How to do love letters for Valentine’s Day virgins

Graphic by Natalie Kulak ’21

Graphic by Natalie Kulak ’21

BY MIA PENNEKAMP ’20 

“I love last Valentine’s Day, our first. Purple orchids and high black boots. You gave me a letter and a memory and a bottle of maple syrup wrapped in paper, and it was the best present I had ever received,” begins the Valentine’s Day card I wrote this year. It continues with 12 more “I love…” until the last one: “I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day.” Signed: “Always, M.” 

I’ve never been one to write love letters. In high school, I would write scathing, raging, emo poetry. I’d write it in my dark purple-walled bedroom and email it to my mother. Subject line: “You care more about English muffin crumbs on the countertop than me!” I’d write it in my closet sitting cross-legged on the floor and send it to no one, shoving my light grey leather-bound journal deep onto the highest shelf and covering it with blue jeans. I’d write anti-love poems and essays about disconnect and loneliness. Then I met S, and I started writing love letters. 9/11/16 journal entry: “Met a guy last night, shit.” 

That year when Valentine’s Day came, he told me he’d pick me up at 7 p.m. We agreed we weren’t doing gifts. He showed up carrying a giant purple and white orchid anyway. At the end of the night, he read me the letter he’d written me in his low, assuring voice. I was a love letter virgin. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I felt like someone had reached deep inside of me, to a place I keep hidden at the back of the highest shelf. Like they had pulled out the 16-year-old girl sitting cross-legged in her closet and kissed her. All I had brought to offer in return was a stainless steel bottle opener on which I had written, “Screw me.” 

This year, I wrote a love letter. It was easy. You put pen to paper and out comes a flood of memories you didn’t realize you had. Did you know you know where the mole is on his back? The one you’ve run your fingers over a thousand times. How about the time you had the breakfast spread balancing on the palm of your hand? You stumbled on the mattress and it went flying, raining bacon grease, syrup and ketchup on white sheets. You would have cried, but he started laughing. Together you changed the sheets and made the bed.  Later, you thought about it. You thought about sickness and death and grief and tragedy... And how good it is to be around the kind of person who laughs and makes the bed. 

My advice on the big V-card, Valentine’s Day love letter virgins, is to put those pens to paper. To be true. To get out of your head, and out of that closet. 

Always, 

M

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