you more thoroughly out, even as it rubs your face in its hegemony, than Valentine's Day. If you're not in love, you can't have it, yet it will happen all around you and make you feel unwanted and alone, like bad meat.
I'm not the first to note this, of course. But in my case, Cupid's celebration has not only italicized my lack of entanglement, it's actually caused my solitude. More than once, finding myself at the onramp to a relationship as the big day approached, I so wanted to be in love in time to gain the Saint's approval that I pushed too hard and scared off she who might otherwise e'en now be luxuriating in my arms. This is something I can't get out of just by being outside the UK.
See, St. Val's demands reach all twenty-six corners of the globe. Even in Virginia, being happily alone is not as simple turning one's back on pancakes.
And so, here it is, February 14th again. The clock has run out. The world is having another party to which I can't go.
But I just realized next Monday is President's Day.
I wonder how quick I can become president.