Courting Disaster is Jackalope Ranch's weekly column of dating horror stories, observations, how-tos, and more by Katie Johnson. Names of ex-boyfriends, past hookups, and bad blind dates have been changed to protect the guilty.
I've had few memorable Valentine's Days in my life. Probably because, much like the winter plants I buy outside Trader Joe's, I've had so few relationships survive to see mid-February.
If you ask me, this Hallmark holiday hasn't been good since the days of Scotch-taping Reese's peanut butter cups to construction paper and decorating shoeboxes as personalized Valentine carriers.
But there is one Valentine's Day in recent years that stands out from the rest. It started on February 13. But now that I'm looking back, it may have begun even earlier than that.
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A couple of years ago, I was getting a manicure done at some nondescript, cash-only nail salon. The nail tech, lacking both eyebrows and tact, asked me why I didn't have a boyfriend.
"You live alone?" she asked.
"And you don't get scared?"
"You should have a man with you."
"Why? So I can have one more thing standing between me and my fire exits?"
That brought the conversation to an end, and, honestly, I didn't think twice about it until a week later when I was carting my dirty laundry out to the garage.
I live in an old home. The kind with a floor plan so small that the only decent place to store a washer and dryer is inside the detached garage out back. Being a night owl, I tend to do a lot of my household chores at a time when most sane people are asleep.
It was almost midnight on February 13, and as I walked outside with my laundry, I noticed a large man standing in my garage. He was going through my clothes. In the brief moment of my figuring out what to do or say, he stopped, turned around, and looked right at me.
I panicked, ran back into the house, and called 911, but in the few minutes it took for the police to show up, he was gone. Possibly with a handful of my discarded underwear. Lovely.
I didn't sleep much that night. Instead, I spent the wee hours of Valentine's Day double-checking my windows and triple-checking my locks on the off chance that my intruder found his initial panty selection unsatisfactory and decided to return for more.
By the time morning rolled around, I was exhausted but couldn't fall back asleep, thanks to the nonstop ringing of my doorbell. First, there was the delivery of flowers from my Valentine's Day standby, my mother. Then, another bouquet, from a guy I had started seeing in California.
Before the third flower delivery could arrive -- this one from a guy I had ended things with a year ago but who refused to take no for an answer -- my dad showed up. With a gun.
"Here, this is for you."
"Come on," he said as he pulled it out of its holster. "Just try it out."
He held out the gun and began aiming it arbitrarily at my neighbor's house. He pointed out that after last night it was clear I needed some protection. And since I was apparently in no rush to either marry a man or come out of the closet (his words), I was going to need a weapon. Although the gun had been a Christmas gift from his boss, he thought, this particular handgun would be perfect for me.
"It's a pistol that shoots shotgun shells. So you don't even have to worry about aiming it that well. I thought it'd be good with your lazy eye and all."
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Just as he was holding the gun at eye level, another flower-delivery van pulled up to my house. The guy got out of the car, saw the gun aimed in his direction, and nearly dropped vase of flowers on the sidewalk.
I rushed to his aid, apologized for the psychopath in my driveway and sent my dad home with his gun. A few weeks later, my mom got me a German shepherd.
Sure, it's no gun (as my dad likes to add) and, yeah, it's no man either (as the nail tech would no doubt say), but between the bad breath, the hogging of the bed, and the added sense of security, it's pretty much the closest thing I have to a live-in boyfriend this Valentine's Day.