The one where we fight on Valentine’s Day


I often think about a line from an episode of “The Office.” It’s not Shakespeare or anything, but it hit home nonetheless. It’s one of the final episodes of the series when Jim and Pam are on the rocks. They’ve spent the entire season closing themselves off to each other, not speaking their minds, growing apart, and you’re watching this TV love story crumble with real pain in your chest. They start to argue about something and then Jim says he’s going to leave, because otherwise they’ll just go home and fight. And just when you think that apathy is going to consume them, Pam says, “No, I think we should go home and fight.” And they smile at each other and leave together, knowing that they’ll spend the evening arguing. But they’re relieved in knowing that. And so are you. Better that they fight and care than that they walk away.

Trent made dinner reservations for Valentine’s Day weeks in advance, exceeding my wildest expectations. We got a babysitter and he took me to Red Pump, a gorgeous little restaurant on the downtown mall in Charlottesville. We sat in a corner booth in the warm glow of candlelight and ate sea bass and duck confit as the brittle wind whipped snow flurries up and down the storefront window. I wore heels and red lipstick. Is the scene sufficiently set?

We argued all night. Truly. All night long we argued. And while there was a time of my life when something like that would have tainted the whole evening, now is not that time. I’ve learned that arguing, when done the right way, is an important part of healthy relationships and that romance doesn’t always play footsie under the table. I have learned that my wildest dreams are often boring in the flesh.

We argued on the drive home and kept on going as we crawled into bed. And we laughed because it’s just so “us” to spend Valentine’s Day challenging each others’ ideas about the world. We both kind of love “us”—at least we’ve grown to—and that feels like something to celebrate.

Listening to: Ray LaMontagne, “Be Here Now”


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