2019 has thrown me for a loop thus far, and all though I have had a handful of truly memorable, luscious dates, I have to admit I've been off my groove.
It's snowing as I write this. I'm looking though the large, naked windows of my new home - haven't hung drapes yet - and wishing I was cozied up in a blanket. I've not been Natalie as much as I'd like this year, and although I can't cry foul as life has had its rough and rugged way with me (as it does with us all) there is a large, womanly part of me pining for something soft, delicious, decidedly Proustian.
It's the month of romance and yet I harbor the greatest of secrets: I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day.
That isn't to say that I don't love romance, and god knows how I adore my chocolates and flowers. I suppose what I'm saying is I feel romance is best served spontaneously. Valentine's Day smacks of obligation - and if there's anything I hate it's being forced to do something.
Many times, in my civie life, I've spent time with men who hate the Hallmark-esque V-day. They always seemed to fall back on the idea, much like myself, that true romance should be inspired and not forced. What is the value of a dozen long-stemmed red roses for your lover on February 14th, if you don't send a similar token for no reason at all in September?
And while I agree that so many of our romantic traditions have been co-opted by commercialism, can I ask those civilian gentlemen of my past - Did you surprise her with a dozen long-stemmed red roses in September for no reason at all?
This is one reason I enjoy the company of men of the demimonde over civilians - they seem to place a higher value on classical romance while maintaining that rakish sense of adventure.
It's two days 'til Valentine's Day, and I haven't made plans yet. My dance card, however, doesn't feel empty. I look at the little love-gifts my life and lovers have presented me with these last few weeks: my new home, a rare spring-like day in February - perfect for moving in, a winter storm on a much needed rest day - providing me the perfect excuse to stay in and bang out my thoughts on a keyboard, my dog curled at my right hip, Goodfellas for movie night, a good bottle of red I'd been saving, the first fire in the fireplace, rediscovering Puccini (again), a corset from a woman I very much adore, all fine bones and sheer lace - "Save this for me, for next time..."
There's no lack of romance here.
And while am just as likely to spend the 14th watching Casablanca from the crumpled nest that is my bed - solo - as I am entwined in a sweaty, moaning tangle with a lover, I can't say that I feel any sense of regret. I do long for Proust's madeleine, as we all do, I suppose - to be swept up in a heady, if gauzy, memory and reminded of bliss that was. Or that could have been.
Let me suggest curiosity instead. Curious about the bliss that might be on the horizon. Curious about the bliss that is.
That's the stuff of real romance. Not choreographed, stilted gestures on a designated day. Please, please lovers - especially you gentlemen - take the 14th to observe your sweethearts - give her flowers, the chocolates, the gentle kiss, the smoothest jazz.
As for me? Save me the wild you, the improper you - the you that will recline nude with me in front of my fire as I explain to you my passions from great opera to great film to the perfect steak. Bring me roses, yes, but let's free them from their vase - petals on my floor, Piazzolla winding from my speakers as we attempt a tango. Let's crumple in laughter, breathless.
At the end of the night when we end up in my tangled nest of linens - à deux - we'll know that we are real.
And we won't need a calendar to tell us that.