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Sun, Feb 10, 2019
The Wex has some special treats lined up for Valentine's Day. In addition to a 5 PM guided tour of the current exhibitions, a Wex hour with complimentary chocolates and a cash bar with champagne, and a screening of the festival hit Asako I & II, local treasure Kent Grosswiler will be stopping by the Store for a reading and signing of Beauty Found in Darkness, the illustrated haiku compilation on which he collaborated with friends and fellow artists Rob W. Jones and Alli MacGregor. For a preview, Kent wrote a thoughtful, funny, and brave essay exclusively for the Wex blog about his complicated history with the February 14 holiday.
I had no idea the can of worms that was about to be opened when I was given what I thought to be a simple and fun assignment: write some shit about Valentine’s Day. Oh I can do this, I thought, be obnoxious and lambaste a Hallmark holiday. I asked my supervisor about putting some venom in it and she responded, “I know what ride I bought the ticket for.” So I cracked my knuckles and began to write but my words repeatedly felt forced and fake. Being one to never shy away from peeling back my skin and cracking my ribs open to give everyone a peek, I decided to go another route. If I was one to balk at such endeavors, this book of mine which led to a Valentine’s Day talk wouldn’t even fucking exist. So here we are.
Back in grade school I loved Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t as snobby about my candy back then and would gobble down the sweets equivalent of tar heroin and fortified wine without batting an eye. I always kept my fingers crossed that maybe one of girls I had a crush on would leave some type of clue that she felt the same way on one of the little valentines my classmates deposited in my tinfoil-decorated shoebox. I wish I had some cute anecdotes to add but much of my childhood is pretty fuzzy, probably on account of being on the business end of a specific kind of ongoing abuse. I was on the business end of all the kinds but the “specific” kind factors in the most here.
Even after well over a decade of therapy, the baggage from this has made it difficult to maintain long term relationships. I mean let’s face it, I’m pushing 50, never been married, and have more than 30 of these failed unions dating back to high school. I’m not delusional enough to not see the common denominator here. Needless to say after some time, thinking about Al Capone and the bullet-riddled bodies of Chicago’s North Side Gang became more comforting than pondering heart shaped chocolates, flowers, and dinner dates. Sometimes there were exceptions, like when the holiday would fall within the first couple months of a new relationship still steeped in the warm fuzzies of infatuation but without fail would usually be crashing and burning around the same time a couple years later and I’d want to put my first through my computer monitor while scrolling past social media posts aglow in romantic bliss.
Valentine’s Day 2000 is hilariously memorable in that my person that year was too hopped up on the narcotics we’d done to indulge in the wine I’d bought (four or five bottles) so I drank it all and the evening ended with me getting suplexed into her flowerbed by one of my friends I’d been mouthing off to. Last year on the 14th my precious Great Dane, Luis, who was more like my weird little brother than a dog, had been dead just over a week and I spent the day, preceding days, and following days feeling like I was being strangled. Yeah, I know what it’s like to be strangled. No, I wouldn’t recommend. 0/5 stars. (Exceptions made for sex.)
Before y’all start thinking this is just going to be punishingly emo, I’ll let you know it ain’t. I eventually figured instead of repeatedly ramming my head into the wall in the same fashion I’d have a go at something different, so now I’m dating two women and they’re both married and it’s fucking awesome as well as so far being two of the most successful relationships my dumbass has ever managed to pull off. They both bring me dirty yet extremely fragrant panties in Ziploc bags on a weekly basis, which is kind of like celebrating a much better version of Valentine’s Day 52 times a year. Neither really care about the actual holiday but if they did I’m sure I’d be doing something special with one or the other or both. They take good care of me and don’t seem to sweat my craziness so therefore deserve the best as opposed to hearing me run my piehole about how silly I think the holiday is.
And with the exception of the jewelry stores whose extra diamond sales probably cost a higher than average amount of Sierra Leone kids their hands, in the end, who cares if it’s a Hallmark holiday? I’m an artist and writer and have paintings and books to sell so it’s really pretty ridiculous for me to poopoo a holiday that promotes some commerce. Having repeat customers, some of whom are badass artists themselves, rave about how much their partners loved previous year’s gifts moves me into upper echelons of giddiness. My service industry peoples do really well, as do a variety of other pals who work for themselves. I guess I’m maybe doing a little better at being happy over people I care about being happy. So yeah, while quite possibly not the sentiment everyone had hoped for, Valentine’s Day is alright by me.
Kent Grosswiler photo by Tristan Weary.