Archive | February, 2012

There are words other than “I love you” to say on Valentine’s Day

16 Feb

I realize that Valentine’s Day tends to be a pretty divisive day. You have those in one camp who are inhaling the scent of roses, gleefully nibbling on chocolates with zero regard for calories, and repeatedly applying lip balm in anticipation of their evening plans. In the other camp…well, hide the razorblades, The Notebook and the Coldplay/Bon Iver/Tori Amos mixes. While I’ve had Valentine’s Days that were shared with someone sweet and special, I can’t really say that I’ve ever fallen into either the hype or hate camps. Instead, I’ve preferred to celebrate Valentine’s Day the way elementary schoolers around the country do – with homemade cards. Yes, in the days leading up to February 14th, I bust out the stamp kit, construction paper and even a glittery pen. I firmly follow the rule that you must make one for everyone in the class (or office). I then proceed to distribute them to coworkers who are often baffled to receive such a Valentine from anyone over the age of 10. It’s cheesy and a little childish, but well, at this point, there’s no escaping who I am.

My handcrafted hearts.

But let’s be honest, I’m not even sure that people want to receive my construction paper crafted messages let alone read about other people receiving them. I promised Anne that I would recount a memorable Valentine’s Day, and I definitely have one. Not only do I remember it, I have a video of it.

On February 14th, 2002 I said the c word. On national television. Technically, it was HBO, which I guess qualifies as cable. And I guess I technically said it before and that’s when it aired. But still.

Let me back up a bit. As a sixteen-year-old living in rural Pennsylvania, I often looked to the New York Times Arts and Leisure section to feel somewhat in touch with culture. It was there that I first read about The Vagina Monologues. I don’t think the article actually said anything really about the play, but rather noted the controversy surrounding Rudy Giuliani’s estranged wife appearing in such a scandalous play. The article intrigued me enough that I patiently waited the ten minutes or so it took to sign on to AOL with our dial-up modem, and researched the play. I was hoping that I might find out about getting tickets and convince my sisters to take a trip into the city to see it. What I found instead was a call for women who would be willing to be interviewed for the upcoming HBO film production of the play.

I immediately completed the accompanying questionnaire. I wasn’t really thinking it through; I was more excited about the potential opportunity to meet Eve Ensler, the playwright and interviewer. I was surprised to receive an email the next day asking if I’d be available for a phone interview. After a half hour chat with the film’s producer, I bounded into our kitchen to tell my mom that she had to drive to me to New York the following week. (*I should probably disclose at this point that I had told her nothing about my potential participation.) When she asked why, I responded casually, “Because Eve Ensler is going to interview me for the HBO version of The Vagina Monologues.”

My mom was more than a little surprised, but it’s a testament to how awesome she is that two weeks later we were headed into the city.

The interview itself was somewhat underwhelming – more for Eve Ensler than for me. If you’ve ever read or seen the play, you know the kind of detailed sexual questions she asks. My limited sexual experience did not really compare to the stories already shared in the play. Eve was amazing, though. She made me feel comfortable and even interesting. During the interview, we started talking about the word vagina and all its slang incarnations being used as insults. Eve believed in reclaiming the words, so she asked me if I would say the c word with her. She then asked me to shout it proudly, which I did rather joyfully.

The entire interview lasted for about an hour. Eve and I hugged at the end. She smoothed my hair out of my face like a mom would. She told me that I was the youngest person to be involved in the production, which made me feel less lame about not really having anything particularly exciting to share. Of that sixty minutes of footage, I appear in the final version for about five seconds. You briefly see my face smiling at the camera in the opening credits. The real highlight of those five seconds, though, comes about halfway through when I open a montage of women shouting the c word.

When the production aired on Valentine’s Day, I remember my grandmother calling to say, “I just saw you say c*nt. You looked beautiful. Happy Valentine’s. I’m heading to bed. I love you.”

I always felt like that was the perfect response to both my first brush cable fame and Valentine’s Day in general. No shock. Nothing over the top. It’s just an occasion to tell the people in your life that you love them – and maybe devise a way for the elderly to casually say the c word.